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Coronavirus (COVID-19)

We are continuing to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic to ensure students and staff can study and work safely. We remain open and we're working hard to ensure that the majority of our services are unaffected. The following information tells you about the differences you can expect to the usual services and support we provide. This page was last updated on 08 January 2021.

Module specific changes for 2020/21

As well as reading the general information below, Check here to see if there are any changes to how your module(s) are being delivered. This includes a spreadsheet where you can check specific details about your module(s).

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Assessment (TMAs, exams, EMAs and emTMAs)

You should expect to complete all your assessments as scheduled on your module study planner, however we will advise you if there any changes to this. You can check your module website (or the module description if it is not yet open) to find what assessments your module(s) has.

Tutor marked assignments (TMAs)

You can request an extension to your TMA submission date (provided it is not the final TMA on the module) of up to 21 days. This arrangement will be in place until at least 31 December 2021. Requests for extensions must be made to your tutor. Find out more about getting an extension to your assignment deadline.

If you have difficulties reaching your tutor or any other concerns, then you can also contact your Student Support Team for advice.

If you need a TMA extension beyond 21 days, this must also be discussed with your tutor, or student support team in your tutor’s absence. There may be other solutions to help you progress with your studies rather than opting for a very long extension.

Extensions to the final TMA of your module (the one before an exam, EMA or emTMA) are more restricted. This is because any extension will affect the time you have remaining to study for your exam, EMA or emTMA.

You can currently request an extension to your final TMA up to the eighth day of the month in which your module ends. This arrangement will be in place until at least 31 December 2021, so, if you are studying a module which ends in or before December 2021, you can request as extension up to the eighth day of that month.

TMA marking turnaround

Tutors currently have 15 working days to mark and return assignments. You may also find that on some occasions, your work has been marked by someone other than your usual tutor. We are doing this, where necessary, to ensure you get your assignments back as soon as possible and to help tutors manage their workload during these challenging times.

Submitting assessments on paper

We are currently operating a very reduced presence in our offices, so processing paper copies of assessments will take longer than usual and there is a risk of delays if we need to close offices.

Please submit all TMAs, emTMAs and EMAs through the eTMA system which you'll find in your module website under the Assessment tab or on your module record page in StudentHome.

If you need to write or complete your assessment on paper, you can scan it in using your smartphone and submit this as a PDF, using the eTMA system. Please only do this as an alternative to posting in a handwritten TMA, do not convert Microsoft Word files (.doc .docx or .rtf) and submit them as .pdf unless your module specifically asks you to do this.

If it is impossible for you to submit electronically, please be assured that your paper submissions will be processed when we are able. If this happens after the release of your module results, we will update your result as soon as possible.

Exams, EMAs and emTMAs

If your module has an EMA or emTMA, you will need to complete this in line with the instructions and submit your work by the cut-off deadline on your module website.

Exams scheduled to take place before 31 December 2021 have been replaced with remote exams. If your module has an exam, you will now undertake the remote exam at home. Further information about your remote exam will be published on your module website approximately six weeks before the submission cut-off date. More information can be found at Remote exams and ICMEs.

Exams scheduled beyond 31 December 2021 may be held in an exam centre or may be replaced by a remote exam. We’ll confirm this as soon as possible.

Postponing your remote exam, EMA or emTMA submission (discretionary postponement)

If you’re unable to undertake your remote exam or submit any part of your EMA or emTMA due to exceptional circumstances, you may be permitted to postpone to the next available opportunity.

You are not currently required to submit any evidence when requesting a postponement. This arrangement will remain in place until at least 31 December 2021. You do, however, need to apply before midnight (UK local time) on the day after your remote exam, EMA or emTMA submission cut-off deadline.

To find out more about postponing and how to apply, see Apply for discretionary postponement.

Special Circumstances

While the University will continue to acknowledge the affect that the COVID-19 pandemic may be having on your study, you should still tell us if your performance, either on a specific assignment or across the overall module, has been particularly affected.

Currently, you do not need to provide any evidence when telling us about Special Circumstances, but if you do have any, it is helpful to include it.

These policies will remain in place until at least 31 December 2021.

You can submit Special Circumstances up to four days after the submission cut-off deadline for your remote exam, EMA or emTMA.

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Tutorials, day schools and residential schools

If your module offers tutorials, these are continuing to run. However, for modules starting in or before February 2021 all tutorials will take place online.

For more information about how to find, register and join tutorials see Joining instructions for online tutorials.

Day schools and residential schools

We currently anticipate that compulsory face-to-face day schools and residential schools scheduled in 2021 will go ahead. If, however, the COVID-19 pandemic situation means that attendance at a face-to-face event is not possible, nearly all of our modules with compulsory day schools and residential schools have alternative online versions, which will allow you to engage with this study. As there will be specific arrangements for each module, we will contact you by email about any changes.

