Friday, 20 December 2013

DD209 Running The Economy : Festive Break

2 week study break until the 4th January - or more likely time to catch up and revise.

So Festive Greetings and a Happy Hogmanay when it comes, 

Best wishes for 2014.

Wednesday, 18 December 2013

DD209 Running The Economy : iCMA41 Marked and Returned

Without any sort of fanfare at all, and indeed effectively hiding the mark deep inside the course page (you can find it here DD209-13J/Assessment Resources/ iCMA 41) the marks have now limped, battered and bruised, into the light.

Over a week for a computer to mark a tick-test ? Maybe it needed rebooted or hadn't been turned on!

Even then the results do not appear on the Assessment table, but if you are lucky you may hear third hand that if you go searching back to the quiz you finished some time ago the mark may have appeared there. As a customer experience (for that is what we now are, 'customers'), pretty piss-poor really.

This quiz should have been easy, loads of time to do it, and able to do it with your books and the might of the internet at your disposal.

However, that said, I still managed to cock-up a multi-part question, but apart from that I'm broadly pleased with the outcome, and compared with Philosophy and Politics, Economics is really interesting and seems to have an actual relevance in the real world.

DD209 Running The Economy : TMA 03 relies on interaction in the Tutor Forum, should be interesting.

I've been looking ahead at the next TMA question (yeah already!) because the next TMA eassy looks as though it is worth more than the others, as the relative scoring is:
TMA01 - 7%; 
TMA 02 - 15%; 
TMA 03 - 20%; 
TMA 04 - 15%, 
TMA 05 - 15%; 
iCMAs 41-44 - 7% each

but having looked at the OU website I bit closer its not quite that simple.

The main 1600 essay is actually worth exactly the same as the other TMAs, i.e. 15%, the difference is that the other 5% of our total overall mark, or 25% of TMA04 is down to your interaction with the Tutor Forum.

The wording of the TMA blithely says,

"Now, as part of your TMA, copy and paste your forum post from (c) and at least one post you made under (d) into your TMA and write a short reflection about the Tutor Group Forum discussion, in particular whether the discussion reinforced or altered your original view. Note: if you do not include a copy of your posts in the TMA, you will not gain any marks for this question."

I guess they are expecting a level of participation in the Tutor Group for TMA03 the like of which we have yet to see. I'm not really sure how this part of the TMA is in any way academically taxing or how it is marked, but it will be interesting to see if everyone from the group actually joins in. I think in total so far, maybe 8 people have posted on the forum from a group of 20, so this will either flush them out of the woodwork or perhaps they will just not bother with this part of the TMA.

Tuesday, 17 December 2013

DD309 registration opens 4th April 2014

I've decided my next course, and first at level 3 will be the Economics DD309.

This is partly to push on with economics and hopefully with this one fresh in my mind the next one should make a bit more sense from the start, but also because details are sketchy about the replacement politics and philosophy courses, and I don't fancy doing a brand new course again.

So, I'll sign up for DD309 in April and that's the decision on the last course put off for another year or so.

DD101 to run for last time Feb 2014

Just read on the OU website that DD101will start for the last time in Feb 2014. It will seem odd not having that course available as it has pretty much been the OU's most popular course for some time, and although I did it some time ago now, I can't see how it would become out of date.

I guess this is the same for DD131and DD132.

Looking back DD101was a really good introduction to social 'science' (although I don't think I'll ever fully accept it as a science), and a very sensible course to choose to get back into studying, so the OU will have a real job on their hands to design a suitable replacement.

It will be interesting to see what this course will be replaced by, but I can't see any information about the new course yet.

Sunday, 15 December 2013

DD209 Running The Economy : TMA02 Marked and Returned

TMA02 has just been returned and I'm very happy with the mark which I think was well deserved given the amount of effort put in to this essay.

The tutors comments after each paragraph were all positive and encouraging, and although they said they wanted more explanation on certain points, there was no hint to what should have been left out to accommodate these additional explanations. 

I was pretty much at the maximum word count and had edited and stripped all unnecessary words and phrases out of the essay, so I have no idea how I could have added this additional information without dropping paragraphs they had commented positively on.

Just got to get the iCMA back now, and as long as it has gone well I think I can pretty much say that I have monetary and fiscal policy nailed, and put that to bed for now.

 So tomorrow, time to get back to the books and to get on with the reading I was unable to get motivated for last week. 

BLOCK 3 here I come.

Saturday, 14 December 2013

DD209 Running The Economy : Week 11

14 Dec
  •  Week 11: Monetary policy in an inflation-targeting model 

    This is how I feel.......

    I submitted the iCMA THREE (3) weeks ago, and the TMA ONE (1) week ago. Both deadlines were FOUR (4) days ago, and I still have not got anything back yet, this is killing me !!!

    Especially as,
    i. The iCMA is computer marked ? What can possibly take so long. Its inexplicable !
    ii. My TMA was submitted early with encouraging noises from tutor that they may start marking before deadline. Obviously not !
    iii. Others on the course have had their TMA marks back within 48 hours - again ........

    Consequently, pretty much nothing has been done last week or is likely to be done this week either.

    I want my marks back.... NOW !!!

Wednesday, 11 December 2013

DD209 Running The Economy : iCMA Disappointment and Frustration

What a massive disappointment. Midnight came and went without the iCMA fairies putting in an appearance, and still nothing this morning at 10 o'clock.

What is the point in having a practice iCMA as part of this course that returns instant results when that is not what is going to happen in practice. Would it not be better to put a deadline date on the practice iCMA and then make everyone wait unnecessarily for whatever arbitrary period of time the OU wish to keep us hanging on for. It would at least set reasonable expectations regarding what will happen in practice.

....... and nothing yet from my tutor either :-(

Disappointed, frustrated, annoyed ......... I'm supposed to be doing this for fun.

