Studying at the Open University

red and white OPEN LED lights
Photo by Kirill Sharkovski on Unsplash

In just over a month, I’m heading back to university. The Open University. I’ve registered on their BSc (Hons) Computing and IT degree. It’ll take me six years because I’m studying part-time. While it’s good to have something to aim for, right now my graduation ceremony is on a very distant horizon.

I’m writing this blog to record my journey from a relative novice in the world of computing and IT to qualification and, maybe, beyond.

While I’m not entirely sure where my studies will take me, I think it’s going to be a fun and interesting ride. Hopefully, this will come out through my posts.

My starting point on this journey, my current job, is, on the surface, completely unrelated to computers and IT. Saying that, I work in an office, use a computer daily and find it impossible to ignore the increasing impact of technology in my workplace.

Right now, though, I am at somewhat of a crossroad in my career. I’ve got to a point where I’m really wondering where I go from here. What’s next?

If recent news reports come true, I could even be working until well into my 70s.

With that in mind, I feel it’s time to explore new directions, whether in my current profession or in something totally different. I don’t have all the answers at this stage. What I do know is that I need to up-skill to give myself more options in my future working life, however long that may be.

When looking for new things to learn, I think it’s generally a good idea to pick something in which you have an interest. So, my reason for choosing computing and IT is, indeed, partly one of personal interest. Though, I’m not sure whether I have always been interested in technology or rather more of a late convert.

As an ‘xennial’ (I had to look it up too), there was a lot less of it around when I was growing up. Xennials have been described as having “an analogue childhood and a digital adulthood.” Well, it’s certainly true in my case. Through secondary school, I still had a typewriter and using the web as a research tool was regarded as a novelty during my first degree.

Yet, I’ve made up for it since.

These days, I probably use technology more than most in my job. Some examples; I could be working on the organisation’s website, supporting colleagues using various software or promoting our digital change programme. Hey, on second thoughts, maybe I do work in IT already . . .

So, why choose the Open University for this? Well, classes, or tutorials as they are known, are generally held in the evenings and weekends. Unless I could have a day off from my job then attending a brick university, with daytime classes during the working week, is not possible.

There are some local, face-to-face tutorials with the Open University but, as it’s distance learning, there are a lot of online tutorials. That’s fine for me. I’m used to remote working so I should be able to easily adapt to distance learning.

There’s a structured approach to studying with the Open University, with a weekly study planner and largely self-contained study materials. Each individual module you study builds towards a recognised qualification.

There seems to be a lot of support too. You have a personal tutor for each module and there’s a student support team for each faculty to help you with more general issues. From what I’ve seen and experienced so far, they have an extensive library (all online) and an active careers service.

Really, though, there are few comparable alternatives if you’re working full-time. For instance, apart from a few beginner’s level IT courses, there’s not that many adult evening classes where I live. I am aware that a variety of other organisations provide online courses and I will probably be exploring some of these but alongside my degree.

Fundamentally, I just believe that the Open University approach is the one that will work best for me at this time.

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