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Nigel Gibson
Post 1

18 May 2020, 11:08 Edited by the author on 18 May 2020, 19:58

Section 1, Activity 1.4

Walton HallThis thread is for section 1, activity 1.4

You have now learned more about the OU, its students and its ethos. Did anything surprise you? Has it changed your view about The Open University at all?

These are examples of the type of posts we might expect to see:

"I was surprised by how many people with disabilities study with the OU"

"I was surprised by how many young people under 25 study with the OU.  I used to think that OU students were retired people and older people who had missed an opportunity to go to university earlier in life"

"I was surprised at the OU being described as a social movement as much as a university.  It has made me want to work with the OU more than ever"

Use the "Reply" button below to contribute to this discussion

(Image: CC BY-SA Nigel Gibson)
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Selina Griffin Post 2 in reply to 1

26 May 2020, 16:13

I was also surprised that such a large number of people under 25 study with the OU. I wonder if this proportion will increase with Covid-19?

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Cath Brown Post 3 in reply to 1

1 Jun 2020, 19:51

It hasn’t really surprised me (I’m current Students Association President and so am generally expected to be able to reel off facts and figures about the OU at the drop of a hat :-) ) - but it was a useful reminder of how unique the profile is of our students is.

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Paul Collier Post 4 in reply to 1

2 Jun 2020, 11:24

No surprises for me.  Like Cath this served as a useful reminder of all the great things that the OU does.  Further, having attended a graduation ceremony towards the end of last year it was fantastic to see and hear about the impact that studying with us can have on people.  Hearing the testimonies in the video was a good reminder of why I work hear.

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Heather Yorston Post 5 in reply to 1

4 Jun 2020, 18:38

I think it is fantastic that so many people with disabilities can study with the OU as I have seen them struggle with the crowds in conventional universities. It is great that people in all walks of life have a chance to change their futures, which they often missed at an earlier stage.

I knew many under 25's were studying with the OU, but did not realise that the percentage was so high. I wonder if it is different in Scotland where the students do not pay their own fees?

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Kate Sim Post 6 in reply to 5

4 Jun 2020, 20:13

I wonder if it is different in Scotland where the students do not pay their own fees?

Now that I don't know, but I may be able to find out if you really want to know.

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Lucy Gillett Post 7 in reply to 1

4 Jun 2020, 22:00 Edited by the author on 4 Jun 2020, 22:01
I am quite fortunate to be a moderator on the Discord group for OU STEM so I have experienced through direct communication the diversity of the students. If I had been asked this question a couple of years ago I may have been more surprised by how far the OU travels around the world and at the percentage of under 25's.

I am now though, after meeting so many under 25's studying with the OU, in the process of preparing my teen who is currently in college with continuing his education through the OU.
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Lucy Bailey Post 8 in reply to 1

6 Jun 2020, 12:37

The ethos of the OU as a community was particularly touching for me to read. I agree completely as I definitely had that feeling whilst studying, that we were all in this together. It is surprising how bonded you can feel with groups of people you have never met or seen.

I was also surprised at the number of under 25's using the OU to study. I would have guessed a much lower percentage.

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Tamara Lopez Post 9 in reply to 1

7 Jun 2020, 20:57

As a research student at the OU, I was already aware (and the beneficiary of) the OU ethos.  What always surprises me, however, is how immense the student body is: how many numbers of students, and how many places in which they live.

I am also always amazed to learn how dedicated the students are.  It is clear that it sometimes takes many, many years to complete a degree, but the students do it!  Very inspiring.

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Pauline Hewgill Post 10 in reply to 1

9 Jun 2020, 11:51

I was aware of the OU focus on educational opportunity but the social justice slant hadn't occured to me, it's a powerful combination

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Ben Pike Post 11 in reply to 1

9 Jun 2020, 11:59

There was nothing particularly surprising as I have seen first hand the good work the OU does. It was great to see so many people with disabilities being supported to do OU courses though.

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Kate Sim Post 13 in reply to 11

9 Jun 2020, 12:41

Hi Ben.  It sounds as though you have had direct experience of the OU.  Could you introduce yourself in the Introductions thread here please.


Kate - one of the mods

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Jacqueline Jones Post 12 in reply to 1

9 Jun 2020, 12:05

I wasn't surprised at the percentage of under 25's studying at the OU as when I have been to centres to take my exams the majority were of that age. Also with the increased advertising that the OU has done, more people are becoming aware of the advantages of flexible studying and working at the same time.

