Part-Time Study


Looking for a bit of advice on where to go from here if a few of you wouldn’t mind helping out with advice/comments.

I’m currently working full-time and studying Industrial Design part-time via the Open University, which I’ll be finishing in approx 2 years (will be 31). My marks have been pretty good so far and I ace’d my project work last year, so that side looks pretty positive. Thing is, I’m a wary that I may struggle to find a job due to my age and lack of working experience (have studied Electrical & Electronic Engineering up to HNC level and worked as such). Has anyone else come into the industry late? If so, how’d you get on please?

Good to hear from another mature age part-time student/ full-time worker!

I’m in a similar boat, with no experience in the field. My strategy is to study what I can (around work and family commitments, which can be hard) , fill out my portfolio with as many of my own projects as I can, and try an get an internship or work-experience. I figure that academic success is part of getting a good job, but employers want people who can hit the ground running, so you have to show them that. I’m trying to get one of my projects up to retail sale (nearly there), so I can show an employer that I can get a project up from idea to prototype to manufacture to sale. It has taken much much longer than I thought, but I have learned so much from having to source materials, deal with suppliers and manufacturers, learn how to design for manufacture, etc.

I would suggest to do the same. Grab one of your ideas and try to make it into a real thing. You will have such an advantage over students who just fill their portfolio with coursework (graduate shows that are filled with 30 kettles, 30 scales), or beautiful renderings that could not ever be made.

Don’t worry too much about your age. I’m 2nd year/ 3rd year and 39 in a few months. I’m hoping this isn’t a problem for me when applying for internships (because if it is in another location it also involves bringing my wife and kids along) - I have noticed a lot of companies promoting themselves as diverse, hiring staff from all over the world, so I assume that diversity extends to age. What you have is professional experience in a work environment, which is gold to an employer.

I’m interested in the Open University’s ID course. Can you post some information about it?

I went back to school at 30 to do a BA Product Design part time having spent 8 years previously working in finance.

I was fortunate to be taken on as a part-time intern in my final year even though it was a quite a juggling act between studying, working (to finance the course) and working as an intern but it worked out in the end and I managed to get a job offer before I graduated.

I think returning to college as a mature student does offer clear advantages and I certainly think that I got more out of it than I would have done straight out of school. I also found that people (faculty and industry) took me more seriously than my younger co-students.

The fact that I was older than a lot of other students/applicants meant that employers were getting a good balance of new/fresh designer combined with work/life experience as well as the fact that I made a conscious decision to change direction and choose design (thereby showing a passion for the subject) played to my advantage in getting my jobs as well as progressing in them.

I hope that I’ve been able to offer a ray of hope (too much hope in one sentence?). It hasn’t been easy but it has been worthwhile.

Thanks for replying - knew I couldn’t be the only one!

What I’ve found most challenging so far is trying to find that balance between study, work and personal life. Hat off to my other half - she has been extremely patient and understanding. Also the lack of interaction with other students has been a hinderence. Up until now I had no idea whether my work was suitable for the real world… it’s one thing to have your work validated in an academic sense, but another to be able to compare what you’re doing to others! Ok, seems the next step will be to take my portfolio seriously and pool my project work. It’s good to finally have a bit of direction!

sanjy009 - How did you manage to fit the part-time work around your job and study. I work 7:30-4:00, am home for an hour and then study till 9pm. On Saturday I study from 8am till 2pm, then have the rest of the day and Sunday with my partner. Don’t know how part-time work could be added!

peedub - here’s the BA/Bsc Design & Innovation: The Open University | Courses and Qualifications
I started before that was introduced so currently working toward my BEng (Hons)

OU modules that are ID based:
T211 (level 2) - The Open University | Courses and Qualifications
T307 (level 3) - The Open University | Courses and Qualifications

I work full-time but am lucky that the campus is a 10 minute walk away from work. I’ve cut down my study hours as my work isn’t as flexible as I’d like and uni (especially studio) isn’t flexible at all. I’ve had great bosses who understand and have let me have a ‘work-life blance’ (i.e. go to class and then finish work late at night just as long as my deliverables are done by the start of the next day) and absolute petty martinets who want to time my toilet breaks, so my studies and grades then really suffered. But I’ve made my choice because the study and ID is what is important to me.

I usually get a few hours of study at night (after kids in bed) and some hours on the weekend, but I am also aware of how much I need to spend time with my family. Lately my eldest has been really into painting and drawing (thank you Mister Maker) and is quite content to sit with me at the kitchen table while we both ‘study’.

I’ve got a big chunk of leave up my sleeve and I want to use that for a internship, not add it on top.

What sort of feedback do you get from the Open University? Do you do any crit./ studio work?

Essentially the first module (T211) I studied was made up of 6 assignments (40% of total mark) and one end of your exam (60%). At the end of each piece of coursework you get marked (obviously) and then try to conglomerate your years learning (and the tutors comments) in a end-of-year project. The 2nd module (T307) is made up of 5 assignments with a project running right through and forms 40% of the marks. Again, you get feedback on any coursework done. However, the fact I am remote makes it hard to work with others, which is why I’ve opted to do mine as a solo piece of work.

