Distance learning and modes of study

Distance learning means studying at a location that you can choose for yourself. You can study at home, in a library, or even on a train – whatever suits you best. All of our students are adults with lives outside the traditional campus – studying at the Open University is always considered a part-time activity. Therefore, you can easily integrate Open University studies into your life, other studies, work and other commitments.

Distance learning or e-learning also calls for discipline. Since you are responsible for your own studying, you are expected to plan your studies independently. The distance learning method is something the Open University has developed for many years. If you have questions concerning the planning of your studies, we can help you.

Modes of Study

The most common ways of studying through distance learning at the Open University are written assignments, online discussions, concept maps and e-examinations. You will get more detailed instructions from you lecturer after registration. Follow also the instructions for academic writing.

Written assignments

Written assignments or essays are a common mode of study in the courses with instruction in English.Written assignments focus on sets of questions and problems that require in-depth examination, combination and evaluation of knowledge. The assignments and their specific instructions are presented in the course requirements.

The instructions provide guidance in applying the theories, concepts, models and research results to certain topics and phenomena. The aim is to write a reflective text that covers the central theories, concepts and research of the given area. Working on an assignment thus involves collecting information, processing it and presenting it in purposeful form. In addition to studying the required literature, written assignments can include more concrete tasks, such as interviews, observation, collecting articles, case studies, etc.

Concept maps

Before you begin writing an assessment or a written assignment, reflect on how you understand the concept(s) in question, how you would define it, what questions it evokes, and in which everyday situations you might encounter it. You can compare theories by using a concept map or a table.

The concept map is a tool that illustrates how one has understood the studied topics and their internal relationships; what the hierarchy of the concepts is, which concepts are related historically or chronologically, which are similar in content, which are contradictory, etc.

A concept map is not a mind map, which is used, for example, in brainstorming. A mind map emphasises spontaneous thinking and ideas and employs visual aids, such as colours, pictures, etc. A concept map is more concerned with exact definition of concepts and their relationships.

E-exam questions

E-exams require you to apply your knowledge. This demands a thorough knowledge of the subject area. The answer may not necessarily be found under a particular heading in the literature. For example, you may have to use what you know to solve a problem or to analyse an everyday phenomenon from several points of view.

In the e-exam, rushing into writing is of little use. It is a good idea to take some time to prepare your answer and to recall all the relevant issues. Focus on the e-exam question. Quality is more important than quantity. Do not waste time on broad introductions and fancy climaxes. Instead, go directly to the point and stick to it. If your answer is clearly presented, a few sheets are usually enough.

You are allowed to use the e-exam literature and your own notes during the e-exam. However, be aware that the e-exam questions cannot be answered acceptably by copying information from the literature. Rather, a proper answer requires you to apply the knowledge you have acquired during your preparation for the e-exam. E-exam is individual assignment.

In e-exam answers, you are expected to apply and integrate the knowledge that you have acquired when preparing for the exam. In the answers, you should use all the basic sources of the study unit, as applicable (e.g. articles, books). The use of basic sources in exam answers is indicated with references. Guidelines for references differ from subject to subject. Please follow your teacher´s guidelines for references.

 If you use internet sources, please indicate the addresses of the webpages in the text and in the list of references. When preparing for an exam, it is useful to make your own notes, including their sources. You can create a list of references for the exam answer in advance.