Online forums and social media

space gray iPhone 6 with Facebook log-in display near Social Media scrabble tiles
Photo by William Iven on Unsplash

Studying at the Open University is distance learning. There may be the opportunity for face-to-face tutorials on some modules but most of my studies will be online. Therefore, it presents a greater challenge for me to interact with other students.

Thank heavens for the internet. Back in the day, when my Dad was studying with the Open University, his books arrived in the post and he had occasional meetings with a nearby tutor. These days, I can engage with my tutors and fellow students through several forums on the Open University website.

So, there are forums for each department. Shortly after I registered and enrolled on TM111/ TM112 and MU123, I had access to the general forums for the Computing and IT and Mathematics department. They were both quiet, though the mathematics forums were slightly busier.

Other forums linked to the Student Association exist but require determined application to find them on the Open University website. I’d suggest that, when you do chance upon a particularly interesting forum, you sign up to receive email notifications when somebody posts.

From about August, I found that people had begun setting up Facebook groups for the modules starting in October. You’ll usually find out when somebody posts a link in one of the Open University forums. Or you could do a search in Facebook.

It’s well worth joining the (unofficial) Facebook module groups. It seems that they are a lot more popular than the official Open University forums. So far, people have been helpful, sharing advice and introducing themselves. I’ve found a few fellow students on TM111 and MU123 living nearby.

The Facebook groups, more than the official forums so far, have been good for sharing experiences, such as the anticipation of waiting for study materials. I also found links on there to, for example, WhatsApp or Discord groups that people have set up for each module. So, while we’re not physically meeting, it feels as though there are plenty of opportunities to meet and get to know people on the course.

The downside, though, is forum overload. I’m going to have to be very careful about the time I spend on the Facebook groups, the official forums and other means of communication. I have a degree to study after all!

It probably hasn’t helped that I’ve also signed up to various Facebook groups for the Open University Students Associations clubs and societies. I found links to these on the Students Association website. They seem to be good for discussing shared interests, even if arranging a physical meetup is challenging. There are also general Facebook groups for the BSc (Hons) Computing and IT degree and the Open University.

Of course, once the module website opens, there will be official forums for the module and my own tutor group. While I think a lot of interaction will still take place on the Facebook groups, these forums will be important for working on group projects.

Another way of interacting with fellow students is through online tutorials, which I have experienced through the Early Start programme for MU123. This is still ongoing, and I’ll give a full review in a later post.

However, they allowed me to get to grips with Adobe Connect, the system that the Open University uses for their online tutorials. Through it, I could interact with other students and the tutor through typing in a chat box or speaking through a microphone.

So far, most students prefer to type in the chat box rather than speak. The tutor will lead the tutorial, usually speaking over a series of PowerPoint slides. The tutors try to involve the students. They might get them to type their answers to questions, write on the shared screen or complete a poll.

I could either attend the tutorial live or watch them later if they were recorded. Sometimes both if I felt I missed an important point or was too tired to take much in after a day at work.

The online tutorials take getting used to, but I find them immensely helpful. Attending them live is best so you can ask questions but having recordings that you can stop and pause at key points is equally valuable.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.