Who is an OU active student?

Open University Student Association

Open University Student Association

Are you an active student? What do you think an active student does? In your mind who is an active student?

When I tell people, subtly, I am part of the Open University North West Regional Assembly Executive they look at me with confused and dazed expressions. ‘Oh right. What is that?’ they say.

Let me tell you, it’s a great title and it is a great role. There are so many ways you can get involved with student life, even though you are probably a million miles away from campus and fellow students. Well not entirely. In fact some of your fellow students could be right on your doorstep.

For me, I wanted a challenge. Take a role and stick at it. I have done so far. Plus why not make the most of the distance learning experience by going beyond studying. Effectively, the Regional Executive is a group of elected students that helps in running the region. Whether it be the North West or East Midlands, there are groups across the UK and the world.

It can be a little daunting at first, getting involved and not quite know what you are doing. Getting your feet under the table is step number one. Step number two is knowing what to do. Maybe I haven’t quite mastered the latter just yet.

In the few months I’ve been in the role, I’ve held an online meeting, welcomed students to a face-to-face meeting, set up the @OUstudentsNW Twitter feed and things seem to be taking some sort of shape. There are lots of exciting things ahead – consultative meetings where the student voice is heard; training sessions; and some more social events and discussions.

How can you get involved?

You can do anything to become an active student. Writing for the OU magazine, coming along to a meeting or posting in the forums, engaging on Twitter, helping out at graduation ceremonies or even volunteering to help other students.

There are societies and groups at http://www.open.ac.uk/ousa which you can join. If none take your fancy then why not set one up yourself. You never know, it may just catch on.

Your ideas

To me, the student voice is very important. I enjoy reading comments on the forums about ideas and suggestions for the region. Better still it’s great to interact with some of the OU’s newer students and show how anyone can get involved.

If you have any ideas about events, groups or ways to raise money for charity then feel free to contact me or the OU Students Association.

Interact online

You may not want to meet face-to-face or you may simply not have the time. Head over to the online forums at http://www.open.ac.uk/ousa and you can chat with students from your area, take part in lively debates, or even just say hello in the Welcome thread.

On Facebook, there is a great presence as well.  http://www.facebook.com/OUstudents is the place where you can interact with the student association. A simple Facebook search can reveal lots of groups set up by fellow students where you can chat  in a less formal set-up. You may just find groups for your local area, some online clubs or people from your own age group.

Head over to Twitter where you can simply be overwhelmed by the thousands of students who have an online account. @OUstudents is the one to follow if you want all things from the OU Student Association. There you may also find others interacting and following. Why not give them a follow and build the student community.

You’ll also find dedicated accounts to certain subjects such as the arts faculty and the sports department. The Open University Student association in your region also have accounts. @OUstudentsNW, for example, is OUSA in the North West.

What next?

For you – why not visit http://www.open.ac.uk/ousa for all information on getting involved or simply say hello in the online forums. You can also follow the Twitter accounts and Facebook to join the growing OU community.

For me – I’ve got a newsletter to plan, students to listen to and ideas to gather.

If you have any ideas or thoughts please contact me.

Twitter: @JackJevo

Student Email: jack.jevons@my.open.ac.uk

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Facts about the OU you may not know

Source: The Open University

Source: The Open University

I am proud to represent and promote The Open University. Why? Because the institution is becoming somewhat of a phenomenon. Shadow Universities Minister, Liam Byrne MP, described The Open University and it’s learning and research as a vital part “of the future of Britain.”

So, here are a few of the facts you may or may not know about The Open University.

SIZE

The Open University is in fact the largest university in the UK. With over 200,000 students learning at any one time and 4 in 10 of all UK part-time undergraduates choosing the OU, the university is actually larger than any of the mainstream, campus universities.

AGE

FACT: The average age of a new undergraduate is 30. With over a quarter of students aged between 17-25, it is clear that flexibility and opportunities to earn and learn are some of the factors that are influencing younger students.

SATISFACTION

The National Student Survey (NSS) ranks The Open University in the top ten for student satisfaction. In 2013, the OU came eighth. Student experience included working at their own pace, access to online materials, social networks and facilities in each region. In 2012/2013, the university had a 92% satisfaction rating.

