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Being an OU student

3 How can I succeed at distance learning?

What does it take to be a successful distance learning student? There are many strategies you can use, but there are some common aspects which are most likely to help you succeed.

Number 1: Have a plan

There is a famous quote, usually attributed to Benjamin Franklin: ‘If you fail to plan, you are planning to fail.’

This is so true when thinking about studying. If there are no set plans in your timetable for studying then it’s not likely to happen. We’re not saying that you can’t take advantage of quiet times and unexpected opportunities to study, but you shouldn’t make that your primary strategy.

Things change and plans must adapt, but you have to have a plan in order to be able to adapt it.

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Figure 2

Number 2: Find your study space

Successful students often have a particular place for study that works for them, and it’s not always the obvious ones.

On the sofa, in the office after hours, in the kitchen, in a child’s bedroom while they are at school, in the car, in the local library, on the bed with course work spread around. These are all places students have said they prefer to study. There is no right or wrong here. The only ‘right’ is that you feel comfortable and able to learn.

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Figure 3

Number 3: Make effective notes

There are numerous ways of taking notes and absorbing material effectively. Just reading the material over and over again is not usually very effective. There’s no ‘one size fits all’ approach here and it will probably take some trial and error to find what works for you. Once you find your preferred way, the whole area of study becomes easier.

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Number 4: Get involved and take part

Students who perform the best tend to be the ones who get involved fully in the forums, join in with the tutorials and keep in contact with their tutors. Feedback from student surveys definitely suggests that getting involved makes studying easier and more successful.

It’s probably a combination of different things:

  • Discussing issues with other students helps you to consolidate and store information.
  • Being able to correct misinterpretations early on helps to save time wasted by going in the wrong direction.
  • Seeing the importance and emphasis other students put on different parts of the material helps you to reassess your views and gives you another perspective.
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Figure 5

Our number 1 pointer was planning your time. Let’s look at this in some more detail now.


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