Breaking the Stereotype
Being a student with The Open University entails masses of work behind the scenes which people tend not to realise, and although I had thoroughly investigated this beforehand, it definitely took me by complete surprise.
I have had conversations with several people regarding my decision to become a member of The Open University, especially when I first came upon the decision during the end of my Sixth Form life. Many of my friends were planning on attending “brick” universities – I was over the moon for them, but this just wasn’t the pathway I wanted for my life and my career. As a matter of fact, I didn’t actually know what I wanted until I began my studies in October 2015. Some may say at nearly 19 years of age, this is rather late in your academic life to begin thinking about possible career paths, and it wasn’t as though I hadn’t thought about them, in comparison to, I hadn’t decided on which path was most suited to me.
It blew me away, the amount of people who made comments such as, “Do you get a real degree?” “But this is only a practice run for Uni, isn’t it?” “Surely that is so much easier than a ‘normal’ university?” Before I begin to answer these questions, I think it’s important to define what a ‘normal’ university actually is. Trust me, you will get many responses to this. You can use the Dictionaries definition of a University:
“an institution of higher learning providing facilities for teaching and research and authorized to grant academic degrees; specifically : one made up of an undergraduate division which confers bachelor's degrees and a graduate division which comprises a graduate school and professional schools each of which may confer master's degrees and doctorates”
- Enables you to gain a degree through study and research
- Enriches your knowledge and understanding
- Broadens your capabilities
- Something that makes you more aware of the society around you
- A place of diversity, which is challenging and rewarding
Honestly, I can’t imagine a university, better equipped than The Open University to fulfil my definitions. If this is the case however, then why do I (and many other OU students), still get plagued with the same questions regarding its authenticity as a place of higher education?
The answer is simple: STEROTYPES.
Before I had established an opinion or an understanding of what The Open University entails, I sat on this high-horse of judgement, creating a personal stereotype about how this type of distance-learning works. It’s bound to be easier right? WRONG. Now-a-days, I think it’s wrong to assume that the only way to carve a successful career for yourself is in the shape of these “brick” universities who have specialised tutors, guidance in the form of lectures and end-of-year examinations. Not forgetting the prestigious status of being a member of “The University of….”. Suffering with anxiety, I did look into attending a ‘normal’ university before coming to the realisation that it just wasn’t for me – attending lectures for hours at a time, each and every day, was not something I could have managed at that time in my life. If I’m brutally honest, YES, I did believe The Open University would be the ‘easy option’ of achieving a degree – something which I soon realised would not be the case.
I am enrolled on 2 modules currently - each module lasts about 6 months (AA100 & A105 will make up YEAR 1). Combining both these modules, I have a total of 10 books, all with corresponding Audio CD/DVD’s. This breaks down into 41 chapters of reading, with an additional 7 set books. All this work, including 14 assignments and 1 exam, in less than 12 months.
Not to mention the fact it is completely independent, with little help from your assigned tutor unless you request it.
An Open University student, compared to a “brick” university student, has the struggle of teaching themselves the entire module. We have the challenge of having little direct tutor contact, unless we decide to email or call for help. This means as a student, we have to unravel any mis-understandings ourselves, or through a forum pathway. We have tutorials at our local university campuses about once a month (some modules may have only 3 a year) where we are taught specific pieces of module material to aid our knowledge. On the other hand, a “brick” university have constant teaching lectures to help with their studies.
It’s a challenging process, but one that I am very glad I have taken. The main point of this blog post, is as the title suggests – a chance to break the stereotypes that seem to be connected to the OU. I have met some of the most hard-working, diligent and conscientious people through my studies, who have come across challenges and pushed through them. Yet we are still classed as the lazy university. Trust me, we are anything but.