Tuesday, 10 December 2013

DD209 Running The Economy : Twas iCMA Eve

It's a bit like the excitement of Xmas Eve when you were young, wondering what is going to happen at midnight.

The iCMA deadline is midnight today, never done one of these before so I have no idea what to expect after the deadline. With any luck a second or so after the witching hour our computer marked iCMA scores should appear, as if by magic.

It would just be so unbelievably frustrating if they were not immediately available. I'm also hopeful that my early submission of the TMA will result in a prompt return.

Who knows maybe all my Xmases will come at once, and I'll get both marks at the same time....... yeah probably not.

Saturday, 7 December 2013

DD209 Running The Economy : Week 10

Week 10

7 Dec


  • Assignment: TMA 02 (cut-off date 10 Dec)
  • Assignment: iCMA 41 (cut-off date 10 Dec at 23:59)   
F I N I S H E D ! ! !
What a relief, the iCMA got submitted some time ago, and I've just submitted TMA02.

In the end I managed to edit it down and leave it a whisker under the 1760 maximum word count. At this stage I'm pretty pleased with it, but that will all change if the marks are disappointing. Considering the amount of time spent one this it really needs to be a high mark or it will be a bit disheartening .

The challenge now is to get motivated and get ahead in the next block, but lack of the TMA result and the festive period could put a stop to that.

Bring on supply side economics......

Thursday, 5 December 2013

DD209 Running The Economy : Easiest TMA to write, most difficult to edit :-(

This TMA seemed, at least initially, to be possibly one of the easiest to write. The course text and tutorial material has been pretty well presented (bar some of the maths equations) and the TMA question is pretty clear.

The problem has been that with a maximum of 1760 words I am having huge difficulty editing it down. I am currently about 100 words over and haven't written a full conclusion yet. What I have been doing though is going through trying to reduce word count while retaining the meaning. This hasn't been too successful as I started at one point with just under 1900 words, went through making changes and ending up with just over 1900 words - not sure how that happened.

 It is also very difficult to separate the economic from the political, especially as the decision to use some, all or none of the policies will necessarily be tied, in some way, to political ideology.

Its now got to the point where I need to re-analyse the question, be ruthless with what may be unnecessary and hope there is enough there to get a good mark. The problem is that this TMA seems more like a simple regurgitation of the course material with no opportunity to explore alternative strategies that could have been more successful.

So 5 more days to trim the word count and finish it and then  its pretty much easy street to Xmas.

Sunday, 1 December 2013

The festive periodiod is upon us.........

Count down has begun to Christmas, Wintermas or the birthday of the unconquerable SUN god variously known as Tammuz, Mithra, Saturn, Adonis or BAAL.

However you wish to spend the festive period, spread a little cheer with the Bad Religion "Christmas Songs" CD, or just listen to them on YouTube - Little Drummer Boy is especially good....

If the YouTube video doesn't appear above try these links,

There are a couple of other Xmas sounds, all available on iTunes or via the Bad Religion website.

Saturday, 30 November 2013

DD209 Running The Economy : Week 9

Week 9

30 Nov

TMA week

  • RepeatTMA 02

    The revision week has actually been a really good addition to the course study plan, especially with having the online tutorial mid-week.  It has provided a bit of time to actually stop and think about what we have be reading about rather than charge straight in to the TMA, usually behind schedule and out of time.

    Possibly as a result of this the TMA has is coming together fairly easily, 1300 words down already so a week to finish, tidy-up and edit.

    However, in order to answer the question there does seem to be a lot of repetition of stuff covered in the text book and tutorials, and the tutorial on Mind Maps which I wouldn't normally have looked at pretty much takes you through the essay plan blow by blow, so although I won't necessarily be sticking to it 100%, you'd be daft not to base most of the TMA on this plan.

    Maybe all first course essays are like this, but there doesn't seem to be a lot of latitude in the word count to discuss much more than we have been spoon-fed by the course. I'll keep writing till I hit 1700 words or so and then start trimming and seeing what I've missed or need to add.

Thursday, 28 November 2013

DD209 Running The Economy : First online tutorial using Blackboard Collaborate

We had the first online tutorial last night which was done using the application 'Blackboard Collaborate'. The tutorial was much better than the ones we experienced on A222 using 'Elluminate', as that application didn't feel fully developed as it always seemed to be full of problems.

The 'Blackboard Collaborate' program takes a bit of downloading and sorting out, so you really need to do this and check it prior to the tutorial. I tested this last week and everything seemed fine, but signing in to the tutorial took much longer than on the test, so maybe the authentication slows down when many people are online, subsequently there were still people joining the group within the first 15 minutes, but other than the slow start it went very well. 

This was a cluster group so there were students there from other tutorial groups which made things more interesting. After going over specific questions that had been submitted by students, we were put into virtual rooms to discuss monetary and fiscal policy. This went reasonably well although as with these things the chat seemed to be dominated by a few, while others chose not to join in at all.

So I now feel a bit more confident about what is required in the TMA, and this was all achieved while sitting at home watching Manchester City v Viktoria Plzen, so a big thumbs up to online tutorials.

Sunday, 24 November 2013

DD209 Running The Economy : iCMA41 submitted

I've had a bit of a marathon weekend of study, well I need to as things get a bit busy socially over the week couple of weeks, so in between the televised football matches (and sometimes during them) I have been cracking through the iCMA questions at the same time as going through the online tutorials.

There are some questions which are really straightforward, and some which take a bit more thought than others, then some questions which could possibly be worded a lot better. Anyway, I have worked through them, checked them and I'm pretty confident in all of them, bar maybe three.

So in order to put the iCMA to bed, and therefore allow me to concentrate fully on the TMA,  I have submitted it.

