Saturday, 30 August 2014

DD309 : Doing economics: people, markets and policy - 5 Weeks to Go

The Bank Holiday weekend, followed by making up at work for the work not done on the Bank Holiday Monday, then trying to get ahead of work as I took a short week to go on vacation on Friday, meant that fitting a five day week into the three days available had a predicable effect on the amount of time I had available to read Chapter 2.

Chapter 2 remains unread, or to be more accurate not even started.

Though with 5 weeks to go, it feels good to get at least one chapter read. The website opens in about two weeks and it will all begin to feel very real then, especially when the tutorial dates and tutor are revealed. Fingers crossed for a good tutor and tutorials that are not a million miles away.

Tuesday, 26 August 2014

New Open University Blogs

I  don't often trawl the internet looking for other OU student blogs because life is too busy and you can lose hours and hours looking for, and then reading through, these things when there are arguably more pressing tasks on the horizon.

However, having said that, I noticed from the visitor stats that a blog I hadn't seen before was pushing some traffic in this direction. Well, you've got to have a look haven't you....

OU Student Life will travel with its author on his journey towards a degree in Psychology. I thought the look of the blog was good and looked clean and uncluttered, and the posts were well written and potentially very useful to others following on. I think this will certainly be one I'll dip into now and again.

Surviving The OU came to me via twitter. This appears very much in its embryonic stage of development, as the website structure is there but as yet no content - so one to check back on.

Saturday, 23 August 2014

DD309 : Doing economics: people, markets and policy - 6 Weeks to Go

Look at what worrying about the end of year project has prompted me to do.......

I've signed up for a Future Learn Course, only 1 hour a week they say, for 8 weeks, on ....

                    Developing Your Research Project

I have no idea of this is going to be of use or not, but as its free and potentially won't take up too much time I thought I may as well give it a go.

FutureLearn - Developing Your Research Project link

I think I am developing a serious paranoia about this end of course assessment

As to the text book, The rest of chapter 1 of Book 1, got a lot more in-depth and I had to re-read and then read very slowly some bits to make sure I did actually understand what they were talking about.

Neoclassical versus Austrian/Evolutionary/Behavioral Economics and then Game Theory which still causes nightmares since the exam. I am sort of getting the pros and cons and why one may be better than the others in certain circumstances, but remembering it all is a challenge.... by brain may have taken a holiday without me.

Saturday, 16 August 2014

DD309 : Doing economics: people, markets and policy - 7 Weeks to Go

I have made a start on Book 1 Chapter 1.

My first impression of the physical nature of the book is that is quite a heavy book and it is not at all easy to find a comfortable position in which to read it, except for having it flat on a table which is not that convenient. So I will have to man-up, get the the gym and bulk up a bit in order to better support this tome.

My first impression of the contents is that it is going to be an interesting read. I am half way through Chapter 1 and so far nothing too mind boggling but enough of interest to keep my attention. I think the last couple of section in this chapter get a bit more involved, so I'll try and wade through that before next weekend.

It feels a bit like being in limbo, having the books but no tutor, website or study planner - maybe I should enjoy this while I have the chance, reading without any TMA pressure at all :-)

Friday, 8 August 2014

DD309 : Doing economics: people, markets and policy - Course Materials Have Arrived

Arrived back from the badlands yesterday and there was a Yodel delivered package waiting for me. I don't remember ever getting course materials quite this early, hopefully I'll find the motivation to start reading.

The package contained three books,

The FT shown in the picture on the front covers is from December 2004, the mobile phone appears considerably older. The DD209 Economics course was pretty up to date, I wonder how relevant this one will be ?


A DVD for the course DD202 - which was the precursor to the Level 2 course DD209 - not sure what in the level 2 course will be of use in the level three. It may just be some bits of the DVD that we need rather than all of it, but how much effort would it have taken to re-burn the necessary bits onto a DVD and print an appropriate label? Feels like we're receiving hand-me-down course materials.

There was also a TMA form and a list of contents that listed the books in the order Book2 - Part 1, Book 2 - Part 2, then Book 1, this wasn't even the numerical order of the ISBN numbers, so why wasn't Book 1 listed first which would make the most logical sense. It seems to be little things that bother me.

A quick flick through the chapter titles throws up some potentially very interesting areas of study, but there is no information on the end of course project which is my biggest worry about this course.

So with any luck I can make a bit of a start on the reading and try and get a head start on the course which would be nice.

Thursday, 31 July 2014

DD309 : Doing economics: people, markets and policy - Yodel delivery imminent.....

.......... well maybe not.

I unexpectedly received an email from Yodel saying that they will be delivering a package in the next 24 hrs from the OU that requires a signature. Hopefully this is course work for DD309 and I can get a head start on the Level 3 course. This is very good news.

What is not so good news is that I am currently three and a half thousand miles from home and unlikely to be able to provide a signature. I guess this will test Yodel's delivery procedures, as long as it isn't thrown over the garden fence or 'hidden' behind the bin I may get the package when I get home shortly.

So DD309, we may be about to cross swords earlier than expected.

Saturday, 19 July 2014

Are the Open University degrees as good as traditional university degrees.

The start of July brought the exam results, and September brings the opening of the next course website, so with no Open University tasks time-tabled in July and August, I thought it would be a good time to tackle a question I have seen in many online forums which asks, "Are the Open University courses academically rigorous enough.", and the obvious connected question, "What is the value of an Open University degree compared with those gained from traditional brick universities".