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Jerry Tomlinson Post 14 in reply to 1

10 Jun 2020, 10:59 Edited by the author on 10 Jun 2020, 10:59

Section 1 Activity 1

"The OU has more disabled students than any other university in Europe."

Very pertinent factoid.

And I bet a lot of disabled and abled people are applying now!§ion=3

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Kate Sim Post 17 in reply to 14

15 Jun 2020, 15:00

It is going to be interesting to see the effect if any, of the pandemic on the number of students applying to study with us in the coming year.

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Kussar Khan Post 37 in reply to 17

25 Oct 2020, 13:14

I was thinking the same, especially as the OU is already well established as a distance learning institute and so won't suffer from any of the teething troubles that other universities will encounter as they move sideways to include more remote learning for their students.

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Gopi Garge Post 39 in reply to 17

18 Nov 2020, 18:29

If anything, I guess there will be additional enrolments, in my opinion. There is an extra hour or two for most people, given that they work from home. 

The less fortunate might upskill themselves on OpenLearn or Future Learn?


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Michael Liedl Post 24 in reply to 14

19 Jun 2020, 16:23

After 25 years with OU, I have always had strong favourable views; but seeing the commitment of the staff makes them even stronger.

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Martin Hillson Post 34 in reply to 14

3 Aug 2020, 11:55 Edited by the author on 3 Aug 2020, 11:56

I think it goes beyond simple numbers. My sister is quite severely physically disabled and the OU was an obvious choice for her. She graduated with a first. After this she tried for a masters with a top brick uni, however, although her tutor was very supportive, the institutional flexibility and support simply wasn't there so she dropped out in the end. Didn't put her off though; she eventually came back and completed an MA with the OU. It's a story I've heard from others; unlike many organisations, the OU actually takes its disability policy seriously and tries to adapt to sudents' needs, not the other way around.

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Laura Rushworth Post 42 in reply to 34

19 Feb 2021, 15:16

I found the OU very supportive for my specific learning difficulty. I think sometimes it depends on the tutor and their background.

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Kate Sim Post 43 in reply to 42

19 Feb 2021, 15:50

Hi Laura,

Welcome to the course and I'm glad your experience of the OU is a good one

Could I persuade you to add an intro post here Section 1, Introduction to the forum


Kate - one of the mods

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Dhouha Kbaier Post 38 in reply to 14

17 Nov 2020, 14:43
There are still 25% of the students not working and focusing on their studies as 75% work part time or full time
However, maybe most of the 25% are disabled 
It's a different structure compared to other universities
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Charlotte Jukes Post 56 in reply to 14

5 Jul 2021, 11:57
As a disabled person, the figures didn't really surprise me as it is an obvious choice. However, I did my BA and PGCE at a brick university and my Master's with the OU. I found the level of support and accessibility was leaps and bounds ahead with the Open University. Nothing is too much trouble, and I would imagine due to the inclusive, supportive nature of study, retention would be at a much higher level. It would be interesting to see those figures. 
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John Dunning Post 57 in reply to 14

7 Jul 2021, 10:51

That and young people. I noticed a lot of younger people on the course I just finished.


Nigel Gibson Post 58 in reply to 57

7 Jul 2021, 11:25

SearchingI think you might need to contextualise that John - I'm of an age where everyone is younger! How young were the younger students on the course you've just finished? What was the course? Did you enjoy it?


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Muzna Sadia Post 61 in reply to 14

9 Jul 2021, 12:24

Yes exactly. Specially during the lock down and pandemic... It was really a 'handy' self and professional development, and study further opportunity ....consider taking.

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Eddie Jefferson Post 63 in reply to 14

11 Jul 2021, 14:32

The pandemic has highlighted institutions who specialise in remote, off-site study.  The OU has has naturally perfected this type of blended and flipped learning style, where the quality study materials are combined with regular tutorials and being assigned a dedicated tutor to assist during studies.  This method of learning is here to stay and I feel if a nationwide survey was carried out there would be an overwhelming support for the method.

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Jenny Bakkali Post 64 in reply to 63

12 Jul 2021, 15:23

Hi Eddie,

Welcome to the forum, hope you find it and the course useful.

Please can you post on the 'intro to the forum' thread too.



Me on the Golden Gate bridge in 2008

Stephen Butler Post 65 in reply to 14

14 Jul 2021, 12:01

I was interested that ~75% of registered students were working either part-time or full-time. I think that's quite a amazing statistic. Especially since it seems that continual education to keep pace with changing society and technology are increasingly inevitable.

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Ann Holmes Post 66 in reply to 65

5 Aug 2021, 07:51

The word that resonated with me was 'responsive' - and I think that really captures my own approach to my work as an AL. Each student is unique with a unique set of needs and interests, and I like the challenge that responding to individual difficulties presents.


