Studying With The Open University

I thought I would do a blog post on this topic because it's something I often get asked about as it's not a super well known method of education. When you're in school or college, they don't tend to suggest The Open University as an option for further education, but it is an option!
I started studying with the Open Uni in 2013, when I finished my A Levels in college. I left college with 3 A Levels - Sociology - A, Psychology - B and Religious Studies - B and two AS Levels, in Critical Thinking and an EPQ. I had applied to 5 universities surrounding the South West of England (where I am originally from) and I was accepted into all 5, including Southampton and Bournemouth University. I initially accepted the offer from Bournemouth Uni and even sorted the Student Finance for them. During the summer between my A Levels and starting my degree, I moved out of my family home (at 17 years old) and really didn't feel comfortable moving away (even just half an hour down the road) and starting my education at uni. That was when a friend suggested The Open University.

A bit about The Open University: 
 - For those of you who don't know how the Open University works, basically, you enrol on a course through their website. Most degrees are made up of 6 modules and you can do up to 2 modules at a time (each module takes an academic year to complete - from Oct. - June usually). For the Psychology degree, there is 3 levels - two modules for each level - one compulsory module and one optional (you can choose from 2-3 options). So the shortest amount of time you can complete a year is 3-4 years and the longest is up to 16 years (you can choose to take a year off any time you like). For each module, you will have a number of assignments (I usually had between 6-8 (essay) assignments per module which are submitted online through their website. You are assigned a specific tutor depending on your area and they will mark your assignments and give you feedback. You are also able to email them if you need help or have any questions. At the end of the year, you will have either an exam or an EMA (end of term marked assignment). Also, you may have things called iCMAs throughout the year (I usually had one or two) which are multiple choice questions which are marked by the computer. Every assignment, exam or iCMA goes towards your overall grade of your degree. The exam is usually a 3 hour exam, held in a hotel / conference room in your area and there will be students studying for other degrees with the Open University in the same room as you. There are invigilators and it is under exam conditions.
- In order to sign up for a degree with the Open Uni, you do not require any previous qualifications - you don't need GCSEs or A Levels, but it would help to have good spelling, reading, grammar and writing capabilities before hand. You can also do this at any age - I think you have to be 18 years old and up but you can start a degree at 60 if you want! You pay for the module(s) that you are studying in that particular year up front.
- There are a number of tutorials that happen throughout the year - usually one tutorial for each assignment, which are with your allocated tutor and are based in your area. You do not have to attend the tutorials but they are there if you want to.
- If you are looking specifically at Psychology, the degree is accredited by the BPS and employers actually like to see that an Open University degree because it shows that you are self-motivated, organised and have good time management to do it by yourself essentially.

Why I chose The Open University:
The Open University is all done online (except tutorials and exams) and you can still use student finance to fund your degree (unless you live in Scotland for 3 years prior to the start of the degree, in which case it is free) and I worked out that a full degree in Bournemouth University would cost me around £40,000. A full degree through the Open University would cost me around £15,000 but would take one extra year (4 years minimum - although I think this has changed to 3 years since I started).
The Open University provide all of your textbooks that you will need so there is no need to buy additional textbooks (unless you want to of course).
I wasn't ready to move away from my home town and meet new people. I was quite comfortable where I was - I had moved out of my parents house when I was 17 and still in college and I had been working since I was 11 years old. I didn't want to lose the income I had, but I also wanted to do a degree and start a career in Psychology. This was the solution - I could study alongside working.
It actually was a blessing that I studied with the Open University when I met my now husband - we moved to Scotland when I was half way through my second year of the degree. I was able to move across the country and carry on with the degree, without any issues.

Pros & Cons: 
+ You can work alongside studying
+ Much cheaper than a degree through a normal university
+ Less exams (I had 3 exams for the whole degree)
+ You can fit it in your own free time instead of going by a uni schedule for lectures
+ You're able to take it with you wherever you go

- You don't get the normal 'university experience'
- If you struggle with an assignment, there is limited help available
- You need to self-motivate and make sure you have the free time to do the assignments.
- People always forget that you are a student because you aren't at a normal university. 

I hope this helps anyone who is looking at studying through the Open University or gives you an extra option if you hadn't heard much about it. 

Sarah (aka. Pale Princess) x