As a bit of background to this, I started my first degree as a teenager quarter of a century ago. It was an 'ordinary' engineering degree, a 4 year sandwich course which mean I was working in industry for the three summer breaks, the long university breaks which other students usually spend inter-railing round Europe - although I may be showing my age saying this. With classes, assignments and lab work this was a 9-5 Mon to Fri with extra study required in the evening and it was a real struggle, both to keep up with the work and to pass the exams.

Much later in my career I was lucky enough to be sponsored for an industry part-time MBA. This took four years of pretty constant work in the evenings, similar to that required for the OU, but also one weekend a month in class and a residential course/project one week a year. Again, it was a struggle to keep up with work and pass the exams.

In comparison to these previous courses, the OU PPE courses so far have been less work and easier assignments. Although this judgement may be tempered by the fact that I am doing the course for fun - really as a hobby - not to start or advance my career. Therefore the pressures are different, as is my knowledge and world experience, so if I went back to do my previous degrees again I may find them easier - who knows.

The conclusion that I am left with, considering these facts in isolation, is that this OU PPE degree can not possibly be equivalent, in course content or academic rigour, to that of my past courses or to degrees taken at a traditional university.

 I know a lot of people will disagree with me on this subject, but I can't help feeling that the Open University would increase the rigour of the course assessments and the quality of learning experience for their students (or client-learners as we are now) if they only revealed the TMA questions at the start of the scheduled 'TMA week'.

I say this because there are two methods of approaching the learning and study for each section of course material,
    Method 1. - To learn and gain as much knowledge as possible,
     Method 2. - To do the minimum required to pass the TMA.

In these times when everyone has got so much going on, especially those who juggle family, work (full, part-time or voluntary) and also study, it can be sometimes be necessary due to constraints of time and choices regarding quality of life, to study purely to pass the TMA.

It was certainly possible on A222 Philosophy to write all TMAs having only read only a quarter of the course material, and I think this was pretty much the same on DD203 Politics - however, you obviously had to read further for the exams on both courses.

If the TMA questions were only revealed at the start of the TMA week it would certainly motivate me to put the work in to cover all of the required reading before the TMA week started, and this would surely be a better learning experience and increase the perceived rigour of the course.

I would also suggest that because there seems to be such a variation of tutor interest and help across the courses, that as soon the TMA questions are revealed tutors should not be helping students any further, and that TMA extensions should not exceed two weeks, effectively all TMAs shoud be submitted before the original deadline for TMAs to be returned is breached.

Which leads to then other bug-bear I have that of TMAs coming back from different tutors at different times. They should all be returned on the 14th day, except those who have the two week extension.

The three exams I have sat so far seemed on the surface to be sufficiently taxing, but there does seem to be a real element of chance involved with 'spotting' possible questions, especially in the Philosophy course where the books are so compartmentalised.  While in the recent economics exam the fact that some questions were, to all intents and purposes, identical to example exam questions in the only example exam paper the OU had produced for that course, surely casts major doubt on the veracity, fairness and outcomes from that exam.

Having said all this, the OU does a very necessary job of opening up degree study opportunities for those who through choice, life chance or circumstance were not able to go to university straight from school. Effectively the OU is democratising further education. It is not necessarily the brightest in society that go to university straight from school, it is usually those with better financial resources and life chances who get this opportunity, and therefore those who seek education through the OU as 'mature students' should be recognised for the sacrifices (financial costs, family time, etc.), drive and commitment required to pursue a degree as a more mature student while juggling family, career and whatever else life throws at them.

So, while the OU's courses may not be as academically rigourous as traditional universities on a absolute scale, I think there is a very credible argument that for many there is an 'equivalent' level of rigour, given the many student's past opportunities and learning experiences. You'd expect somebody from a wealthy background, who had been educated at a private school, to get into a top university and attain a good degree - after all it is what their parents have been paying for. So for those without these life advantages to self fund and commit to studying for a degree is certainly a statement to this person's character and ambition.   

For these reasons, and indeed others, should I finally be awarded an Open University degree in two years time I will be very proud to have it on my C.V., and if anybody asks if an Open University degree as good as traditional university degree I will have to ask them to clarify what parameters they are using to measure this value against, because in some ways, possibly in more important ways, the Open University degree carries more value.

Monday, 14 July 2014

On to the Level 3 Courses then.....

So, in terms of courses and time to complete the degree, I am now two thirds of the way through the course, 4 course completed, but with the two level three, and therefore hardest and most demanding, courses to coming up.

And it would appear from the degree classification calculator that I have my work cut out if I'm to get a First, the calculator recons that.....

For a First ,  I need a Distinction and Grade 2.

For a 2:1,     I need a Grade 2 and a Grade 4.

For a 2:2,     I need a Grade 3 and a Grade 4.

So, is is really all about getting a distinction somewhere.

The level three courses DD309, A333, DD313 and DD306 have no exam, instead  there is an end of course assessment in the form of a dissertation/project.

These projects are extremely important to the end module result, the downside is that  these sorts of things can be very unpredictable and depend a lot on the quality and level of interest of your tutor. On the up side it means that the vital part of the course assessment is not done over a couple of hours on one day with a Russian roulette set of questions, but is something that you can work on over a period of time and hopefully the result will reflect the effort expended.

I'm quite looking forward to the start of the next course...... but first the summer.