When I was 20 and had just finished technical school, I was ready for my first job in automation (that’s what it was called back then). I definitely didn’t feel like spending another 4 years in school. Yet, somehow I loved learning (and this love never ceased). So, almost immediately after completing technical school and landing my first job, I enrolled in my first course at Open University (Open Universiteit in Dutch). I loved the prospect of having both 10 years of working experience and completed a master’s degree in computer science. But I was fully ignorant to the enormous amount of work that needs to be done to obtain such a degree, especially with a fulltime job. How could I know? Very few family members had obtained master’s degrees, so I had no reference, nobody to warn me. And nobody really cared.
My first course at OU was a course about digital electronics and microprocessors, and I guess 80% of it had already been covered in my lessons at technical school. Easy, I thought. This was a tough lesson… I managed to pass the exam, but just barely. Academic studying, and academic exams, are quite different from the practical style of studying and applying knowledge that I had been used to before. Somehow I found the courage to enrol in a second course, but since I had a job that required me to travel a lot, the course remained untouched for many weeks. Weeks became months and somewhere in 1992 I decided to postpone the study.
It wasn’t before 2005 that I continued. My employer at the time (Dutch Police) allowed me and all my colleagues to follow courses at, again, Open University. I didn’t feel the need to obtain a bachelor’s degree, as I was already happily working as a senior software engineer. Instead, I decided to work on a certification for software architect in a short, bachelor/master-level track. The track consisted of 4 OU-modules, 3 of which were from the master’s degree programme. I passed them all, with flying colours.
I did some more cherry-picking from the OU’s curriculum, and followed courses like Web Culture and Databases. In 2013 I started the course Logic Programming, and this one would be left uncompleted. I realised that completing the full bachelor’s degree programme would take me another 5 years… And I wasn’t even after the bachelor’s degree at all; I simply needed the damn diploma to be allowed to do what I really wanted: a master’s degree. Da Real Thing®. So I talked to my manager at the university of applied sciences that I had been working at for about a year, and they let me examine my options for studying with my own employer! A colleague who was also lecturer in chief at the computer science department (I worked elsewhere) looked at my diplomas and certificates and decided that I would be able to complete the bachelor’s degree in 2 years, with exemptions for most introductory topics. Cool! So I left Open University again, but I would most likely return.