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Marcus Young Post 15 in reply to 1

12 Jun 2020, 13:10

I think the student profile was probably similar to what I was expecting. I'm not particularly surprised by 34% being under 25 now. It would be interesting to know how the breakdown of students has changed over recent years with the increase in fees. When I was younger I took several modules just out of interest (rather than to contribute towards a degree) when the fees were much lower. I think this is much less affordable now, and not an option for many people.

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Cath Brown Post 16 in reply to 15

13 Jun 2020, 19:44

However, in the past you refer to, student loans weren’t available for OU study. So that can open it up to people who couldn’t have afforded the fees previously 

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Colin Jenkins Post 18 in reply to 1

16 Jun 2020, 12:53

I am not surprised so much as encouraged by the statistics given and the ethos of the OU. As a current OU student half way through my third level I have met/interacted with many people, both students and tutors and have always found them to be helpful and friendly.

It is definitely a movement for change and one that must continue.

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Kate Sim Post 21 in reply to 18

17 Jun 2020, 15:00

Hi Colin, lovely to see another current student here.  Can I persuade you to introduce yourself over here please:

Thanks  :-)

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Quentin McPhee Post 19 in reply to 1

16 Jun 2020, 14:29

I was also a little surprised by the proportion of people under the age of 25 study with the OU. It was higher than I expected (34%).

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Sarah Green Post 20 in reply to 1

17 Jun 2020, 10:32

Personally it did not come as a surprise. I have found the OU to be inclusive and aware that students are likely to feel alone due to distant learning, so more effort is made to promote a social side. I have been more involved in the OU as a distance learner than i ever was at a brick university. As a disabled student i can add that the disabled students association are incredibly supportive of each other.

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Gaby Lama Post 22 in reply to 1

19 Jun 2020, 00:13

It's quite amazing to hear that. Seeing the flexibility provided, I wouldn't be surprised with such level of appeal on the OU programs. 

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Jenny Bakkali Post 23 in reply to 22

19 Jun 2020, 00:37

Hi Gaby,

Welcome to the course and the forum, hope you find it useful.

Could I persuade you to add an intro post here Section 1, Introduction to the forum



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Michael Liedl Post 25 in reply to 1

20 Jun 2020, 17:28

The high number of under 25, took me quite by suprise. But if I think about it, it is a rather good solution for who, for family reasons, NEEDS to work as soon as he finishes college (if he has finished it).

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Anna Pietrzak Post 26 in reply to 1

24 Jun 2020, 09:58

I was not surprised that such a large number of students with disability study with the OU. However, I was a little surprised by the percentages of people under the age of 25 study with the OU; I expected lower such as 26%.

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Kate Sim Post 27 in reply to 26

24 Jun 2020, 12:14

Hello Anna, 

Lovely to see all of your posts this morning.  Could you pop in to this thread and introduce yourself here please.


Kate - one of the moderators

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Gail Ollis Post 28 in reply to 1

9 Jul 2020, 14:35

A levels

I was surprised to see how many students DO have an A level qualification. OU is so good at doing a different job to the educational "sausage machine" that I imagined there'd be a higher proportion of people for whom that hadn't worked well.

Ian Cochrane

Ian Cochrane Post 29 in reply to 1

14 Jul 2020, 20:28

I fully support the ethos of the organisation and love the idea of the OU as a social movement to drive down the barriers in society through education and enlightenment.

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Emma Byrne Post 30 in reply to 1

20 Jul 2020, 05:49

As a former AL (M266, the now defunct Natural and Artificial Intelligence) it's very exciting to reacquaint myself with the mission of the OU. 

I remember the diversity and the motivation among my students. Having taught at a few 'bricks and mortar' institutions as well, I remember the OU students with fondness for their curiosity and tenacity.

I'm excited to return after a career break

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Kate Sim Post 31 in reply to 30

20 Jul 2020, 08:36

Welcome back.  Can you introduce yourself properly over here:

Thanks Emma.

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Geraldine Lennon Post 32 in reply to 1

21 Jul 2020, 11:39

Like other people on the forum, I was surprised by the number of students aged under 25 who complete their studies at the OU. I had the (wrong) impression that it was mainly retired people and mature students who 'attended' the university.

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Alison Jenner Post 33 in reply to 1

21 Jul 2020, 22:29

I was another one surprised that the number of under-25s was that high. Having said that, if fees had been as they are now when I was originally at uni (I was one of the last years not to pay any), I would have seriously considered the OU. As it was, the OU never crossed my mind at the time. I'd be interested in seeing how the figures have changed with fees coming in - and increasing.