I was then hugely disappointed that it wasn't marked immediately, but I guess I should have known this. But it makes me ask the question why we are asked to submit the iCMA at all if there is no advantage to submitting early, i.e. you get your mark immediately, and there is absolutely no extensions to the cut off date, why doesn't the OU just take the answers you have saved to the website at the cut off deadline as your submission. Why the unnecessary charade of having to go through a submission process for data they already have?

Oh well, if I find out I have done something wrong it is too late now to do anything about it, but on the plus side one less distraction to writing the TMA.

Saturday, 23 November 2013

DD209 Running The Economy : Week 8

Week 8

23 Nov
  • Website contentWeek 8: Revision week

    Finally caught up and am now with the suggested study schedule, which is a relief, but I wonder if it was worth the effort as we now have a weeks revision and then a week to write the TMA, there is also a fortnight off over Christmas, and the last couple of chapters could have been a lot shorter if it had simply stated the formula and explained the diagrams. 

    All in all the course feels a bit sparse.

    The iCMA can be done in conjunction with the tutorials and there should really be no reason not to get all the answers correct, so the main task for the next week is to get stuck in to the TMA, reading the question would be a good start.

    At least the course is interesting and seems relevant, I just wish there was more of it.

Saturday, 16 November 2013

DD209 Running The Economy : Week 7, second tutorial and for the TMA go 'Graph-tastic' !

Week 7

16 Nov
  • Website contentWeek 7: Policy choices

    We had our second tutorial today, and it was better attended than all previous second tutorials I have been to, which could be an indication of the level of difficulty of this course.

    It also highlighted the real range of  people on the course, some have read well past where we should be and appear to be trying to finish the course in super-quick time, while others are even further behind that I am. 

    In these situations I think it is bad form to take up tutorial time with questions from the next section when there are obviously people with relevant questions about the section we are supposed to be studying, I managed to bite my tongue but if it happens next time 'words' could be  exchanged.

    It also became apparent that there are some people who seem to eat and sleep algebra and others who are simply terrified by the thought of doing any. I seem to be somewhere in the middle, where I can get through it with a lot of thought, so I have to say when I am wondering where on earth the book and tutorials have magic-up'd the answers from, those less happy with algebra must really be struggling.

    I think it would have been far more sensible to have given students pre-course algebra study material so that they had the opportunity over the summer to get the mechanics of the algebra and graphs squared away, and then they could simply concentrate on applying these ideas to economic theory at this stage.

    So, to the content of the tutorial. Well a lot of it was nothing that was not already in the books. Some interesting stuff on IS curves, but because I haven't read this chapter I didn't feel able to contribute much, although on the plus side it doesn't sound that complicated and it will be needed for the next TMA.  We were also told to go 'graph-tastic' in the TMA, if it can be explained with a graph, use a graph.

    Time is now flying by, so Monetary Policy here I come...... well after my curry which is bubbling away, a couple of bottles of IPA and my better half wants to watch 'Strickly', so looks like first thing tomorrow........ or maybe the afternoon.

Thursday, 14 November 2013

DD209 Running The Economy : Activity 4.3 and online Tutorial 5a

Most of the Activities in the book and online give really good explanations, however there are a few that do not, and added to the confusion with errors in forumulae on p151 and miss labelled graph axis on other pages, it is possible to spent quite a lot of time chasing the proverbial wild geese.

One such activity is Activity 4.2, page 145. It provides you with the answer, but no explanation as to how this answer was arrived at.

My take on it is that you have to accept that the values 'a' and 'I' don't matter, which can be difficult to do and you have to have confidence in your algebra in order to do this, however.

AD = a + bY + I + G

AD = Y (at equilibrium)

Y = a +bY + I + G

Y – bY = a + I + G

Y(1 –b) = a + I + G

Y = a + I + G / (1-b)

Y = a + I + G / (1/2)

Y = 2 (a + I + G )

So, how much does Income increase with a Fiscal stimulus of £300M, is the question.

Without any stimulus, G = 0,

Y = 2(a + I)

With £300M stimulus

Y = 2(a + I + £300M)

Y = 2(a + I) + 2(£300M)

Y = 2(a + I) + £600M

So with,

G = 0,          Y = 2(a +I),
G = £300M, Y = 2(a + I) + £600M,

we can say that as the 2(a + I) amount is equal, the benefit of the £300M stimulus is an extra £600M income.

Which is the answer in the book.

The online tutorial also left you wondering what was going on at some points – even when given the answer.

 Week 5 Tutorial 1a Look at graph and fill in the blanks C = BLANK plus BLANK Y

C = a + bY

a = point at which the consumption function touches the vertical axis = 70 (this was quite difficult to see as the horizonatal line G is actually at value 90, and my eyesight isn’t what it used to be, so a = 70)

C = 70 + bY

So how to calculate b ?

Take any easily identifiable position on the line, say Y = 100 (on hozizontal axis) at this point C = 130 on the vertical..

Therefore 130 = 70 + b(100), so 130 – 70 = b(100), which means 60 = b(100), divide by 100 and

0.6 = b,

answer is C = 70 + 0.6Y

Check by picking another value of Y, say 200 (look on the graph as if C = about 190 – difficult to tell exactly)

C = 70 + 0.6 (200) = 190, so this is the correct answer.

So Week 5 finished, and quite a lot of reading to do before the Tutorial at the weekend if I am to be up to date with the study planner. I suspect this is a forlorn hope. Study fatigue may be setting in :-)

Tuesday, 12 November 2013

DD209 Running The Economy : iCMA41

I have ventured into the new, exciting, and potentially disastrous world of the iCMAs.

New obviously, because I have never done these before.

Exciting possibly, because (and I'll probably live to regret this) there is really no excuse for not getting 100%.

Potentially Disastrous because in the same way that I worry about standing close to unguarded edges of high structures, as this always provokes an insane desire to jump, a desire I have so far managed to control, with this iCMA there seems to be a real risk of accidentally submitting your iCMA answers before you really wanted to.