This is where the OU fails in my opinion: there’s no studio time; no-one teaching you how to sketch or use CAD (I learnt how to use ProDesktop in my last year of my HNC as I had some free time); no model building; no fellow students to bounce ideas off of in a 1-2-1. The whole scenario worries me to be honest! How does a brick and mortar uni go about it?

Because of my inflexible study options, I investigated online/ distance courses and couldn’t find any. I approached the school to discuss options and unfortunately the studio based courses needs the input of other students, so by nature they are inflexible.

That said, I’ve had some studios that have been fantastic because fellow students have had great insight and opinions, and other studios which have been like pulling teeth because no one says anything, or what they say is just rubbish (by this I mean you can tell they haven’t done the required work and are just bullshitting). I’m doing a studio subject next semester after muddling through with history and theory subjects.

I see a great opportunity to use a forum like this to put up my own work for critique, and get the benefit of a ‘virtual studio’, I just haven’t had the guts to do it yet.

hi there, first visit to the forums and my first post.

I’m interested to hear about your experience with the OU. the reason I ask is that I too am looking to enrol on it myself soon. I’m also 29 and have been employed as a service technician for the last 9 years. I live in glasgow with my wife and we have our first baby on the way, due in four months so I can also relate to having to juggle all of this at the one time. I left glasgow uni after completing the first year of a BEng in Electronics and Electrical Engineering as I got fed up with not having any money and there was just too much of the course I couldnt get my head around. I loved the hands on courses and also the digital electronics side but I just couldn’t get to grips with talks of 4 dimensional equations and such like from the physics side!

anyways, the courses I was looking at taking were:

Design thinking: creativity for the 21st century (U101) (compulsary)
Design and designing (T211) (compulsary)
Engineering: mechanics, materials, design (T207) (chosen)
Innovation: designing for a sustainable future (T307) (compulsary)
Structural integrity: designing against failure (T357) (chosen)
The engineering project (T450) (chosen)

I was hoping to use the courses to build up a decent portfolio and with the experience I’ve gained from my service jobs was hoping that it would help put me in good stead for a career at the end of it.

I was also looking at purchasing a student version of solidworks to try and get my head around at least one industry standard software to again boost my potential for employment. Do you reckon this would be worthwhile or is the software that the OU provide suffice?

With regards to sanjy and the product you built, how far did you take it? to full manufacture or just a prototype? I have some ideas eg a digital piano concept but I am a bit wary of how much it could cost me to end up with a fully functioning product.

It’s reassuring to hear there are other people out there in the same boat as myself and managing to cope well with it. I was unsure if I was expecting the impossible from myself.

take it easy,


Hi just_steve,

This is what I’ve chosen to try and take to full manufacture. I’m off to Melbourne next month with it:

I’ve approached it from the point of view of filling up my portfolio, rather than making any money off it. I want to get an internship and I figure anything that you do yourself is so much more valuable to any potential employer than just class work. What I hoped was someone would see it at another competetion it was in and want to manufacture it. I got a bit of interest and press but what I realised that it isn’t a case of “build it and they will come” but you have to market yourself and wear out shoe leather to get it out there. This takes time and with home life, work, study and kids it does take a lot longer than you first expect.

I chose it out of a lot of projects I’ve got bubbling away because it’s straightforward materials (9mm ply) and technique (laser cut, then water-jet, then cnc), plus my daughters love it.

However it has shown me how un-straightforward the real world is and how it can be two steps forward, one step back when you go from ideas and sketches to a real live product. For example one of the earlier prototypes was mdf (photo above), which is cheap and easy for me to get from the local hardward store, but the VOCs had me concerned. I also wanted to put an image on it, so I investigated X-board, which also can be digitally printed on. $700 later I’ve got two good looking prototypes that can’t be cut as I’d like (cnc digital scalpel from a cardboard manufacturer) so I went to plywood and cnc router, which meant the CAD file needed to be reworked, and the next ply prototype now had failure points due to the ‘dog-boning’ required, so it is back to the CAD drawing board again.

Anyway, my point is what I’ve learned they can’t teach you. My advice is find something around your home that shits you, work out a better solution, and try and get it made. Go for simple materials and techniques. Teaching yourself SolidWorks is great and with something like Shapeways or Ponoko you can start getting things made, but I would really recommend learning/ improving sketching and drawing first.

I hope this helps.

Wow … impressive stuff Jaime. Are you pitching it someone or is final production a definite thing? The other products on that website you linked are also quite nicely done.

Hi lac29, thanks. this is how Launch Pad describes itself:

"Now in its sixth year of operation, Launch Pad has become much more than an exhibition of prototypes. The full program of events also involves an afternoon of mentoring, where each finalist and their product undergoes a constructive critique session with an esteemed panel of local judges. The program culminates in an evening function of networking with key industry figures, which also provides the opportunity to celebrate the achievements of stand-out finalists.

Launch Pad 2010 – proudly nurturing and celebrating emerging Australian design."

I figure it’s a sort of competition as well. If I don’t get any interest in production through Launch Pad, I’ll try and sell some through a local designers market, and then if this goes well I’ll approach some manufacturers and say ‘look, there is a marker for it’.