If you watched primetime television over the last few months, you have probably seen those advertisements about that university where you can study from home while working at the same time. Yes, the Open University (OU) has made its mark on the UK with its campaign about how great studying at the OU is.

If you are like me, you are still left scratching your head as to what studying at the OU is like. What exactly are online courses and why do people choose to study there? "I wanted to learn skills that I didnt already have and could gain accreditation for (rather than following the numerous online tutorials that are available on the same topics)," said Stuart Brown, 27. "OU study let me learn in my spare time and also discuss and problems with students studying the same topic."

Stuart, from Waddesdon, has been studying IT and a Computing BSc at the OU since December 2003. He has really liked working with his fellow students on FirstClass, a key component of the Virtual Learning Environment provided by the OU. Commenting, an Open University representative said, "Studying at the OU can be a rewarding and satisfying experience particularly for those students - who because of their personal or professional circumstances - are unable to study at a traditional university campus."

Because the OU offers distance learning via the Internet, students are encouraged to use facilities such as FirstClass to communicate students and teachers. Students are also assigned a tutor and are encouraged to use the university's online library and OU Student Association to find information or get help. A high level of personal commitment is also crucial to studying at OU.

The Open University believes that because distance learning requires a high level of commitment and dedication, prospective students need to be sure that they choose the right course and level of study to meet their personal needs and circumstances. The OU believes it can provide the support and advice to help students make the right decision.

Stuart said, "The courses involve a lot of commitment to learning and discipline. My courses are conducted almost entirely online (with a couple of set texts) and it is therefore easy to just forget all about study. Much of the learning is done individually so you get an enormous sense of satisfaction when you master a particular aspect of your study."

Re-entering The World Of Education

Angela Burnham is currently studying Social Science at the OU. "For someone who has been out of education for a long time studying with the OU is an excellent way of re-entering the world of education and also enable you to study at degree level," said the 37-year old from Ealing.

The OU has recently launched a major advertising campaign to encourage prospective students to study at there. Commercials have been airing during peak primetime moments on several of the major UK networks. The university believes that the campaign has several objectives, with of one of them being to strengthen the public profile of the OU - what is it, what it is doing and how it is changing. A university representative said that the campaign is still in its early stages but that July in particular, the advertisements will be much more focused on encouraging prospective students to contact the OU and consider course options. Even at this early stage however, the advertising campaign has attracted more than 1,500 responses.

Stuart and Angela both said they would recommend study at the OU to any of their friends. "The OU enables me to study in the evening and is accessible through the internet," said Angela. "As I have a young child and work full time it is impossible for me to go to a university campus. The materials are good, the support as well. I would definitely recommend studying with the OU to a friend."

Stuart has already recommended it to several friends. "I now have quite a few friends who study with the OU," he said.

Obviously, then, OU is a great resource for those looking to enhance their skills so perhaps this online resource is worth taking another look at.

For more information about Open University visit www.open.ac.uk

Kate Watkins

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