I worry about this because I usually have multiple browsers open and a click in the wrong place at the wrong time and I'll be saying goodbye to 7% of the continuous assessment score.

So, I have come up with a plan.

I have gone through the iCMA and grabbed screen shots of each question using 'Ctrl' and 'Print Screen', and pasted each screenshot, 'Ctrl' and 'v',  into a word document, so I can now complete the iCMA off-line as it were and the only time I will venture back into the iCMA will be to enter the answers that I am already happy with and then finally submit the answers there and then.

This also makes it easier to approach the iCMA in the round and also while reading the rest of the chapters I will have the questions easily to hand in order to easily identify the parts of the chapter relevant to the question.

So before the 10th December, I have three Chapters yet to read, the iCMA to complete and a 1600 word TMA, its gonna be a busy 4 weeks or so.

Sunday, 10 November 2013

DD209 Running The Economy : TMA01 Marked and Returned

While this TMA has been returned within the 2 week time scale suggested by the Open University, it is at point when we have effectively lost 3 weekends to the next block, so any motivation that could have been harnessed from a good mark has dwindled and I now find I'm about a week behind and a bit fed up that this has taken so long to be returned.

On the plus side, this is the best first TMA I've had so far, just a shame it is only worth 7% towards the final result.

So best get on with last weeks Fiscal Policy, before tackling this weeks Monetary Policy, and there is the iCMA to be getting on with as well.

Friday, 8 November 2013

DD209 Running The Economy : Communication Vacuum

Hello ? ........... Anybody there ?  ....... Anybody ?

Practically the end of week 5 and the Tutor Group Forum may have to be pronounced clinically dead.

The signs of life that occasionally occur rarely have any relevance to the course material, and even the fairly major intervention by the tutor back in Week Two failed to kick-start any meaningful interaction with only two on-topic responses from about twenty students appearing.

So we appear to have gone through the "stand back.... charging ..... 2000 joules.... shocking now!" routine, and after limited heart beat we have again flat lined.....

To make matters worse, the results from the first TMA are conspicuous by their absence. Although this may be really unfair, as you don't know what else the tutor has going on in their life, you'd have though that there would be more interest in getting the first TMA back quickly. Especially as this was a short 800 word TMA with definitive answers and there must surely be a marking schedule and you just tick off whether a point has been covered or a calculation is correct. It doesn't bode particularly well for the longer and more complicated essays.

It is especially annoying when you hear of people getting results back within 48 hours of the deadline and even people who got extensions have had their mark back already.

So fingers crossed that the radio silence and the communication vacuum are broken soon.

Wednesday, 6 November 2013

DD209 Running The Economy : Very odd way to describe a 45 degree line.

This is beginning to feel like I'm just complaining now about the little things, but 'Economics' is difficult enough without reading explanations of things I know that I know, that then confuse me.

Modelling Planned saving (1) tutorial says the following....

"So let’s start with just the two scaled axes and imagine that each value of income emits a ray of light vertically. 

A mirror is held diagonally to reflect that ray on to the vertical axis. 

Click on each circle on the bar underneath the chart, working from left to right to watch this process build up step by step."

 I could not understand what this meant, or what it was supposed to achieve, or how this related to economics.

So you hold a mirror diagonally, but at what angle, obviously the angle of reflection is absolutely critical when reflecting the light, an angle of 30 degrees will reflect the light on to the vertical axis at a very different point to an angle of 60 degrees.

I was pretty confused as to where this was going, there didn't seem to be anything about this in the text book.

So I clicked and moved the circle as directed and the angle of the mirror (that was set by the application) was at 45 degrees (although it never mentions this), therefore a vertical light shone from horizontal value 10 would be reflected to vertical value 10, and horizontal 20 to vertical 20, and so a line of 45 degrees is drawn in front of you.

However to get to this explanation of how you come to draw a line of 45 degrees, you sort of have to understand the mirror is already at 45 degrees, but 'mirror imaged' so really 180 degrees away from your 45 degree line. This just appears to me to be a nonsense explanation, you have to understand the mirror is at 45 degrees in order to draw a line of 45 degrees, so the answer is part of the explanation - how does that work, its like the argument "god made the world so perfect so that proves god exists" - eh ? what ? no it doesn't.

So for me, this explanation just confuses things that are basic maths and nothing at all to do with economics.

On the plus side - the rest of the tutorial is really good ! Really, really, good !!

So, Week 4 complete, bring on Chapter 4 and Fiscal Policy. I guess there is going to be even more sums to be done, and I hope I may even begin to enjoy economics.

Tuesday, 5 November 2013

DD209 Running The Economy : Activity 3.4, Page 125 - a lack of explanation and my 'Propensity to Study' is badly affected.

Maybe I should not have been surprised after Activity 3.3 joyfully jumped in the 'explanation' from saying,

C = 6 + Y/2, so AD = 7 + Y/2

without actually 'explaining' that this is because AD = C + I, and 'I' happens to equal '1', so AD = 6 + Y/2 + 1, thus getting to the answer of AD = 7 + Y/2, that is what I call an explanation,

but Activity 3.4 is even worse.

Firstly : Figure 3.15 on page 125 has the Aggregate Demand value when Income (Y) = 0 annotated as 'a'.

As the formula AD = a + bY + I 

This must equal 'a + I' when Y = 0, so should this axis not be annotated correctly as 'a + I'. 
This may seem a small point but it has caused me some serious problems when trying to understand where the new equilibrium of 6 billion for a propensity to save of 1/2 came from.

But I think I can now see it now though.

