Data Analyst Abiola is a student at The Open University (the OU), completing a degree in Computing and IT while balancing a career that’s involved in tackling climate change.

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Abiola, Computing and IT student at The Open University, explains in his daily diary below that there isn’t just one way to study anything. He tells us about the support he receives through the OU and his employer, including how the office becomes his perfect study space.

Image: Abiola (right) with his siblings

Wake up to 9am: Dodging rush hour

I wake up around 7am and get ready for work. 

I aim to leave the house at 8:30am to miss the bulk of the morning rush hour on the tube and DLR.

Before I leave, I double-check that I have the right study materials I’ll need later that day. With the OU, I’m lucky that I can access my course online on top of the books they provide. 

Not sure if distance learning is right for you? Get a quick introduction including how courses are taught and assessed. 

9am to 11am: Getting stuck into work

Once I arrive at work, I log into my laptop to check if there are any urgent messages that require my immediate attention, and try to get them sorted as soon as I can.  

If there aren’t, I begin running requested data reports for domestic and commercial clients.  

I find it easier to split my day into work and distance learning. This allows me to give my all at that moment, and not have to split my focus. 

11am to 1pm: Solving problems in a team

I have a meeting to scope current ongoing projects and each department’s needs.

The collaborative style of this meeting means anyone can share ideas to resolve issues or adjust a process to boost efficiency. 

With the knowledge I’ve gained from my distance learning course, I’m able to better understand what the software team is working on, and how they’re planning to go about it.  

My colleagues are very impressed with the hard work, commitment and motivation skills I ‘ve acquired through studying. These are skills that I can use at work.  

There are two other distance learning students in the company. We support and lean on one another as we can relate to one another.

Discover what support is available to students in our guide to how distance learning works, including one-to-one tutorials and student forums.

1pm to 3pm: Support from my company

I use my lunch break to go to the gym. This gives me a chance to unwind and take a break from the screen.

If I don’t go to the gym, I feel slightly stressed, although I am tempted to skip it on nice summer days when my colleagues and I go to the park for lunch. 

There’s a positive perception of distance learning students at my company. They actively encourage individuals to better themselves, and are willing to provide sponsorships where they see fit. A prime example of this would be me. 

The flexibility of my course allows me to fit study around my work. My company has made the office space available to me during the evenings and weekends which works great for me, and they also allow me to take time off when I have an upcoming exam. 

Learn more about employer sponsorships, payment plans and extra funding for distance learning students. 

3pm to 5pm: Making small goals

This is usually my busiest period.

My visit to the gym gives me the surge of energy I need to do any tasks that need completing before the end of the day, plus it prepares me for an evening of studying. 

It’s great that distance learning has given me the opportunity to work full-time in a company involved in what I’m passionate about, while studying for my degree. 

Through my course, I’ve developed my time management skills to ensure I keep on track with my work and assignments. I keep myself motivated by taking small steps towards my degree. I find it easier if I focus on what I need to submit next. 

Pick up more tips to stay motivated, productive and balanced in our guide to studying remotely or online.  

5pm to 7pm: Keeping up with friends (without getting distracted by memes)

At the end of the working day, I take a break to check my social media feeds to see what my friends are up to.  

Social media has been very useful to make plans, as it can be easy to forget to take some time for yourself and catch up with friends. I sometimes get distracted by memes and social media posts my friends share in our group chats, so I mute the group when working on an assignment that’s due for submission soon. 

I make a plan for what I hope to learn and complete that evening using my OU study planner. This varies, but in a ‘normal’ week without any impending deadlines, I start by reading a chapter or two from that week’s reading materials. These are already split up by week which make them easier to study. 

Once I’ve finished reading, I get started on my upcoming Tutor Marked Assignment (TMA). Each TMA assesses a different area we’ve been learning in a term. They range from writing project essays to coding an application from scratch in Java. I always try to start work on them as early as possible, to anticipate any areas where I’ll need to do extra reading or ask my tutor for help. 

I also have monthly interactive computer marked assessments (iCMAs), and a final examinable marked assessment (EMA) each year. The iCMAs are multiple choice and cover material from the previous month. As they’re computer-marked, I get my results immediately. 

I listen to some hip-hop beats and jazz when completing assignments. 

7pm to 9pm: Browsing course forums over a bite

After an hour, I go get some dinner.

I return to the office and eat while reading the course forums. The questions asked here vary from how to download software to questions about a difficult task in a TMA. I’ve posted several questions asking for help and students have quickly pointed me in the right direction. 

The forums are typically used to ask course-related questions. There are also WhatsApp groups and Discord servers for socialising and making friends [with other OU students]. 

I spend the rest of my evening working on my upcoming assignment.  

9pm onwards: No work whatsoever

Once I get home, I leave all work at the door and relax.

I have plenty of time to catch an episode (or two) of my favourite TV shows, such as Insecure and This Is Us, or to catch up with my family. They are very supportive and are constantly interested in what I’m studying in my OU degree. My family are proud of my decision to study via distance learning and the work they can see I am doing. 

Learn more about distance learning

Abiola fits a lot into his day, but he enjoys a good deal of flexibility and support from The Open University, as well as his company, to make it possible. He’s also shown how his course has benefited his job performance and some of the skills he’s learned. Plus, he still has time for the gym, family and Netflix. 

However, this is just one student’s experience. Distance learning can take many forms, as you can see from our diaries with Parliamentary Assistant Aliya or Medical Governance Coordinator Jezanne. Take a look and see how they make distance learning work for them.

Explore our full distance learning hub, including who might suit distance learning and how employers view distance learning degrees

Editor's note: The information above was provided by a student, and reflects their experience studying with The Open University (OU) and their daily routine (pre-Covid). Individual experiences may vary depending on course and personal circumstances. If you would like to learn more about studying with the OU, including questions about a specific course, you can get in touch directly.