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Petra Wolf Post 35 in reply to 1

17 Sep 2020, 16:22

I love the statement "We need to learn as much as we need to breathe, eat, drink. It’s fundamental to our humanity.” But sadly humans seem to unlearn this innate desire to learn at the latest when they start school. During my OU courses I head from a number of fellow learners that school made them feel stupid and useless and they dropped out.

I was surprised about the number of under 25s at I never came across a student that young during my studies but it is great to read that there are a young adults who see the value of the OU.

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Silvia Varagnolo Post 36 in reply to 1

15 Oct 2020, 17:45

Being a new member of the OU staff I discovered all of this in the induction and new staff courses. I remember I was surprised about the high number of people with disabilities who can access higher education and graduate thanks to the OU. I was impressed from the level of inclusivity at the OU and the fact that the student's starting point does not matter, but the important thing is where they arrive. 

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Liz Geraghty Post 40 in reply to 1

9 Dec 2020, 21:15

I was really surprised that such a high proportion of students are under 25 when they enrol. And I was also surprised that about a quarter of UK OU students lived in areas in the most deprived quarter.  I hadn't realised what a force for social justice the OU is.

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John Marshall Post 41 in reply to 1

18 Jan 2021, 22:20
I have been an OU student for a long time now and the demographics of the OU student body don’t really surprise me. However I don’t remember so many under twenty fives when I started out thirty years ago.
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Amanda Cambridge Post 44 in reply to 1

20 Mar 2021, 11:10

I am thrilled to find the OU highlighting life-long learning and the human need for it. I worry that in many schools in the UK learning is seen as something that must be endured or 'got through', or a means to an end - which it can be, rather than seen as something that is life enhancing, despite enthusiastic teachers. This contrasts with other places that I have taught, in Barcelona my friend's grandmother enrolled in a university course at 93 years old from the desire to learn.

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Tony Sheppard Post 45 in reply to 1

7 May 2021, 14:50

Having been an OU student, little about the OU surprises me ;-)

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Maria Filippopoulou Post 46 in reply to 1

25 May 2021, 11:23

I was also surprised on the percentage of OU undergraduates under 25.

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Jenny Bakkali Post 47 in reply to 46

25 May 2021, 12:15

Hi Maria,

Welcome to the forum, hope you find it useful.

It would be lovely if you could also add a post on the intro thread.


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Irum Rauf Post 48 in reply to 1

8 Jun 2021, 09:06

I was surprised to know that 23% of students come from deprived area and 34% of students are under 25. It has made me realise the importance of OU teaching as a social movement. I understand better now that how vital it is to contribute to OU teaching in order to help young (and old) generation become the best version of themselves despite difficult situations they deal with.

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Amanda Williams Post 49 in reply to 1

11 Jun 2021, 10:31

I was surprised by the number of students that only have one A Level.  I have previously considered studying at the OU, so there are no other surprises for me.


Nigel Gibson Post 50 in reply to 49

11 Jun 2021, 14:36

I was surprised by the number of students that only have one A Level. 

Somewhere north of 30% of us don't have any "A" levels at all - the "Open" bit means that for the majority of our degrees there are no prior academic requirements :-)

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Amanda Williams Post 51 in reply to 50

11 Jun 2021, 19:05

It's great that people can study without A levels.  There are many reasons why people don’t have post 16 education, and that doesn’t mean that they are incapable of studying at university level. 

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Fiona Baxter Post 52 in reply to 1

15 Jun 2021, 10:53

I was surprised by the huge number of students with disability, I don't know why! Of course this makes sense, I just hadn't joined those dots. I'm so glad you've brought this to my attention, as I'm always looking ahead to the educational future of my autistic son with ADD. I guessed the OU would be streets ahead in terms of Edtech also, but again hadn't specifically thought of this in terms of assistive technologies. It's great to hear more detail of your clearly trailblazing inclusivity! :)D

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Julie Wales Post 53 in reply to 1

21 Jun 2021, 10:38

Hi, no surprises as I remember how diverse the students were when I attended summer school many years ago. 😀

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Michael Coggins-Lunt Post 54 in reply to 1

24 Jun 2021, 11:33

I was surprised by how wide reaching the OU is, I mean the number of countries using the University.  The numbers are staggering, especially the 25k with disabilities. It goes to show how the OU is very accessible. With such a world wide campus, applying to be an AL in the South West seems such a tiny area to cover. 