AD = a + bY + I, a = 2, and I = 1 (these values from the previous example figure 3.14)

  • AD = 2 + bY + 1, 
  • AD = 3 + bY
 at equilibrium AD = Y, so
  • Y = 3 + bY,  therefore divide all values/items by Y
  • 1 = 3/Y + b, re-arrnage by subtracting b from both sides
  • 1 - b = 3/Y, 
therefore with propensity to Consume of 2/3, propensity to Save of 1/3, this means the equilibrium is,
  • 1 - 2/3 = 3/Y
  • 1/3 = 3/Y, multiply both sides by Y
  • Y/3 = 3, multiply both sides by 3 and we get,
  • Y = 9, for b=2/3, which we are told is correct.

Therefore for b = 1/2, propensity to Consume of 1/2, propensity to Save of 1/2, this means the equilibrium is,

  • 1 - b = 3/Y
  • 1 - 1/2 = 3/Y
  • 1/2 = 3/Y, multiply both sides by Y
  • Y/2 = 3, multiply both sides by 2 and we get,
  • Y = 6
This is where the 6 Billion came from - who would have guessed that at first glance ? Well obviously not me...........

So, with Y = 6, Consumption C = a  + bY, which is 2 + 1/2*6 = 2 + 3 = 5, Consumption = 5 Billion.

So if Income = 6, Consumption = 5, savings must equal 1 which also equals investment, and Figure 3.16 comes to life and makes sense.

So there we have the explanation of the Paradox of Thrift..... well sort of.

Just section' 6 Functions of Money' to go and I'll only be 1/2 a week behind.

I am blaming being 1/2 a week behind the study plan on the fact that my Propensity to Study has been badly affected by the fact that I still have not had my TMA back - I'll maybe work on a formula to calculate this later.

Saturday, 2 November 2013

DD209 Running The Economy : Week 5

Week 5

2 Nov
  • Website contentWeek 5: Fiscal policy

    I haven't managed to get my study mojo into gear following the submission of the last TMA, and I'm not sure I will be able to fully concentrate on the course until I have confirmation that some things that I thought were instinctively correct, were indeed correct. 

    I have seen some discussion on related unofficial course forums in which others have a very different take on some of the basic aspects of the TMA, and if they are right (and I am wrong) then I really need to have a complete re-think before I plough any further into the course material.

    So, fingers crossed for a prompt marking of the TMA and I'll know then in which direction I'm heading.

Saturday, 26 October 2013

DD209 Running The Economy : Week 4

Week 4

26 Oct


  • Assignment: iCMA 41 (open date 26 Oct)
  • Assignment: TMA 01 (cut-off date 29 Oct)

The TMA is submitted, so time to get on with Week 4s timetable.

This week we get stuck into some proper theories looking at Keynesian Economics, also the first iCMA has opened. I went to have a look at it but it had too many warnings about only being able to submit once, although you can start it when you want. So rather than be the first to press the wrong button and submit a blank iCMA I'll read the instructions first.

Wednesday, 23 October 2013

DD209 Running The Economy : TMA01 pretty much finished.

Part 1 of the course, weeks 1 & 2, have been pretty much completed. The chapters were reasonably straight forward (not easy to understand - but well laid out) and the online tutorials were very good, certainly got you thinking about what you'd read and made me go back and re-read things.

The TMA also covered all that the 2 chapters had to offer, whereas in previous courses you only had to concentrate on one aspect or part of that section's material, for example in A222 Philosophy it was one of four chapters in that a particular book.

It is a bit difficult to discuss this TMA without infringing on the OU's social media rules as the answer is not, as in previous TMAs, your personal thoughts and ideas, but specific answers relating to the data in question.
The Student Notes accompanying the TMA were very helpful in pointing you towards where you needed to look, but I'm not sure I would be as happy with answering the questions without also looking at the website and the YouTube series of videos from UCBerkely ( especially regarding the macroeconomics current and capital account balances.

The word count as also very tight which was in the end a good thing, as it meant you had to stay focussed on answering what was asked, and not drifting off on unrelated tangents.
So, unless I have an epiphany between now and the cut-off date regarding flows, stocks, balance and surpluses, the TMA is pretty much as good as its going to get.

Now the question is will my tutor be a prompt marker, I certainly hope so. I'll spend the rest of this week sorting out the revision notes and then hopefully start Part 2 on time on Saturday. Keynesian theories and real economics, looking forward to that. 

Saturday, 19 October 2013

DD209 Running The Economy : Week 3 - TMA01

Week 3

19 Oct

TMA week

  • RepeatTMA 01 

    The secret of this TMA is to let Microsoft Excel be your friend. If you can use the spreadsheet and let it draw graphs then things become pretty easy to describe, and you can see any correlations between different aspects of the economy come to life. 

    YouTube has some excellent tutorials on drawing graphs, just Google "youtube using excel to draw graphs" and take your pick.

    There are also very helpful student notes for this TMA which pretty much lead you to where the answers may be, these are found on the website pages after the TMA question which are often missed in the rush to answer the TMA.

    This TMA should be easier to complete that ones I have been used to because,
    i. It is not an essay.
    ii. There are calculations which have answers which are right or wrong. 
    iii. It has a 800 word count cap.
    iv. It is only worth 7%, so don't over think it.

    So, hopefully this will be pretty much done this weekend, and on to Part 2.

Wednesday, 16 October 2013

DD209 Running The Economy : Tutorial Group Discussion Week 2

Chapter 2 has been a challenge.

There has just been far too many words. Page 77 uses the phrase "is exactly equivalent to", what does this mean ? Why is the phrase "is equivalent to" not sufficient, and in what way is "exactly equivalent" different in meaning to "equivalent". I have deliberated over the use of this word and can see no obvious benefit or difference in meaning that it imparts, so that's one word they didn't need to use.

Also they vary the definitions of commonly used words. The constant use of the word 'saving' to mean what I would refer to as 'savings' is just off-putting.

If you have a 'saving', then this is the difference between a higher price you may have paid, and the lower price you actually paid and this difference represents your 'saving' on that product. As in the phrase "I waited until it was on offer and made a saving of £1".

