Online Student Experiences - Foekje's Distance Learning Journey


Foekje Pol studied Educational sciences and belonged to the first intake of participants to the Open University Extra. For this reason, she is to face clear agreements, strict deadlines and fixed exam dates. All in all, more structure and less freedom.

What started as a short training of only one module for Foekje Pol (48) in 2006, is seemingly going to end with a master degree in Educational sciences. The eight exams from the bridging program, in Education there is no bachelor’s programme, and the initial modules of the master program are already over. Left to do are eight more modules and a thesis.

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Optimistic as she is, she has already stated in her shortened curriculum vitae that she graduated in 2015. She is a striking example of permanent education, just like her husband, who works in a nursery and as a sociologist and who graduated as a theologist.

Studying even in Nepal

There is no denying that in the Pol’s home in Hasselt (near Zwolle) people are studying. A large bookcase including among other things works about ethics is largely covering the wall of the living room.

Even though someone is always studying, a son studying in Wageningen, the other in Groningen, it's far from only academic and career matters that occupy this family. After working as a speech therapist, Foekje, during the early nineties wanted something else together with her husband. They left with their two sons ages two and four, through a Christian staffing organization to Nepal.

'We just wanted to travel to a country where they could use our knowledge. My husband Klaasjan was a psychiatric nurse and in a prosperous country like ours, it was easy to replace a professional like him. In Nepal, things are different because there is nearly no psychiatric care while the problems are very grave.'

Back to the Netherlands

After learning the language and the culture of Nepal, her husband set out to teach the health care providers and shamans the basic skills of psychiatric care. Foekje was working there in education and also spent a lot of time with the children. This proved to be no unnecessary luxury because they ended up adopting a 20-month-old child and a new-born baby which she breast-fed herself. 'I see these adoptions as a privilege.'

Since it was time for their son to begin high school, after seven years the six of them returned to The Netherlands. Her husband then told her: 'Now it's your time to study or work, what do you want to do?' Foekje started studying at the InHolland College in Haarlem on the three-year long programme as Radio-diagnostic analyst. 'A very technical study', says Foekje 'but the line of work brings you in contact with people and that's what I like.'

The train as a study location

For a cosmopolitan in her early 30s who knows how to handle her things, the study of Radio-diagnostic analyst was pretty hierarchical. 'I was treated as a pupil while I myself coached interns as a speech trainer.' Still she finished her studies and she even got the chance to teach the subject she studied at the Amstel Academy.

Foekje grabbed that chance while she at the same time got into the teacher program at Higher Healthcare Educations (HGZO). It is because of this program she came into contact with the Open University. 'The HGZO expected me to fill in 120 extra study points myself, by going to symposiums for example', she explains. 'I collected those points by attending a module on Statistics at the Open University.'

For her work, she read a lot of literature but she didn't always grasp the details of it. 'Through that module, I now understand what the measure of probability, the so-called p-value means.'

Foekje got the sweet taste of it and regularly started buying new modules that fitted her line of work.

Because she has the habit of criticizing her own life, Foekje concluded that she could complete two modules per year in a rather relaxed manner. 'Next to my work and my private life I was able to maintain that tempo.' The first modules she studied in the train on her way to work from Hasselt to Amsterdam. Foekje: 'I have no trouble at all concentrating, I can distance myself from my surroundings everywhere. Also, those fixed study moments gave me a structure and a nice studying rhythm.'

Study break because of illness

Her plan to go through two modules a year were invalidated because her husband became unable to work due to his rheumatism. The impact of this event on her family was large. She put her studies on hold for a year. Because of her work in Amsterdam, her husband Klaasjan was used to doing a large part of the household chores. 'I hadn't cooked in years for example. Now that is my daily punishment', says Foekje laughing. 'I am also doing the chores in the home now as well since he is unable to.'

To this is added the intensive care for their fourteen-year-old daughter from Nepal who has multiple handicaps. In the meantime, she was forced to quit her job in Amsterdam because the travelling took its toll on her energy level. Around Hasselt, Foekje had several projects as a freelancer for different employers, among others the ROC for which she wrote study guides and tests for medical subjects.

After the unexpected break, her studies by two modules per year have started again. The bridging program for Educational sciences has been completed and she is one of the first students who will participate in the program Open University Extra. This will be offered from September 1st by the faculties and the CELSTEC Education and Training Institute. Students who apply, follow a structured program with the same modules, agreed feedback moments, binding deadlines, fixed exam dates and more accompaniment.

If a student is not acting according to the agreement, the teacher is forced to initiate contact.

The Open University is in that fashion trying to meet the demands of students who are looking for more commitment. If Foekje is disciplined about her participation to the Open University Extra, she will be able to complete four modules per year for the next two years.

'I am even starting to think about graduation.'

Structure and strict deadlines

Foekje is looking forward to Open University Extra, because it gives her a big stimulus and she is able to combine it with work and her care for the household. 'Before I had my fixed study hours in the train, but when the travelling stopped, I became forced to find a new structure that I could apply to my situation. I found this by being able to study at my brother’s apartment in Kampen every Monday. My handicapped adoptive child is then taken to day care.'

Foekje wanted to take her daughter off of school in order to home-school her because the way the special education was schooling children wasn't appealing to her at all.

'I mentioned it in the motivation that I had to write for the module Visions in Educational sciences' Her mentor from the Open University, Mrs. Birgitte de Craene, reacted directly and advised Foekje to give that another thought.

An intensive occupation like home-schooling a child could seriously jeopardise her participation to the Open University Extra, warned Birgitte. 'A great reaction which made me think' says Foekje, 'also regarding my plans to take my daughter from public schooling. Maybe I could try and arrange an intern to give her the extra guidance, or perhaps try to find a new school.'

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The Open University Extra will start with a gathering on September 8th in the study center in Eindhoven. Foekje: 'The date is a bit off because September 8th is the Open Monument day en I’m supposed to volunteer as a miller at the mill here in Hasselt.' The mill, for which she is also educating herself, is something she cherishes as an important hobby. 'If I am at the mill, time fades away.'

  • Name: Foekje Pol-Roorda
  • Age: 48
  • Marital status: Wed
  • Location: Hasselt
  • Pre-school: Havo, speech trainer, radio-diagnostic analyst, teacher school Higher Healthcare Education
  • Occupation: Teacher, intern advisor, freelance writer
  • Started: 2006
  • Current Occupation: Master Educational Sciences
  • Study center: Zwolle

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