Studying and working with the OU – Student Voice Week 2021

Joe Turner-Law is a Senior Adviser in the Student Support Team at the Open University (OU) in Scotland and an OU student.

This blog was provided by The Open University in Scotland for Student Voice Week 2021.

In this blog, Joe Turner-Law shares what it’s like combining his studies and his work supporting fellow OU students. 

Joe Turner-Law I have been working in the Student Support team at The Open University in Scotland for almost two-and-a-half years, starting off as an Adviser before moving into a Senior Adviser position earlier this year.

I have been an OU student throughout my employment with the OU.

I decided early on to study with the OU, as lots of our students do, for career purposes.

More specifically, as my role involves speaking to a range of OU students every day, I thought it would be a great way to understand the OU from the student perspective and better relate to our students during our conversations.

I’m studying towards an OU Open Degree, which is a particularly valuable route for anyone who is looking to complete study in a  range of subject areas whilst working towards a qualification.

I’m finding that studying alongside work, whilst a significant commitment, is helping me professionally.

For example, my current course Leadership in a Changing World, focuses on the challenges of leadership in turbulent times, which is especially relevant given the last two years we have all had.

As I start to think about my career, and senior roles I’d potentially like to go into at the OU, I find myself thinking about how a leader at the OU might manage internal and external challenges.

I’m hoping this will serve me well, even if it is a bit further down the line.

I have found that my OU study is great at covering the academic theory and allowing me to think and apply it in the context of my job the very next day.

A lot of students I speak to are studying solely out of interest and not for any specific work or career purposes, which is an equally valuable route to go down.

This is especially true for students who would like to study with perhaps less pressure and use the flexibility of the OU to learn at their own pace. The students I have spoken to seem to absolutely love studying this way.

As I write this, I am aware there may be the temptation to confuse this flexibility with ease. Whilst this flexibility is what makes the OU great, successful study requires significant commitment, independence, organisation, and determination.

Surprisingly to me, I also found it required a strong element of self-awareness and reflection to identify what kind of OU study will work best for you and where it will fit in with your other commitments.

That was the biggest challenge I found over the last two years.

I found lockdown challenging, when my life was working and studying, with limited other options to be social or take a break.

As I’m sure many other OU students can relate, and perhaps all of us to an extent, keeping on top of our other commitments whilst managing our own well-being during the pandemic was a real challenge.

I found my motivation to study dwindling although I am now back on track.

If you are at all like me, it is not always easy to accept and admit this to yourself, especially at the time.

I found the understanding and support from tutors and the University in general very reassuring.

As a result of my experience, I would say it is important to really think about your own work-life balance and where OU study could fit in, if you are considering it.

I appreciate this may not be an easy task, but that’s why we have a Student Support Team here in Scotland.

With the flexibility, inclusivity and support underpinning the OU, we are almost always able to offer some sort of study plan or provide a student with options, regardless of any educational or personal barriers. This makes my job infinitely more pleasant. So please do get in touch with our team if you are interested in studying with the OU, or for support with your current OU studies.

The majority of OU students in Scotland study for free with a part-time fee grant, which is for students in Scotland with a personal income of £25,000 or less.No qualifications are required for most OU modules.

There is more information about studying with the OU, our support and services for students, and how you can contact us, on our Study webpage. 

You can also read more student stories and blogs by OU students, staff and partners. 

Joe Turner-Law is a Senior Adviser and a student at the OU in Scotland.

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