'Savings' is surplus of income and sometimes this surplus ends up in my 'savings account', at least until I need it to bail out a deficit in my current account. So when I'm reading the text every time I hit the word 'saving' my train of though stalls while I question the meaning and wonder why they use loads more words than they need to, but far fewer of the letter 's' than they should.

And the 'current account' I allude to above, is not the same as the nation's current account as understood in this book, for it also seems to have a variety of definitions, and nailing down just one is a bit like nailing jelly to the ceiling.

In amongst this struggle for understanding, there is what appears to be a mandatory Tutorial Group Discussion centering around Activity 4. After answering the question we are instructed to post this on the tutorial group. There seems little appetite so far from our group to actually post an answer and in doing so publicly demonstrate our lack of  understanding for the material so far. This is unusual as we are most of the way through this week and with the TMA on the study planner for next week I'd have thought somebody would ave posted by now. I'll refine my answer and post tomorrow, but I hope I'm not the first.

Sunday, 13 October 2013

The trouble with Open University tutorials are........

...... sometimes they are just too far away.

This is my 4th Open University course, so my 4th tutor and my 4th set of tutorials, and thankfully this hasn't happened to me yet, however,  it does appear to happen quite often to many other students.

It appears that as a general rule tutors will have no more than 20 students per course to look after, and in my experience tutorials have never had more than 50% student attendance, and an attendance of 35% (7 out of 20) would be unusual.

So why is it that there seems to be so many people that would like to go to tutorials, being allocated tutors that are simply far too far to make attending tutorials viable either in terms of travelling time and/or cost. While students who aren't going to attend tutorials are allocated local tutors.

Could the Open University not simply ask students registering for new courses to tick a box to indicate if they will or will not be attending tutorials. That way students with no intention of attending tutorials should not be allocated a tutor until after those who wish to attend tutorials have been allocated whatever local tutors are available.

C'mon Open University, this seems a fairly easy solution to a common problem.

Saturday, 12 October 2013

DD209 Running The Economy : First Tutorial

Today's tutorial was pleasant.

The tutor was pleasant, the venue was pleasant and the small tutorial group were all very pleasant.

We went over course structure, how to use the VLE and did some filling in of graphs and some sums. The main advice regarding the TMA is not to over think it, if it says describe then describe, if it says explain then explain, you can add graphs and tables, and if you're doing sums show your working.

So, no earth shattering revelations, but a pleasant couple of hours spent in pursuit of economic excellence. Now, to finish Chapter 2 and get stuck into the TMA.

Saturday, 5 October 2013

DD209 Running The Economy : Week 2

Week 2

12 Oct
  • Website contentWeek 2: Macroeconomic imbalances – why do they matter? 

    The course officially starts today, so I am effectively a week ahead of schedule and it would be good to have done all the necessary reading for the first TMA before the tutorial next weekend. So the plan is that this week I crack on with Chapter 2, which is quite a bit more challenging than Chapter 1.

    Not much of consequence has happened on the course or tutor forums, but our tutor is threatening to put up some activities before tutorials, lets hope that doesn't include the first one, as I already have enough to do !

Wednesday, 2 October 2013

DD209 Running The Economy : Very pro-active tutor, but my head hurts.

I received an email from my tutor who seems very organised, pro-active and enthusiastic.

I have been pretty lucky with my tutors so far, but although they have all been good none have introduced themselves as early as this and with so much information. So, things look very positive on the tutor front.

Chapter 2 however - its making my head hurt!!! Chapter 1 seemed a bit of an easy intro in to economics, Chapter 2 however needs a lot more reading, and I haven't even got to the coloured graphs.

I'm sure it will all become obvious in time, but this is not going to be a simple matter of churning the handle and just reading the material - this is going to require some serious thought :-)

Saturday, 28 September 2013

DD209 Running The Economy : Week 1

Week 1

5 Oct

  • Block one
  • Website contentWeek 1: Economics, recession and crisis

    Week 1's study has been completed. I guess if you're not keen at the start of the course when will you be. Hopefully, I will have finished Block 1 before the first tutorial and get off to a flying start.

    I'm really impressed with the course website. The tutorials really lead you through the aspects of the book that you need to understand, and the weekly revision sheets seem a great idea, although I haven't filled that in yet :-)

    I haven't done economics before, but this seemed a fairly gentle introduction. The sums you are asked to do are not difficult, but as with most things understanding the question in order to do the correct sum is the key thing.

    The course also seems to have been well thought out with no TMAs near Xmas, a two week Xmas break and also revision weeks. 5 face to face and 3 online tutorials and a day school also seems very reasonable.

    The OU website forum has opened. Two posts from the course chair, one post a welcome, one post inviting people to introduce themselves - pretty simple you would have thought - but already the simple act of saying hello seems to have already spread across those two posts and a new thread. Maybe this is not a big thing, but I like order, I may have OCD, to my mind this is just disorder bordering on chaos. C'mon forum moderators, tidy the forum :-)

    So, in general a good start, hope it continues like this.

Thursday, 26 September 2013

DD209 Running The Economy : Website Opens

I suppose this is a 'landmark' of sorts, the website opening officially marks starting the second half of the PPE degree. Three courses down and hopefully the three most interesting courses to come, albeit probably the most difficult.

On the plus side, after some concern regarding the nature of the tutorials (due to the way they were described in the literature) there will be five face to face tutorials (1 per TMA?), 3 Elluminate tutorials, which in the past (A222) were always an adventure in PC & IT configuration, and a day school.

The tutorials are about a hour away, which is OK, I know some people travel much further or are simply unable to attend, so I guess with just a couple of hours traveling time I have been fairly fortunate.

Monday, 23 September 2013

DD209 Running The Economy : Text books have arrived & I have a tutor.

