Getting back into learning

I want to give you a chance to learn something new, you may enjoy it, you may not, but I want to express my opinions on OpenLearn and what I’ve gained from it.

To start off, what is OpenLearn?

OpenLearn is a service provided by The Open University (if you haven’t heard of The Open University¬†you can click here for their website).¬† According to OpenLearn, they aim to enable everyone around the world access to education by providing free educational resources and enabling people to try a new course. ¬†Essentially they give you access to materials to read about subjects that might interest you and provide you a chance to try something new while earning a certificate of participation. To stress, all these courses are FREE! So really you don’t lose anything by trying something new.

Their main points are:

  • Get Inspired
  • Explore subjects
  • Study free courses
  • Brush up on skills
  • Tv, Radio and Online
  • Earn while you learn.

To summarise the points, you can try learning something new in a way that is suitable to you (e.g. Online, videos etc) at no cost and allows you to do it when you want so it doesn’t impact other areas of your life.

They have a range of subjects, and within each subject there are a lot of courses available. Personally I focused on “Education and Development”,” Health, Sport and Psychology”, “Science, Maths and Technology”, and “Society, Politics and Law”. A lot of my areas of interest often overlap hence I went through each subject and took note of the courses they offered and which I wanted to do, as opposed to sticking to just one subject area.

It’s a really simple process to getting started, literally just sign up, click on a course, enroll and start learning. There is also a section called “Skills” which I feel focuses more on practical application as opposed to the theoretical aspects primarily found in the subject areas, that being said there are e-books within the skills section as well which provides academic support. So there is a choice between if you prefer a more theory based or application based learning style.

I’m going to state the positives and negative I’ve found while doing the courses.


Enables a mindset of learning and stimulation. I’ve had two years off from education after completing my degree but I want to do my Masters this September; due to that break I had felt a bit out of touch when looking at research and getting back into the educational mindset, so I think it’s supported getting the studying attitude back.

Allows for different perspectives. I like to think I know at least the standard for a Psychology graduate’s knowledge. However, looking at some of these courses, I feel it adds an extra bit of information, a sort of side note to consider when looking at information in whatever context. It might not provide brand new information but I think it allows you to take into account other perspectives than what you usual would.

Free. Who doesn’t love free things?

Enables an opportunity for a new experience. I had never thought about “Exercise and Mental Health” or “Paraphrasing text”, in fact while I did learn about both of these things during my degree, it was never fully touched on. I can safely say that the course on Paraphrasing text, surprisingly useful tips. On the other hand, Sports Psychology never appealed to me; At university it was either you do the module or you don’t, you didn’t get a chance to experience what you could learn, “Exercise and Mental health” let me see how psychology can relate to sports, and while it still holds no interest to me, I can know understand the basis of why it might interest others.

Engagement. As someone who’s been struggling mentally, and being a huge nerd, it actually gave me an opportunity to get out of my head and to dive into something. It meant I wasn’t thinking negativity constantly, instead I was thinking about how to be a critical reader or the impact of a professional relationship can have in support young people. It gave me an chance to do something productive with my day as opposed to just cry, and sometimes that’s a huge support.

International. As far as I can tell, these courses are available all over the world, so whether you are reading this from the UK, or from Brazil for example, you should be able to access the website and the resources to further yourself.


Various quality. I’ve had one course which has me engaged, it had me thinking about all sorts of things and really pushing myself. On another course, I was just asked to read something and that was it. As there are a range of courses there may be some which are better than others, but it’s something to be aware when enrolling on a course that although this one might be just spitting information at you, another might have you fully engaged.

Varied activities. Similar to quality, some courses seem to just ask you to listen and take notes, while others may ask you to go further, listen, engage, do something with the information you just learnt. Some of you may learn best by putting theory to practice, while others just want to listen and take notes, because it’s a set activity it’s hard to adapt to your learning style.

Lack of community. Maybe they have this and I don’t know, but to me it’s a very independent learning style, you have the option of writing comments below the course, but there isn’t a forum, a way for students to interact and ask “Did you understand this?”, or “Have you tried this new course?”. It’s something that definitely separates OpenLearn from other physical courses or even some online courses I’ve seen.

Dull Layout. Once again, personal opinion but I feel that the layout of the website and even the courses, it doesn’t inspire me to learn, it doesn’t motivate me as much as it could. Great you’ve got videos, but on some courses I’ve been more interested in a snapchat story or an Instagram notification popping up. Maybe it was just the mood I was in but I’ve found a couple of times that I start to drift away and if it weren’t for the fact I love learning and am determined to do these courses, I may not get them completed.

Honestly, it is worth a go, you might find something that interests you. The main point I think is if you truly engage with a course/subject, it doesn’t matter if it’s not the best, it inspires you to go further and learn more about it. The more you put into it, the more you get out of the course I believe.

That’s my experience with OpenLearn, if you do give it a shot, please feel free to let me know what you think.


Alex Morley Hewitt
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