EARN WHILE YOU LEARN

Over 70% of students are in full-time or part-time employment and four out of five FTSE 100 companies have sponsored their staff to take OU courses.

QUALITY OF TEACHING

The UK’s latest Research Assessment Exercise ranked The Open University in the top third of UK higher education institutions. More than 50% of OU research was assessed as internationally excellent, with 14% as world leading.

ONLINE COMMUNITIES

The OU is seen as Britain’s most important e-learning institution, with research and development in technology to increase access to education. Materials are available through iTunes which has recorded over 60 million downloads. The university emphasises and utilises social media, alongside promoting opportunities to get involved through the student association.

YOU CAN USE ANY UNIVERSITY LIBRARY

The SCONUL access scheme: this allows students from The Open University to use any university library in the UK, whether to have a place of study or simply to borrow a book. I think this is simply a brilliant idea.

MEETING NEW PEOPLE

The Open University runs special events and meet-ups, face-face tutorials and the OU conference allows students to be involved at the Milton Keynes Campus or online. Utilising social networks and online forums can be very helpful and the SCONUL access scheme allows you in to any university library, so it may be new people from further afield who you meet.

TRY BEFORE YOU BUY

Or so to speak. There are hundreds of free courses to try on OpenLearn which give a flavour of what being an Open University is really about. The OU prides itself on being a world leader in the development of Open Educational Resources and is always trying new ways of teaching and learning.

OU AND BBC

A 41 year partnership between two great institutions. Programmes include Frozen Planet, Bang Goes the Theory and The Money Programme.

CAN YOU DO IT?

Yes. Anyone can. With the support The OU offers, to anybody with any ability is incredible. There is great career guidance and plenty of support from the student support team and tutors. It is an incredibly different and refreshing way of learning.

WANT MORE?
The place to visit for all things Open University is http://www.open.ac.uk.

What’s so different about The Open University ?

OU

The time has arrived for many college students across the country to start seriously knuckling down and learning. Why? Because university is probably the beginning of taking life seriously. Obviously, there are many routes students can take but how many have considered The Open University as a viable way to study?

Certainly when I look back a few years, there was much emphasis on mainstream universities whilst those who wanted to work or go in to apprenticeships appeared to be quietly segregated from everybody else. Even I hadn’t really heard of The Open University until I discovered a style of learning and earning that would suit me.

What do you think is the stereotypical OU student?

Someone old? Someone mature? Someone who’s hit 40 and decided to change their career? What about a school leaver?

Interestingly, the prior stereotypes are being eroded from The Open University. Today, over a quarter of new students to the UK’s largest university are aged 18-25.

As a student that fits those figures I can vouch for why so many are turning to distance learning. Certainly, The Open University has undergone a transformation over its forty-five year history.

Today it is technology that dominates OU learning. Study materials are available at the end of a mouse click as are tutors, learning support and a host of online communities. To me, this is distinctive and solid evidence that The Open University is ahead of the game when combining the need for learning and the ease of using the internet, computers and online resources.

Helen Vesty, Assistant Director of Student Services in the North and Midlands, explains why technology is so key to the OU’s success: “OU materials are high-quality and students learn in a variety of ways, from face to face tutorials to video conferencing.”

“The OU has always used cutting-edge technology to deliver courses, to ensure students can learn when, where and how it suits them, and we are the first UK university to make all undergraduate materials accessible by mobile phone.”

The extensive use of technology is certainly attractive if considering The Open University. Also appealing includes the lower tuition fees; a student with the OU will fork out £4,000 less (when studying full time) than a student attending a mainstream university. There are no costs for course materials as these are sent out well in advance, and as 70% of students are in employment, distance learning encourages an earn while you learn scheme.

Teaching is also outstanding. Face-face tutorials, high quality textbooks and a range of online videos and audio materials create an engaging and exciting learning attitude. As a result, The Open University is ranked in the top five of UK universities for student satisfaction in the National Student Survey.

Obviously The Open University is not for everyone. To study through a distance learning course requires great dedication and motivation as there are no strict timetables to meet and deadlines for assignments are monthly.

Learning away from a campus based university can, at times, be lonely. However, engaging on social media, the OU’s student platforms and communicating with Open University events reminds you how many students are sailing the same ship.

