9 ways to combat loneliness in your OU distance learning

Distance learning isn't something that everyone is used to and it can be incredibly difficult for some to not feel lonely.

At the moment of writing this list, the pandemic still has some grasp on how people interact with one another and the world around them. People that would typically mingle in open spaces like lectures and conferences have had to settle with being mostly in their own company and chat boxes these last few years. Even before that and outside of the pandemic, people have struggled in having a study buddy or interacting with other students due to distance, a heavy schedule, health-related issues and more.

No matter the reason you came to this list, the goal I want to accomplish is to help you feel a little less alone in your studies – whether that's in having a study buddy or simply feeling like you have someone there that understands a part of your student experience. 

  1. 1 Your Module Forum

    Number one in our list would be our module forums! As a student in the OU, our module forums typically open sometime before the official start date. There are, more often than not, informal student introductory threads and people wanting to connect with others in person and virtually. But, what if you were shy then and later felt like you wanted to contribute in some way?

    My best advice: Do it. You sincerely have nothing to lose. More than likely there are people in your module forum that will welcome your post with friendly replies and respectful discourse. Better yet, you can always interact with others that haven't had a response yet either. This way you can develop connections or even just a familiarity with people that you might see in your next module(s) the following year.

  2. 2 Volunteer Positions With The OU or Students Association

    My favourite thing to watch out for are volunteer positions in the OU! You can find them on the Students Association website or can even sometimes be offered positions, like becoming a mentor after doing a module, but they're not offered to everyone and are often notified through email - if not also on your Student Home page.

    While not all volunteer positions are virtual, the ones that are still make you feel as though you're part of something bigger than yourself while being able to interact with other students. As for those that have no problem or barrier in volunteering in person, you are sure to find positions and meet other people here too. I do have to note that volunteer positions are not available all the time or are they always highly interactive with others, but you can always subscribe to the newsletter on the Students Association's informational volunteer page or check the page every so often to see if one fits you.

  3. 3 Students Association Clubs and Societies

    Were you aware of how many clubs and societies we have at the Students Association? Well, they're quite numerous and they're not all academic either! Even if you don't see something that you feel aligns with you or your interests, you can still make your own club and society for other students and alumni to join.

  4. 4 OU Students Association Community Forums

    All OU students have access to the student community forums. Here you can have a field day exploring the very general community where people ask questions and Association events, Interests, Societies and life at the OU (under OU Students Association Live on the main page of student community forums), OU Students Association Societies and so much more.

    I have to admit that it's very easy to get lost as you scroll and click away, but it's fun to explore and see all the interesting threads people have started. The only 'bad' side - which is more disappointing than bad - is that there isn't always active threads and it isn't always guaranteed that you'll find study buddies or people to talk to. Still, I feel like it can be useful and fun if given a day to explore every once in a while. You get a chance to meet interesting people from all over the world that are either upcoming or current students and alumni.

  5. 5 Students Association Events

    Students Association events are always happening and all students are welcome! Typically on the front page of the OU Students Association, you can find events for students all week long - no matter who you are or where you come from. You get a chance to sit down and mingle with students from your region that you wouldn't otherwise interact with and even students from around the world. It's pretty cool and you never know what kind of friendships you can develop here.

  6. 6 The Hoot

    Of course, I had to add The Hoot to this lovely list! Anyone can be a writer and you get to have people respond and react to your published work. Even if you don't desire to publish anything, you can still interact with people and develop new connections while supporting your fellow OU students and alumni.

  7. 7 OU-Related Content on Social Media Platforms

    Now, social media can be a bit daunting for some people, but - in my experience - you get to meet so many people from the OU this way and develop close friendships, find encouragement from those who have 'been-there-done-that' and even a chance to network. What I would recommend is going to your preferred social media and looking up Open University's main account (and the Open University Students Association account, if available) and viola! You're easily able to communicate with other students under the OU and Association's official posts. In fact, you can see what other students are up to from all over the world looking up hashtags or mentions connected to the Open University.

    As always, please practice internet safety and be ethical when connecting with other students in what you talk about.

  8. 8 OU Students on YouTube

    Aside from the official OU channels (OU Students Associationand the Student Hub Live) on Youtube, you can always look up and connect with other students and alumni! By searching 'Open University', you open new possibilities to connect with other current and past students and their experiences with the OU. It's always interesting to see. Also, it can definitely make you feel less alone if you're struggling or thinking about changing something in your university journey.

  9. 9 'Study With Me' Videos

    Perhaps you want a study buddy but prefer to go at your own pace, do school work at odd hours, want minimal interaction or are an introvert. There are so many other reasons why people search for 'Study With Me' videos or streams on Youtube. Regardless of the reason, they are such a great source of motivation. These videos can be hours long with consistent study breaks. You turn on the 'ambience' when you want, wherever you are, to do your own independent studying with someone else who happens to be doing their own work as well. 

    I personally love these! Especially if you always wanted a study buddy but always had an issue in finding one due to time, location, etc.

    (It's also a great time to mention that while I was looking at clubs at our number three, we even have a Study With Me Club if you wish to study with other students from within the OU in a similar manner - but in real-time!)

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