Newest Review: ... All of this is included in the cost of the course. How the course works: All Open University courses involve distance learning altho... more
Making science enjoyable for this first time in my life!
Science At The Open University
Member Name: Sapphylcw
Science At The Open University
Date: 26/10/11, updated on 26/10/11 (209 review reads)
Advantages: Flexible, all materials provided, lots of subjects available
Disadvantages: Need to be very self motivated
When I was at school I hated science and what made it worse was that I went to a grammar school where we had to do double science and I was put in the bottom set with all the people who were there because they couldn't be bothered to try, the ultimate insult to someone who was really trying but just didn't get science! The teachers were boring, the experiments were rubbish and there was always far too much maths involved for my liking! So what brought me to study science at the OU? Well, firstly I was doing a horrendously boring admin job (having previously worked in other boring admin jobs) and I felt like I needed to give my poor brain some proper action! I chose science because I'd started to have an inkling that I'd like to work in the health service and thought science might be a good option for that and finally I wanted to prove to myself that I could do it!
Enrolling for a science course at the open university is really easy and the website really helps to guide you through the process. You can read about all the courses offered in detail and the OU recommended courses which are suitable for beginners and you can read feedback from other people that have completed the course and come out alive! I chose S104 which is 'Exploring Science' worth 60 points and once completed can be turned into a 'Certificate in Natural Sciences' to make you sound really clever! The process of enrolling is all done online and the OU guide you through the process to make it easy for you.
This may have changed now but when I enrolled because I was earning less than a certain amount a year I was able to get a grant to cover my course fees as well as a grant for paying for other materials I might need (though to be honest there aren't many materials needed on an OU course)! This was great because it meant I could study for free! I have just looked and the cost of S104 is £700 now but if you're entitled to the maximum grants then they will pay for the course up to the value of £800 and give you a £265 grant for other materials.
Before the course starts the OU send you all your textbooks (a massive box of 8 textbooks for S104!) and some other bits and bobs you might need such as dvds, computer software and for my course some rocks and things to look at! The textbooks were great, easy to read and colourful and easy to navigate for finding answers. All of this is included in the cost of the course.
How the course works:
All Open University courses involve distance learning although some do have residential courses or tutorials to attend (though tutorials are generally optional). You are assigned a tutor who you can ring or email for help and they mark all your assignments for you. You are given your own study area on the OU website where you can login and see information about your course, assignment marks and most importantly a calendar with deadlines for assignments and to guide you on what you should be doing that week. S104 lasts 9 months but I found the workload easy to manage around a full-time job.
S104 is assessed through 7 Tutor Marked Assignments (TMAs), 9 Interactive computer marked assignments (ICMAs) and one end of course assignment (ECA). In S104 there is generally one TMA for each book (and each book is on a different subject - for example there is one about human biology, one about earthquakes and volcanoes, one about rocks and so on) so there was generally one TMA to do a month as well as one ICMA a month and then the ECA at the end of the course... surprisingly! The TMAs consist of 4/5 big questions which you research using your textbook and answer, there's a combination of maths questions and essay style questions but all the information you need is in your textbook. The ICMAs are tests on the website, usually multiple choice questions and you can use your book to help you answer them. The great thing about the ICMAs is that they're not done under test conditions so you can go back to it as many times as you like (so you can answer the questions as you're reading the textbook rather than having to read the book then try and answer the ICMA and remember where the answers were) and you can do the questions in any order. The ECA is just like a bigger version of a TMA and again you can use your textbook! You're given deadlines for all of them, you do them on the computer and then submit them to your tutor before the deadline. Your tutor then marks it, the mark goes onto the website and your tutor sends the marked copy to you with comments and marks so you can see how you did!
On S104 there was also group work! The OU provide a computer program which works like a discussion forum and you can log onto it and talk to other people from your 'class' as well as your tutor. This meant you could have a chat about the perils of keeping yourself motivated, help each other out and do your group work. Some TMAs had questions which required you to complete an activity with your group which your tutor assigns and sets up on the program and you then do the activity and write about it/copy and paste it into your TMA and it counts towards your mark.
One other thing I will mention is that we sometimes had to do 'experiments' at home, don't worry they didn't involve nasty chemicals or Bunsen burners! One I vividly remember was having to collect rainfall and recording my results and commenting on what might have effected the results. My mum and dad thought this was hilarious but it was quite fun and was something a bit different to discuss on the OU forums, particularly when people's experiments kept getting urinated in by the neighbours cat and then having to write about why your results were inconsistent!
The content of the course:
S104 covers a wide variety of scientific areas, from learning about chemistry to physics to learning about tectonic plates and volcanoes to measuring rainfall in your back garden! You're given about a month to cover each textbook which means that the pace is quite nice, you don't feel like you're spending too long on one subject and by the time you've had enough you're moving onto something completely different! Some areas I'd covered before at school and other areas I hadn't really learned much about before such as scientific maths! I hated the maths at first but slowly it started to make more sense and I saw real improvement over the months! Some areas I found really boring (rocks!) and other areas I found far more interesting but that's nice because if you want to do further study it really helps you to narrow down where your interest lies.
I really enjoyed S104 and studying with The Open University. You need to be motivated to work in your own time, particularly when you're working full-time but I feel that the benefits are worth it. I loved having the freedom to work when I wanted to without being on a strict schedule and it meant I could work my study around work and my social life. I didn't feel too isolated because all my friends were interested in my course and there were the OU programs to talk to other people and facebook groups to talk to other OU students and my tutor was very supportive if I needed help! I also liked that they provided you with everything you needed because then you weren't having to worry about where to find information.
My employers were very impressed by my dedication to study whilst working full-time, as were interviewers at brick universities when I applied, and many universities accept open university credits as part of their entry requirements. I'm now at brick university and I really miss the OU and the freedom and flexibility it gave me and if I could study my degree with the OU I would in a second as I much prefer the OU way which I suppose is the ultimate praise for them!
Summary: A great way to study without having to sacrifice your life