Distance learning courses
Distance learning explained
The Open University’s unique, style of distance learning is called 'supported open learning'. This means that you study on your own, either at home or wherever suits you – reading, watching or listening to material supplied, doing activities and assignments with regular support from your tutor.
- Open learning means that you will be learning in your own time by reading study material, working on activities, writing assignments
- Supported means support from a tutor and from other OU staff based at UK centres.
You’ll also get the opportunity to interact with other students through the OU’s online conferencing system, tutorials and informal study groups.
When you first start
Our online induction programme will help get you off to a great start before your study begins. You can work through the programme in your own time, helping you to familiarise yourself with distance learning and your chosen subject, and understand how to get the best out of your time studying with the OU.
For every module you study, you’ll have a tutor, who will give you guidance, offer advice, and provide comprehensive feedback on your coursework. They will also be your first point of contact for help with any module-related or study issues. Your tutor can be contacted by email, and will lead group tutorials and seminars.
Other help and advice
We have a huge range of online information and advice, so you needn’t worry if it’s late at night and you have an urgent question. Most of your questions will already have been asked and answered, and you’ll find them online.
These websites are available to you now:
… and once you’ve applied for your place at the OU you’ll have access to even more online resources, such as:
- computing helpdesk
- the computing guide
- learner support advisers
- country-specific career information
The study experience
What are the study materials like?
You will be taught through printed study materials, audio CDs, video DVDs, and online resources which you will work through on a week-by-week basis.
The study materials we provide are of the highest quality, and they may include:
- specially written textbooks or workbooks
- online teaching materials
- audio CDs, DVDs and computer software
When your module starts, you'll receive study materials by post. The materials we provide are yours to keep and to refer to whenever you wish.
You will also get access to a module website where additional resources will be available. Sometime there will be books you have to buy yourself or borrow from a local library.
You'll get a study timetable that will help you plan your reading, activities and assignments, and you'll get information about how and when your tutorials will take place and for most modules when your examination will occur.
You'll get the most benefit if you study actively, so it is good practice to treat printed study materials as workbooks: write notes on them, highlight sections, underline key points, make notes on the pages, add comments, or stick bits in.
Will I need a computer?
You'll need regular and reliable access to the Internet and a computer so that you can take full advantage of our online services. This includes online forums and our vast library, and get access to support from your tutor and fellow students.
All our modules have a website that will help you plan and organise your study and allow you to get involved with the University's learning community – the largest in the world!
For most modules you will be expected to spend at least a couple of sessions a week working on a computer-based activities and some of this work may be assessed. We'll also ask you to provide an email address so that we can send you important information relevant to your studies. If you don't have an email account of your own we can provide one for you.
Assessment and exams
You'll be asked to complete pieces of work that will contribute towards the completion of your module. Your study timetable will include the dates by which you need to submit assignments or sit examinations.
An assignment is a piece of written work, covering material from your module. Completing assignments helps you to consolidate and use what you have learned. Most assignments go to your tutor for comments ('tutor-marked assignments' or TMAs). Some may be marked by computer ('computer-marked assignments' or CMAs).
Some modules include other types of written assignments, such as project work or dissertations.
Most OU modules end with an examination on a scheduled date. You will be given the address of the examination centre (and the examination date) when your module starts.
A model of academic excellence
Our modules are developed by multi-disciplinary course teams comprising renowned academics, educational technologists and media specialists, plus external assessors who ensure academic standards are equivalent to other universities.
The University's reputation for academic rigour and quality is founded on this model – which has been adopted by distance teaching institutions across the world.
Your learning tools
You’ll receive your learning materials by post when your course starts. And they’re all yours to keep, except any equipment that is loaned.
You’ll be able to access the course website, packed with useful additional resources. We’ll also send you a study timetable, which will help you plan your reading, activities and assignments, plus tell you about your tutorials and the date of any exams.
Got a question about distance learning with the OU? Please check our FAQs.