Five Dodgy Tips for Studying Computing at the Open University

Back in the summer of 2015, I started to study for my BSc in computing. The Open University was my choice – the decision seemed pretty obvious at the time – I was planning to study remotely, I was doing it part-time & working at the same time…

I’m nowalmost half-way through – that’s right – it takes around 6 years if you’re doing it part-time – it’s no quick fix.

My motivation is clear – I wanted to work in & have a much better grasp of technology.

Simples as the meerkats would say.

I started with some basic introductory modules & mathematics in my first year, I’m now on to specialise in digital technologies & the web. Next year brings me face to face with more web, Java & my final modules are around cloud computing & all that jazz.

Anyway, here are my 5 top tips, moans, whinges & useful pointers about studying computing with the OU in no priority order:

Number 1# Me + Degree = Success

You do not need to do mathematics to realise that the above it not necessarily true. See your degree as a foundation. If you are working, you need to get as much as experience in related projects as you can. Getting experience & developing a portfolio is essential. You’re in it for the long-haul so develop as you go along – link in your studies where you can. Above all, remember that a degree doesn’t guarantee anything – it’s not a Willy Wonka Golden ticket….

Number 2# Modules Madness

I’m 50/50 on the OU’s module mix. In several cases, the material is out of date or at least dated. The fundamentals are fine but after all you are paying for this – or at least someone is. There are some solid enough courses but it does all feel a bit old-fashioned. I suspect the OU are slow at updating content & a number of those I’ve done are ‘being replaced’. My advice – choose carefully. There are a number of streams including a general one but I suspect other providers offer more ‘modern’ selections’. For example, there is no cyber security module – when I asked, they answered that it was ‘part of every module’. Fair enough a few years ago but times have changed & how can I go through my entire degree & not do a module called ‘Cyber Security for Idiots’ – seriously, I would do that course….

Number 3# Skimming Students

The students – you get a mix. You get some trying to do 90 units (in other words a full-time course) whilst working & with kids. These folks tend to be pre-occupied with getting through it – they just want to get the qualification & to pass. Fair enough. My advice is don’t follow this path. Take your time & make best use of the materials. Many of the obvious things like the TCP/IP model will come back time & time again in your career & studies. Don’t be a skimmer! Be more Zen about the whole experience…

Number 4# Cliché about Marathons

Six years right? When people ask me how long it will take, I just don’t say anything. Many won’t understand this kinda planning. See it as a journey & build your experience along the road. Manage your workload carefully & my advice is don’t take on too much, stay ahead of the study schedule & try not to listen too much to moaning fellow students on Facebook. I haven’t got the figures but I suspect many drop out – they like the idea of the degree but it’s a long road (more cliches at no extra charge).

Number 5# Studying Alone

OK – they say there’s nothing remote about the OU – for example, there are some day schools & tutorials but on the whole, it is about studying alone. I don’t think many students get a social life out of the OU – might be obvious but I thought I’d mention it. You get books, websites, DVD’s & there is ‘support’ out there from various student support type people but for the most part, you’re on your own. Does that sound a bit gloomy? Maybe but I reckon at least 90% of your effort will be a solo affair. If you don’t like that then check out some other options – there are plenty out there….

Here’s an interesting graph from a really interesting blog. There could be loads of reasons why the trend is there such as funding but I also suspect the OU has fallen behind other providers because of it’s dated content & module mix:

Enrolments-16-17

Source: Coolio Intelligent Guy’s Blog

That’s quite enough of that. I hope this has given a flavour of studying at the OU. It’s not an easy path. There are some alternatives that maybe if I had my time again, I’d look at.

I do think the OU is changing but not fast enough & I suspect there will be far more slicker new options out there for remote & part-timers like us in the next few years.

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