Where an online alternative is not possible, we will contact you to discuss how this may affect your studies.

You should also check here for information about changes to how your module(s) will be delivered. This includes a spreadsheet where you can check specific details about your module(s).

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Study materials and support from your tutor

Printed study materials

Our warehouse staff continue working to ensure printed study materials and other module mailings can be delivered as scheduled.

We are currently responding to the temporary suspension of some international services due to Coronavirus transport impacts. All materials for modules that are currently running have already been sent out, but it is possible there might be delays for students starting modules in February 2021. We continue to monitor the situation and will keep you informed

You can also access electronic versions of print materials on your module website – these can be found in the Resources area.

If you need urgent help to access or replace materials that are broken, lost or missing please contact the Distribution Helpdesk.

Support from your tutor

The majority of modules include support from a personal academic tutor. This can take a variety of forms, including one-to-one support from your Tutor by email and phone. We do not expect this form or level of support to change.

In the event of a tutor becoming ill or unable to continue with their OU work for a period of time, the University will arrange for an alternative tutor to support you with your studies.

Tutors currently have up to 15 working days to mark and return assignments, rather than the usual 10 working days. You may also find that your work has been marked by someone other than your usual tutor. We are doing this, where necessary, to ensure you get your assignments back as soon as possible, and to help tutors manage their workload during these challenging times.

These arrangements will remain in place until at least 31 December 2021, at which point we will review whether to extend them further.

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If you have a disability

You need to make sure you tell us about any support you need immediately. This is because it can take time to ensure everything you need is in place. To discuss options please contact the Disability Support Team.

We are working to ensure you have the support you need in place for the start of the module, and if there is an unexpected disruption, we will contact you. All our study materials are available online and are provided in accessible formats. You may also find it useful to work through this help on studying on a screen.

If you need urgent help to access or replace materials that are broken, lost or missing please contact the Distribution Helpdesk.

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Progress reviews with your practice tutor will take place by telephone or online, until face-to-face interaction can resume.

If changes at work impact on your ability to complete any of your work-based learning activities, you should contact your tutor, your Apprenticeship Programme Delivery Manager, or the Apprentice Support Team to discuss your options.

You can contact the Apprentice Support Team by email:

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Deferring or withdrawing from modules

If you're thinking you might need to stop studying, please contact your student support team (SST). There may be a variety of options available to you, including advice around managing your fees and funding. Our Changing your study plans pages may also help you identify ways to continue studying.

If however you do need to stop, you can find out the final date you can defer from your module on your module record. Select your module from your study record and then click on 'final deferral date' to find this.

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Financial support

We offer a range of bursaries, grants and funds to support students. What is available varies depending on your circumstances, what you are studying and where you live. See additional funding and financial support for more information.

We have also opened a Student Assistance Fund for students who have been affected by COVID-19 and have faced unexpected financial hardship, impacting their ability to study.

Funding may be available if you need help with study and/or living costs to enable you to continue with your studies. From 1 November 2020 you may be able to apply for additional funding even if you have previously received support from the fund.

The fund is limited, eligibility criteria apply, and it will only be open for a limited amount of time.

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Exceptional appeals process (modules that ended in May/June 2020)

Following the release of module results in July 2020, concerns were raised by some students that insufficient information was available at the time of completing their module(s). After careful consideration of the concerns raised, the University agreed that students whose Final Assessed Task (exam, EMA or emTMA) (originally due in May or June 2020) was cancelled or changed (e.g. replaced with a remote exam) should be given the opportunity to submit an exceptional appeal regarding their result where they feel they have been disadvantaged in some way.

The deadline to submit an appeal was on 26 October 2020. All previously submitted appeals will receive an outcome within 20 days of their submission date. The Student Casework team will contact you directly if there is any delay to your case.If you have any additional queries, please contact your Student Support Team.

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Registering for your next modules

Our final enrolment deadline for October 2020 has passed but you can still register on modules starting later in the academic year (mostly modules starting in February).

If you're already registered with the OU, go to StudentHome and click on 'Choose your modules', which you'll find in the centre panel. From here you'll also find a link to all the information you need about choosing your module, plus advice about your payment and funding options and the timescales involved. Also check the section on this page about changes to modules (as well as the general information) to understand where there will be differences to the usual services and support we provide, as well as any changes to how your module is supported and assessed.

If you live in England, Northern Ireland or Wales, the Student Loans company is open and taking applications for this academic year. If you've previously used student finance to fund your studies check your Student loan page in StudentHome to see if you need to apply. If you’re a postgraduate student visit Ways to pay your tuition fees for details of how to apply for funding.

If you live in Scotland, visit Ways to pay your tuition fees for details of how to apply for funding. If you’re an undergraduate student, the Student Awards Agency Scotland (SAAS) is now accepting applications for Part-Time Fee Grants and we’ve put in place a process to allow you to send us your application online rather than via post.

