I’m an ex OU student and associate lecturer, so, despite it changing dramatically since ‘my day’, I still have a soft spot for it and am happy to promote it as a wonderful bastion of distance learning.
So, it’s interesting that a new consumer survey commissioned by The Open University (OU) has today revealed that 1 in 4 of the UK public is guilty of time wasting. Nearly three quarters (75%) of us claim to have more than 20 hours of free time every week, yet one in four (25%) admit to frittering away over half of this spare time.
Topping the list of common time wasting activities was watching TV, something over half (55%) of us confessed to. Meanwhile, activities such as social media check-ins (45%) and online shopping (36%) also ranked highly.
However, the survey showed that we want to change (thank goodness) with a third (33%) of people wanting to do something more constructive in their lunch break and a quarter (25%) wishing they could put this time to better use by learning something new. Over 75% of Open University students are employed, so with many workers taking public transport (26%) or walking to work (13%) this provides a great opportunity to tune in to study on the go and earn while you learn.
Actress Helen Monk is halfway through studying with the OU for an MA in English. She says: “I thought I would have to choose between my dream of becoming an actress and my passion for learning. Because of the OU, I get to do both. I study on sets and write essays in the wings. I feel so lucky that the OU has allowed me to have my cake and eat it. YUM!”
That said, it is an expensive cake. I’ve looked at the MA in English and it doesn’t come cheap! Sadly, I can’t afford it but I already have some masters degrees so arguably don’t need one.
OU history graduate and Downton Abbey actor, Kevin Doyle, says: “When I was working at the Royal Shakespeare Company, I had a friend who was studying with the OU. I don’t know how she managed to get her work done with all the rehearsals and performing different plays in the day and the evening. Whereas in TV and film, it’s much easier – with a trailer and a car to bring you to work and you get plenty of time off between set-ups, so during the filming of Downton Abbey, I just took my books with me. It was lovely to be able to switch your mind off from work and study the politics leading up to the First World War.
“I could get quite emotional about the OU. Not because it changed my career but it sort of changed me. When I consider what I grew up with and where I came from – no books in the house and no encouragement to think of university as a potential start in life – I feel immensely proud to have gone through that journey.”
“Anything that’s worth doing takes commitment but finding the time to improve our lives is not always as difficult as we might think,” adds Pat Atkins, Director, Student Support, The Open University.
“Evenings and weekend days represent a substantial amount of time that can be claimed back; 20 hours per week is more than enough to study part-time towards a degree. Our tutors and student support staff are experienced in helping our students deal with the problems of managing deadlines and coping with distractions. Our online study resources also provide a wealth of useful study tips and coping strategies. These include seeking out a dedicated study space; letting friends and family know you need time to study; keeping books and links to online materials and podcasts with you so you can take advantage of short periods of free time; and studying little and often, which helps maintain attention span and retention of information.”
The university’s approach to learning means that people don’t have to put their lives on hold in order to study: students are provided with a variety of materials to suit all lifestyles and abilities; online student forums can be accessed from anywhere, and each student has a dedicated tutor with whom they are in regular contact. OU students can choose where and when to study, making it possible to turn a train, the bath or even a beach into a classroom.
The OU offers flexible part-time undergraduate and postgraduate degrees, certificates, and diplomas, as well as free, bite-size courses on a wide range of subjects via its online service, OpenLearn. Most people take up to six years to complete a part-time OU degree. It is also possible to study full time and achieve a degree in three years.
Working and raising children meant the OU was a feasible form of study for me. I managed 3 Masters degrees and 1 BA (Hons). I was especially thrilled to get a First in Literature quite late in life. Funding help is available for many people, but gone are the days of studying for studying’s sake.