My thoughts on Open Universities (OUA)
I have been a student with Open Universities Australia (OUA) for just over a year now, and about to start my fifth unit at the end of this month (Introduction to Japanese I in case you were wondering). Here are some thoughts for anyone contemplating studying with OUA.
The jump into University study is a big one for most students, but particularly so for students studying by correspondence. What we gain in flexibility, we lose in peer support and face-to-face time with our tutors and lecturers. Online study is by no means a cake-walk, and should be viewed as equally, if not more challenging than on-campus study. It is not the path for everyone, but it is a very good option for many with other commitments in life. Personally, I work full time, which severely limits the time I can spend studying – those with children would feel the pressure even more I imagine. This is the entire point of Open Universities – flexibility.
OUA offers an extensive range of degree’s to choose, from numerous educational institutes all around Australia. I have chosen to study the Bachelor of Arts, majoring in Philosophy, offered through OUA by Macquarie University. Perhaps one of the best things about OUA is that I am able to study units offered by universities that are not Macquarie – for example I did the ‘Internet Communications’ unit by Curtin as an elective for my Arts Bachelor. I do have to fulfill a certain amount of Macquarie units, but others I am free to complete elsewhere.
So how have I found the experience in my year+ of study with OUA? Not bad. There certainly isn’t anything wrong with the operational model of OUA – it all comes down to the individual. Although I started strong in my first couple of units, I found myself studying less and less as time went on, affecting my grades a fair bit. Every now and then I pick up my game however, so long-term, my study is sustainable, I just need to work harder at it. To put things into perspective, I am, by design, a rather lazy person. If you consider yourself the opposite, I have no doubt you will do quite well with OUA.
My biggest suggestion for new students is to start with just one unit in your first study period. Use this to gauge the workload and decide in the future if you want to take on multiple units in a single study period. For me, one is enough – though it does mean my Bachelor will take 6 years to complete (I’m not in a hurry). One unit per study period is thought of as part-time study, and 2 or more is considered full-time. Each year there are four study periods.
I mentioned earlier that correspondence studying lacks peer support. It absolutely does compared to on-campus study, but it is not totally absent. I have made several study-buddies in my units and we keep in contact usually through Facebook. It is a good idea to engage with as many of your peers as you can to share thoughts and help each other out. Often I am able to ask a quick question on Facebook and get a response from a peer straight away, rather than ask my tutor and wait potentially days for an answer. Just because you aren’t physically with your peers doesn’t mean you should ignore them.
Open Universities operates (mostly) as a no-commitment study platform. You are able to pick up even a single unit without committing to any further study – this is great if you simply want to test the waters. Also worth noting is that study through OUA can take advantage of FEE-HELP, so long as you qualify for it.
Finally, there are, for most units/degrees, no entrance requirements. Simply sign up and start studying. This is great if you did lousy in your VCE/HSC but still want to do University.
To conclude, I am quite fond of the OUA model. I do urge anyone thinking about studying with OUA to give it a go, even for just one unit. Remember, there are no commitments, if you decide it’s not for you, all you have lost is a few hundred dollars (likely through FEE-HELP anyway), hardly the end of the world. It does take motivation to keep up the study, so try to stay focused!
As a current OUA student I am happy to answer any questions anyone has. Just leave a comment below.