I suppose what is best about The Open University is the opportunities to earn whilst learning. The flexible study means you can study when you want to, as long as you put enough effort in. But that is like anything in life.

Whilst I can go out and work, I also thrive on learning something I am genuinely interested in. So whilst it may be difficult to tie down a job and university work at a campus institution, it can be much more flexible balancing working and studying with The Open University.

Liam Byrne MP, Shadow Minister for Universities, Science and Skills, visited the Milton Keynes campus in April and spoke of how the OU’s flexible approach must be a part of the “future of Britain”.

He said: “Our country needs an ‘earn while you learn’ revolution – combining work with study.”

“Combining work and study allows students to develop personally and professionally at every stage, earning whilst they learn.”

“Student experience is vital and having seen first-hand the technology that the OU is developing and enhancing, it is clear that student experience is at the heart of everything it does.”

Back to the initial question. What is so different about The Open University? Well, at the same time that the OU is very unique in its approach to learning, encouraging a flexible lifestyle that combines work and study, and really pushing modern technology, there are some similarities to campus universities.

Deadlines still exist, alongside an excellent calibre of tutors and teaching materials. There is great learning support and opportunities to meet other students in the same boat.

Perhaps some of these facts will help digest the brilliance of The Open University:

– The OU is rated in the top five of UK universities in the National Student Survey.
– More than 1.8 million students have been taught, including 15,000 overseas.
– The OU is the UK’s largest University.
– 4 in 10 of all UK part-time undergraduates are studying with The Open University.
– Four out of five FTSE 100 companies have sponsored staff to take OU courses.
– Over 70% of students are in full time or part time employment.
– The UK’s latest Research Assessment Exercise ranked The Open University in the top third of UK higher education institutions.

Intrigued? Find out more at http://www.open.ac.uk

A Levels – A key to many doors

A-level-exam-005
The hardest exams you’ll ever take in your education career is what A Levels are often described as. Indeed when I worked for my awards in 2012 it was a mountain of hard work and dedication. But A Levels are more than just an pass to get you into university or a job. They offer you the time and space to understand yourself and what you aim to achieve.

Last week’s 2013 results show for some interesting reading. 26.3% of students were awarded the top A-A* grades, down slightly on the year before. Despite figures from earlier in the year suggesting applications to the university admissions body, UCAS, were down, Thursday saw record number of students accepted into UK universities within 24 hours. Whilst mainstream universities still attract a huge amount of students, receiving A Level results can open many other doors and challenges.

12 months ago and I was firmly pleased with my results. I had been accepted into university but never really had the drive, interest or motivation to move into full time, higher education. Having spent what felt like a lifetime studying, revising and making notes, like many of my classmates, I felt I needed a break from it all. At the time I was already in a full time job and so began understanding what my needs were and how I could achieve my goals.

An aspiring journalist, I had always had a strong friendship with writing and providing journalistic content for my school and college. A couple of work experience placements and I was hooked on making it to a newsroom. But as I went through my education, I learnt more about how you can reach certain industries and professions. For me, work experience is and always will be key. I had advise on starting a blog, it being one of the newest forms of social and online journalism. Creating content for people to see and using the extraordinary advances in social media has allowed me to connect with real-life journalists and reporters. Believe me, that is quite an encouraging feeling.

Not wanting to bring a halt to my interest of learning new things, I decided to begin an Open University degree course. It’s fascinating that never once was part time education or distance learning mentioned in my school or college. To study with the OU has allowed me to develop my educational interests, work toward an end goal and still work (albeit part time) and drive my motivation for a career in the journalism industry.

It’s not just me with a story of another door opening in the wake of A Levels. Apprenticeships, placements, career development and young people’s services all offer training and support for those who want it. Many students feel its time for some restbite from over a decade of education and so venture on a gap year or volunteering. For those who want to have letters next to their name, education is still available in forms other than university. The Open University is, from my experience, a brilliant example. Many colleges and specialist training establishments offer BTEC’s and work related qualifications.

Even if you don’t achieve the results you were quite hoping for, there is always opportunity to turn things around or even put what results you did get towards a different qualification. It is never the end of the road.

A Levels are more of a milestone than anything else. Once you get them, doors can open in all direction and paths can lead in any direction. If there’s drive, motivation and aspiration, then any route taken can lead to a successful outcome.