One month ago, I began studying an undergraduate Sociology degree with the Open University, the largest academic institution in the UK. I decided to take on this distance learning course full time, knowing it was going to be a challenge to balance this new responsibility with working and hopefully getting out of the house once in a while. These last few weeks have taught me a lot, not only about my most effective learning style but also about myself, as cliché as it sounds.
I’m loving independent studying. I feel in control of how I’m learning and the pace of my learning in a way I’ve never thought about before. I hadn’t quite realised, but the rigid scheduling of college really did take a lot of the enjoyment of learning away from me; my focus was often on the pressure to study in a certain way which hasn’t happened at all with the OU.
I don’t require much outside motivation. In a physical institution constantly surrounded by people, I often felt motivated by seeing other people complete the work and hearing them talk about it. With distance learning I’ve found a much stronger motivation in wanting to prove to myself that I am capable of achieving this, which has surprised me.
I don’t rely on the online forums. On a related note, before starting this course I thought the online forums would be the place to draw motivation from. Although this is partially true, I haven’t used them anywhere near as much as I thought I would. They have been a useful resource to keep an eye on the general thinking of other people doing the degree but I haven’t found the threads too helpful so far.
Organisation is key. What has got me through this first month is staying organised. Working methodically, keeping neat notes and planning in my study sessions have all been huge factors in making sure everything has gone smoothly.
Being behind, at least for a little while, is okay (and having days off is important). One of the aspects of being in charge of my own pace of studying that stresses me out is the thought of suddenly being way, way behind and unable to catch up. Of course, with good organisation and planned days off this can’t really happen. And even if I have gotten behind one week, it has always seemed pretty easy to catch up again the following week.
Getting the first marked assignment back is both exciting and scary. Probably the most rewarding moment on the course so far was receiving my first ever feedback for a marked piece of work. A moment I felt apprehensive about but also excited; I am looking forward to having more of these moments further down the line.
That’s probably enough observations for now, but I guess it is obvious to see I am really enjoying distance learning so far, a lot more than I thought I would. I’ll do a post soon about why I chose distance learning, but if you’re interested in finding out more for yourself, pop over to the OU website to browse their selection of degrees.
Are there any other distance learners out there? Or if you’re considering doing it, anything you’re curious to know?