Two books have arrived from the OU for the new DD209 Economics course. Although they have a very fetching photo of a run down sort of shack in front the Petronas Towers in Kuala Lumpar (I suppose epitomising economic inequalities), they don't seem thick enough for a Level 2, 60 point course. Perhaps everything will become clear when the website opens, there may be loads of additional online stuff.

Still no news on tutorial dates, but I do now know who my tutor is. I do hope there are face to face tutorials as I really feel these add to the overall learning experience. Online learning can be a bit dry and sterile without a bit of human contact, and the online course forums can be hard work.

A quick look at the books says Part 1 is chapters 1&2, Part 2 is chapters 3 to 6, and Part 3 is chapters 7 to 10, Part 4 is chapters 11 to 14 and Part 5 is chapters 14 to 18. So that explains the 5 TMAs and why TMA1 comes so quickly and is only worth a relatively small amount of marks overall.

So, will give a book a bit of a read this evening and try and get ahead, at least on the first TMA, and hopefully things will become clear when the website opens this Thursday

Thursday, 19 September 2013


If your interested in some free short courses check out 

I have signed up for Marketing in October, and Java programming next year. 
Looking forward to some interesting courses and learning for fun without the 
pressure of assessments.

Could this be the future of further learning?

Saturday, 14 September 2013

DD209 Running The Economy : What to read until DD209 starts.

My wife saw a book she though I'd be interested in and bought it for me.

"Why Nations Fail" ( is a great read and I've hardly put
it down.

 I would recommend it if you are interested in economics and politics, but there is 
also a fair bit of history and geography thrown in as well. It should certainly keep me 
occupied until the course website opens in two weeks or so.

Still no news on the tutorial dates or tutor, which seems late compared to the other 
courses I've done, but I suppose this could be a result of DD209 being a brand 
new course. I just hope it isn't a taste of things to come.

I guess I'm just impatient and I want to know what this course is all about.

Sunday, 1 September 2013

DD209 Running The Economy : The start is almost in sight.

Course materials will be dispatched in less than 4 weeks.

Course starts in about 5 weeks.

First TMA to be submitted in less than 9 weeks.

But still no information from the OU about tutorial dates. Given the potential importance of the tutorials as the only human interaction with the OU, I think we should get a bit more notice of when the tutorials are planned so that we can see if it is possible to move existing commitments around these dates.

Fingers crossed that this information will be forthcoming shortly.

Friday, 26 July 2013

DD203 - Power, Dissent, Equality : Results are in, and a week early!

There has obviously been a downward shifting of grade boundaries, because I somehow scraped a  Pass1.

The overall result from 385 students was,

No. of Students 15 116 161 76 17
Percentage 4% 30% 42% 20% 4%

So, if only 4% got an overall 'A' in the exam the awards panel can move grade boundaries to meet whatever 'bell curve' of passes they aim for. It also means that the exam and marking must have been fairly rigorous  given the results above.

I did the two most popular questions and also the least popular,

Q1 = 225
Q3 = 276
Q9 = 39

My tutor suggested Q9 was the least answered historically and so if you attempted that at least the marker would be reading something different, and you may benefit from being slightly different from the norm. This may have been the case as Q9 was my best result.

Sunday, 21 July 2013

Open University TMA Substitution Policy - What's the point ?

I guess I'm at a bit of a loose end waiting on the DD203 exam and module result, so I had a look at the substitution rules that apply to the TMAs, and apart from being incredibly complicated in arithmetic terms, they seem to make very little difference to the final result. 

The rules/instructions are HERE , in the download undergraduate and postgraduate taught modules assessment handbook (405KB) (PDF).

Section 2.8 is the one that 'explains' everything. Even with their example of a student failing to submit one TMA the overall average only shifted by 4.22%, and my overall TMA score only changed by about 0.5%, so hardly worth the effort of doing the calculation.

I would be interested to know if substitution has ever made a difference to an overall result in a way that would not already have come under consideration by the award review and appeals process.

I would go as far as to say that its possible that the existence of these substitution rules actually 'encourage' the non-submission of TMAs to the determent of students.

Any thoughts ?

Thursday, 11 July 2013

DD203 - Power, Dissent, Equality : Three weeks to go unil the module result.

If the OU website is correct and "Your module result should be available by Friday 2 August 2013." then we have three weeks to go until we get our result.

However, there is some uncertainty with the words "should" and "by", does this mean 'maybe' and 'before'....... why can't then be more accurate with their language. 

Friday, 5 July 2013

DD301 to be replaced by DD313 : International relations: continuity and change in global politics

A world of whose making? (DU301)  which is the level 3 Politics Module  if you are studying for a PPE, is running for the last time in this October.

This module will be replaced by a new module, called International relations: continuity and change in global politics ( DD313 ) in October 2014.  Dr Daniel Conway is involved in the course production.

I haven't seen nay further information on this course but it looks interesting as a possible Level 3 Politics choice.

AA308 to be replaced by A333 : Key Questions in Philosophy

Thought and experience: themes in the philosophy of mind (AA308) which is the level 3 Philosophy Module  if you are studying for a PPE, is running for the last time in this October.

This module will be replaced by a new module, A333 Key questions in Philosophy, which has been approved by the University and it is planned that the first presentation of this module will be in October 2014. according to

I haven't seen any information on A333 on the Open University website yet, but I would be interested to know more about it  because I haven't yet decided if I will do Economics or Philosophy yet at Level 3.

Thursday, 27 June 2013

DD209 Running The Economy : A head start on economic theory

YouTube has some great stuff on it, the trick is finding it.

If you know nothing about Economics, and want a bit of a head start on this subject before the course materials come through, you could do a lot worse than check out this series of videos done by UC Berkley.