If you have questions or want to discuss your next module choice, or you can't enrol or pay online, contact your SST.

You can also use our Student Support Team forums for information and advice.

If you're new to the OU go to our online prospectus to enrol.

Sending us information to support your enrolment or studies

Please send any information or evidence required for funding or disability support applications electronically rather than by post. This is to ensure we can process your application as quickly as possible, and in case our post rooms are required to close again.

Details of how to send us information electronically can be found at Ways to pay your tuition fees or follow the process for requesting disability support.

If you are unable to send us information electronically, please contact the relevant department for further assistance.

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Degree ceremonies

Due to the ongoing impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, we are unable confirm the programme of Ceremonies for 2021 at this time. We appreciate this may be disappointing however, the safety of our staff and students remains our priority.

As soon as we are able to, details of ceremony dates, locations and how to book your place will be updated on the ceremonies website.

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If you're feeling worried about Coronavirus take a look at our Wellbeing during lockdown article for resources and ideas on how to help reduce stress and concerns. For example, support through our partnership with the service Togetherall (which includes counselling sessions for students in Scotland). We also run a programme of events via Student Hub Live on a range of subjects such as community-building, self-care and productivity, catch up or look out for upcoming events.

We have also put together some tips on balancing work, study and family, including a list of free OU resources that you or your family might find helpful (e.g. to support older children's school work).

We also have an article about coping with grief and bereavement during the coronavirus pandemic.

For information on how you can look after your mental health during this outbreak see Mental Health Foundation and Public Health England. If you live in Scotland see the Scottish Association for Mental Health (SAMH), the Public Health Scotland and Scottish Government websites. If you are a Welsh speaker looking for bilingual resources then the Student Space Project has some useful resources available.

Domestic abuse support

If you're experiencing or at risk of domestic abuse. Please take a look at our Domestic abuse support during lockdown article which has details for urgent help and other support helplines across the UK.

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Careers and Employability Services

If changing circumstances have affected your life or study goals, course choice or career plans, staff in the OU’s Careers and Employability Services are maintaining a full range of support:

  • If you need to rethink your long-term career plans and how they may affect module choices or your decision to defer, we have many online resources to help you such as Your Career Planning Guide plus forums and webinars.
  • Similarly, if you need to clarify your options and potential career paths, you can still book a careers consultation over email, phone or Skype.
  • If you want to know more about volunteering opportunities, you can browse the many online roles posted by a range of organisations on OpportunityHub.

Please note that our Careers and Employability Services team is set up to be working from home, and although we are currently managing demand well, we hope you understand if we are not always able to answer your queries within the usual five days.

You may on occasions hear children or pets in the background when you talk with our Careers and Employability Services staff. Please be assured that your call is being dealt with confidentially, and we are taking appropriate measures to ensure your information is kept very securely.

For the latest updates on how we are providing careers support to OU students, please see our Careers and Employability Services statement.

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Contacting us

Student support teams (SSTs)

You can contact your student support team (SST) by phone, email or webchat. Our phonelines are currently open between 08:00– 17:30 UK time, Monday to Friday.

Following the latest government guidance, our teams are working at home which may cause some delays and we thank you for your patience. Please be assured that all necessary precautions are being taken to protect the privacy of your conversation and the personal data you may provide.

We are working to increase our opening hours back to our standard hours of Monday to Friday 08:00 – 20:00 and Saturday 09:00 - 17:00.

Opening hours and arrangements may change over the coming months depending on how the government advice changes; we’ll update this page with the latest information. You can also go to Contact us.

SSTs also run student support forums. These are a community help resource for queries about student support, and are moderated by our advisors who will help you. You can also talk with other students and share tips and information on the forums.

All students can see the forums so please do not share any personal information such as your address, details about your tutor, payment card details or anything else you would not be happy for any other students to see. You cannot not use the forums to:

  • Get detailed personal advice and guidance - you should contact your SST for this.
  • Enrol on modules - you can do this online from StudentHome. If you're unable to enrol online you should contact your SST.
  • Make payments - if you need to pay for your module using a credit or debit card please contact your SST for advice. If you email, do not include card details in your email

Other services

We are continuing to answer queries as quickly as possible, but some services are reduced:

To find the right contact details for your query, and updated hours over the Christmas closure period, go to Contact the OU.

  • Library Services are available to respond to emails between 09:00 and 17:00 Monday to Friday. The Library Webchat service is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
  • The Computing and Distribution Helpdesk is available by phone, email and webchat Monday to Thursday 09:00 – 20:00, Friday – 09:00 – 17:00 and Saturday 09:00 – 14:00.
  • OUSBA (Open University Student Budget Accounts Ltd) is operating with reduced staffing levels so there may be a delay in responding to both phone and email contact.
  • The Disability Support Team are contactable by phone (Mon to Fri 09:00 - 17.00) or email.
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Last updated 3 days ago