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Elena Sanchez-Heras Post 55 in reply to 1

4 Jul 2021, 16:24

It has surprised me that the OU has the highest number of disabled pupils in Europe. Also that a 34% of the alumni comes from the 25 most deprived areas in the UK. Now I understand that the OU, being a university, is also a social movement. Unique in the world!

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Chi Onyekaba Post 59 in reply to 1

9 Jul 2021, 03:03

Fascinating how the OU provides opportunities to a wide range of students, from different backgrounds with different life experiences.

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Muzna Sadia Post 60 in reply to 1

9 Jul 2021, 12:19

I was Surprised

I was amazed to learn how many people are studying and taking courses in open university. It was a concept in my mind that only retired or the people who missed the opportunity to study further after high school take OU courses for professional development but I was wrong. I am very impressed...!!

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Jenny Bakkali Post 62 in reply to 60

9 Jul 2021, 23:06

Hi Muzna,

Welcome to the forum, hope you find it useful.

It would be good if you could post on the ‘introduction to the forum’ thread too.


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Bob Moore Post 67 in reply to 1

2 Sep 2021, 13:27 Edited by the author on 2 Sep 2021, 13:28

To be honest, I'm not really suprised either about the statistics, nor about the OU ethos, but then I spent thirteen years studying with the OU for a degree, so I guess a lot of it sunk it.

What perhaps is missing from the questions is prehaps some statistics on older people. I started studying with the OU when I was in my late forties, and graduated in my sixties, as did my wife. It would be interesting to know how many other older people use the OU to get back into learning later in life

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Andrea Davanzo Post 68 in reply to 1

2 Oct 2021, 13:47

Section 1 Activity 1

I am not surprised. I am OU student since 2016 with my first module TU100. I am still a student as I am waiting the result of TM470, but during these five years I have realized how important has been the path I have followed.

Since I finished my A level school in Italy and start my job career as IT specialist I never stopped to study and keep me updated. Now, thanks to the OU I am doing it differently because I am now different, with a consciousness that I will be forever a student because more I know, more I want to know.

All the best


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Jenny Bakkali Post 69 in reply to 68

3 Oct 2021, 20:00

Hi Andrea,

Welcome to the course and forum, hope you find it interesting to see the tutor side of the OU as well.


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Kate Sim Post 70 in reply to 68

4 Oct 2021, 10:27

Just to add to Jenny's welcome and say how good it is to see a TU100 survivor coming through. 


Kate - who used to tutor and moderate on TU100.  

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Dodi - Post 71 in reply to 1

14 Dec 2021, 14:13
"I was surprised by how many people with disabilities study with the OU
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Jenny Bakkali Post 73 in reply to 71

15 Dec 2021, 18:37

Hi Dodi

Hope you enjoy the course.

Can you add an introduction on this thread too



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Steven Barr Post 72 in reply to 1

14 Dec 2021, 15:49

Great to see so many statistics, few surprises statistics but overall what was expected based on the ethos of the organisation

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Jenny Bakkali Post 74 in reply to 72

15 Dec 2021, 18:38

Hi Steven,

Welcome and hope you enjoy the course.

Can you add an introduction on the intro thread too



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Najeeb Syed Post 75 in reply to 1

18 Dec 2021, 13:02

I am part of OU cisco networking Academy from last 2 years and was thinking that they are just offering it related courses, but surprise to see there range of schools and has really made me want to work with OU more then ever.

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Jenny Bakkali Post 76 in reply to 75

20 Dec 2021, 10:50

Hi Najeeb

Welcome to the course and the forum and good to hear you are inspired to join the OU already! 

It would be good if you could you post an introduction on this thread



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Gareth Wilcox Post 77 in reply to 1

17 Jan 2022, 16:21

I can recall when the OU opened in 1965. I had just completed my A level studies. Since then, interest in a number of subjects has caused me to enrol in many courses. The first few were taught in a classroom setting. I can recall one course for which I was sent learning materials by post each week.

After the public was able to afford computers and the internet became available for all, all courses in which I enroled were online. I could work, earn money and learn at the same time. It was wonderful. It allowed every person who had such an interest to be able to study at a pace acceptable for them.

Online learning has enabled anyone to learn and obtain a recognised qualification - not only those who could afford to go to University. The first truly online couse on which I enroled was an OU couse.

I am very interested in working with the OU.

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Matthew Baber Post 78 in reply to 1

25 Jan 2022, 10:34

I have previously studied with the OU and had the pleasure of meeting and learning with other students from a wide range of backgrounds and age groups. I am surprised by the number of younger students who choose to study with the OU.

Discussion tags: section 1