A couple of people asked questions about my current OU study, so here is a post all about it.
I originally decided to begin an Open University degree around this time last year. I had decided I wanted to be a primary school teacher, after spending a lot of time helping my ex’s children with their school work; I’d enjoyed teaching them and the ex seemed to think I was good at it, and admirably patient with the things they found difficult. I certainly got a lot of satisfaction from finding I’d managed to help them understand or learn something new. I called up and spoke to one of the Open University’s advisers, who I have to say was very helpful. They don’t do a course for being a teacher (some universities do, not many) so they suggested I do an Open Degree, and choose modules in core curriculum subjects.
An Open Degree is a degree without a specific subject (e.g. English). The principle is the same, in that you have a choice of modules and have to make up a certain number of credits to complete each level, but the choice of modules is much, much wider.
Having taken the advice of the nice man on the phone, I signed up to do a level one course, Exploring Science, to start in January of this year. I applied for financial support, and received full funding, which was handy – especially since shortly after I signed up for my degree, the Open University changed their pricing structure and funding options. Because I declared my qualification before they did all this, I can continue my studies under “transitional rules” which means I can apply for, and receive, a set amount of financial support each academic year, so long as I complete my degree within a certain timeframe.
The Science course was what some might call an optimistic venture, being as it was a 60-credit module (courses come in 15, 30 or 60 credit blocks), due to run until my expected baby was 6 months old. I had a plan though: I would study extra-hard in the first couple of months, get myself ahead of the suggested schedule, enough to allow a couple of months off study when the baby came. The baby had other ideas though. As it was, I was half-way through finishing off my third assignment when I went into labour. Added to that, I was then stuck in hospital for 11 days afterwards, with no internet access. I paid an extortionate amount to access the internet via the TV next to my hospital bed, and emailed my tutor to explain the situation. S’s father brought my laptop and text book into the hospital, and I tried my best to do some of the assignment while S slept in her little fish bowl. My tutor was lovely and told me to just send the assignment in when I could, and to let him know how I was getting on. It didn’t go well though; once I was home my time was taken up either panicking about looking after a tiny baby, fighting with her father, or sleeping. Eventually I bodged the assignment and submitted it, so as to avoid getting too far behind with the course. The next assignment was due in a week or so later, so I tried to get my head down and crack on. After a few days I realised the situation was hopeless. I’d barely looked at the text book, and didn’t even understand half the questions on the assignment paper. I found I was trying to put S to bed early just so that I could come downstairs and stress over the assignment and the course materials that may as well have been written in a foreign language. In the end I called up the Open University to see if there was a way I could cancel my entry on the course, without forfeiting my ability to claim funding for future modules. The lady I spoke to was so unbelievably helpful. She cancelled my entry on the science module, and because I was only part way through it, part of the cost was refunded to my OU account, and available for me to use against another module. The lady asked what I was interested in, and suggested some other courses I could sign up for.
The money refunded to my account was enough to cover what they call an Openings course, which is a 15-credit short course to help people get back into learning after a break. I decided to sign up for Understanding Children and Young People. I was so excited when the course materials turned up, I began reading the book well before the course was due to start! The subject matter was something I found much more enjoyable and easy to understand than science. I’ve already submitted my first assignment and had a couple of telephone tutorials with a lovely lady named Pauline.
Because the Openings course is only a small module, it finishes in January. As soon as the course materials had arrived, and I’d seen it was a lot less daunting than the 10 books and paraphernalia that turned up for the science, I began deciding which other modules I would sign up for. Because I’m studying under the transitional rules, I can’t take too long to study for my degree, so I was keen to sign up for enough credits to ensure I would be able to complete the course in time.
The second module I signed up for was called English for Academic Purposes Online. It’s all about ways of reading and studying, how to write essays, make presentations etc. The entire course is online (clue’s in the name there), which I thought would be difficult but actually makes it a lot easier – everything is right in front of me, all the time. This module doesn’t officially begin until 6th October, but the module website opened at the beginning of September so I’ve already begun studying – I think after what happened with the science module I’m paranoid about getting behind with anything again. My tutor called to introduce himself on Saturday and seems nice.
The English module is 30 credits, and finishes in April, right after my 60-credit, level 2 Child Development module begins. Because I had funding for the science module and then dropped it, and there is only a certain amount of funding available in each academic year, I had to pay part of the cost of the Child Development module myself, and most probably can’t do the 30-credit level one module I wanted to begin in May, until next academic year – unless anyone wants to fork out the £800 for that module for me!
A few people seem surprised that I am studying for a degree as well as looking after a baby on my own, and ask where I find the time to study. The answer is – my house is very messy! At the moment I am studying for 45 credits, which is less than half what would be considered full-time study. S had 2 naps a day, and goes to bed at 6pm. To be honest, if I didn’t have my Open University work I would probably get a bit bored. Now that I am studying subjects I find interesting, I don’t mind spending a few hours a week reading about them. And I understand it too, which is always a bonus.
With regard to what I plan to do once I’ve got my degree, I’m not so sure any more. If I decide I do still want to be a teacher, I will need to get onto a PGCE course at a university and spend a year studying, with placements in a couple of schools – all tricky things with a small child and no car, but not impossible. I think there is another route to teaching, where you just start at the school and do your teacher training on the job as it were, but I think that’s only in secondary schools. I do think I’d quite like to work with children, but I’m not sure whether that would be in a school, or in another way. I’m open to suggestions if anyone has them!