I found the videos well paced and well explained, and more importantly they have held my interest


I have down loaded the series to my PC and I can make them portable so if I am on a  journey or stuck somewhere they will be ideal to pass the time away.

Thursday, 20 June 2013

DD209 Running The Economy : Course TMA & iCMA Information

"The DD209 module website will open on 26 September 2013", I'm not sure why the website opens so late. It is a source of great frustration that the OU keeps the Online website closed until the course has almost started. It is a good job that the Facebook group has started as this has been pretty useful so far with some links and ideas with regard  to study materials.

The one thing the website does however say is that we will have ONLY 5 TMAs, 4 iCMAs and an exam as marked components. The first observation, although the dates could change, is that this year we can look forward to Christmas and New Year without either TMAs to write or waiting on marks to come back - so somebody has planned this using common sense.

However, I have no idea what a iCMA is ? Interactive computer marked assessment I suppose - so an online test - but is it time limited and what are you supposed to do ? They don't carry as many marks as the TMAs, but if you are a borderline student you can't afford not to take them seriously. The other problem is if you are the type of person who works right up to the deadline, having the TMA and iCMA cut off date on the same date shows somebody has planned this using no common sense :-)

The published dates so far are.....

TMA   01       7%        29 Oct
iCMA  41       7%10 Dec
TMA   02      15%10 Dec
iCMA  42       7%11 Feb
TMA   03      20%11 Feb
iCMA  43       7%18 Mar
TMA   04      15%18 Mar
iCMA  44       7%6 May
TMA   05      15%6 May 

Wednesday, 19 June 2013

DD203 - Power, Dissent, Equality : Course Review

Although I am still waiting for the exam result, this course is effectively over bar the uncertainty over the final grade. I am therefore effectively half way through the PPE course, 3 courses and 180 points completed, 3 courses and 180 points left to go (albeit at a higher level).

I would be surprised and probably devastated to get less than a Pass2, and if the markers are generous and the grade boundaries are a bit flexible then there is always the possibility, and maybe even an outside chance, of a Pass1. The OU website course information says that the results will be available by the 2nd August, which means, going by last years experience, that they will be released ON the 2nd August.

So what did I think of DD203. It was a broadly interesting course, although there was a lot less discussion of ideologies and political ideas than I imagined there would be, but maybe that happens a bit more at Level 3. It does however encourage you to think differently about 'how' and 'why' things are as they are and 'who' and 'how' it can be changed, and this is probably more important that out of date ideologies. I think the main thing I would say to anybody starting DD203 is get engaged with the "reading across as well as down" themes of the course early. It all became clear towards the end and I possibly failed to benefit from recognising where the themes were until too late.

I would also say that people should listen and watch the videos ahead of the course timetable. As soon as the website is open download all of the audios and especially the theme lectures at the end of the course and spend a while going through these before the course gets going proper, and then return and review them periodically. I'm not sure what the materials will be like for the economics module but I intend to try and make better use of the audio/video materials next time round. I was listening to the audios almost solidly in the car for the week or so before the exam and that really helped with the revision.

The other thing is that different tutors can make a real difference to your experience. I have heard of some who were fairly poor and others who were extremely helpful. I had a tutor who held good tutorials but nothing really happened on the tutorial group forum. Others had very active tutorial group forums and lots of additional material from their tutor pointing them in the correct direction for the TMAs. As with the last course (A222) the main course forum didn't really do it for me, too much happens too quickly and it just takes too long to separate the useful and interesting posts from the dross. A222 at least split the forum up into sections which helped keep discussions on track and that was better than this course - but maybe I'm just not a forum orientated person.

Breaking the course down, this is what I think I got out of it.........

Book 1 : What Is Politics

Discussion of where politics happens and who does politics. Wide/Narrow and Sceptical/Optimistic views discussed. The book's discussion revolves around immigration and asylum seekers.

Book 2 : Exploring Political Worlds
 Discussion of comparative explanation of political differences between countries, and the problems with using comparisons.

Book 3 : Politics and Power in the UK
Does what it says on the cover. How the UK came to be, the constitution, devolution, the power of the PM and women's under representation in politics.

Book 4: Living Political Ideas

This book just didn't grab me. Strange, 'cos it was what I thought I would have been most interested in. It all just seemed a bit devoid of substance, left me feeling we were trying to "knit a jumper from fog". The Smith 'workbench and toolbox' analogy which was made out to be important just seemed incomplete.

Book 5 : Making Policy, Shaping Lives
I enjoyed this more than I thought I would. There was some interesting case studies and the chapter on disability politics was a great read, really interesting. Chapter 5 seemed a bit lost, being a narrative conversational account of the previous 4 chapters, so I couldn't really see what it achieved.

Power and Structures : Chapter 1s
This was my back-up theme for the exam, but didn't need/use it. What is power and what structures and systems allow power to be exercised.

Centre and Periphery : Chapter 2s
Most interesting and probably the most easily understood theme. C&P comes up almost everywhere and can be applied to almost any situation. It was a real shame that this was TMA06 and not in the exam.

Participation and Dissent : Chapter 3s
Didn't really get totally in to this theme. Dissent is a form of participation, insider/outsider, associational/promotional groups etc. Power networks and the like......

Equality and Difference : Chapter 4s
The politics of equality and difference is far more interesting, the notion of equal but different, equality on different levels and equality versus justice are all very relevant and there were good and interesting case studies to backup this theme.

Evidence and Argument : Chapter 5s
Constructing arguments - explanation, recommendation and case studies. Rational Choice Model, Functional Model or Interpretative Model, comparative study of politics. The study of spin, use of language, control of media and presentation of information - all very relevant to dissecting the argument.

So, that was DD203, mostly interesting, sometimes a bit of a slog. The trick is to get the Books and Themes sorted early on and keep re-reading the books and notes so that the ideas sink in well before the revision has to start.

Like all study, easy to say, but harder to do.