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.

Monday, 17 June 2013

DD209 Running The Economy : A Little Light Reading

As it doesn't appear that we will be getting any information about DD209 for quite some time, and as I know very little academically about Economics, I have purchased a couple of books and devised a plan.

50 Economic Ideas you really need to know, sounds like a sensible start, and I recon is I limit myself to reading one idea a day at work during my lunch break I should get this book finished in time for the course starting.
Don't "Click to LOOK INSIDE", image has been 'borrowed 'from Amazon

The other book, Economics For Dummies, I will take home and read it as and when and maybe even a bit on holiday.
Don't "Click to LOOK INSIDE", image has been 'borrowed 'from Amazon

Hopefully, come the start of the course I should be a bit more au fait  with Economics terms, if not completely conversant with their meaning.

Wednesday, 12 June 2013

DD203 - Power, Dissent, Equality : Well that's that then, exam and course over.

Well, the DD203 politics exam went pretty much as well as I could have hoped for.

Question 3 : Politics and Power in the UK
The question was some thing pretty close to "Is the power of the UK Prime Minister unlimited". Pretty much what I had hoped for, and indeed revised for. It wasn't 100 miles away from the TMA for this subject, change a couple of words and twist the question and it is pretty close.

Unlike the Philosophy exam last year,  I made a point of spending 10 minutes actually planning and setting out the question and I have to say it really helped. I wrote pretty much for the rest of the 50 minutes available for this question and it seemed to flow and make sense. If I knew about it (with regard to the PM's powers, the UK constitution, systems of power, devolution and the EU) then they know I knew about it, 'cos it all got written down.

Question 9 : Evidence and Argument
Not the question I was looking for, as it was something like "Studying politics is all about evidence, not argument and opinion, discuss". So had to come at this through 'studying politics' angle, not ideal but I managed to get about 4 different points across about evidence being evaluated or only available through opinion. Managed to write for about 40 mins or so (after a 10 minute plan) and had covered everything and really had nothing else to add.

The last question was a bit of a lottery. I had wanted to do Question 2 about comparative politics, but the two options of what to compare did not suit me. The options were a bit tricky and there was a real problem that you could drift off track and answer a different question - so I plumped for the obvious banker..... wonder if this is risky.

Question 1 : What is Politics ?
The question was something like, "Politics is not just done by politicians, it is also done by people, is this correct ?". Of course it is correct.

Worked in Woomera- felt compelled to do this, local HS2 campaign, mother-in-laws constant complaints against local supermarket for not stocking local produce, decisions to obey the law or not, people withholding tax or anti-poll tax riots as protest, people writing letters to local council regarding school places or planning permission.

Time was running out and this was not as content rich an answer as I would have liked, however after some Lucazade and chocolate I had a sugar high and possibly became slightly delirious as my conclusion started with something like "politics is like love in that it is all around" although I may not have properly referenced The Troggs or Wet Wet Wet, and continued that "possibly a more interesting question than do people engage in politics would be can people escape engaging in politics - I may have been a bit bored by then. Anyway finished with enough time to re-read two of the essays, so must have got the timing about right.

The rest of the Theme questions looked a bit difficult, although I could probably have had a stab at Power and Structures if necessary, but I'm glad it didn't come to that. I didn't even read the other questions from Part A, so I've no idea if Q4 & Q5 were good or not.

So, I guess that is about that, well until the beginning of August when the results should be through. I can look forward to some free evenings and no guilt-trips for not studying, so what to do until then.......

........ having come across this video on Youtube, I may have a go at brushing up on my Musical Spoon technique, this guy is seriously good.

In fact he is the actual 'Spoonman' on Soundgarden's single and video.

So if you don't hear from me for a while, if may be because I've been raiding the cutlery drawer, although this may all change when the sugar rush dies down.

Tuesday, 11 June 2013

DD203 - Power, Dissent, Equality : Essay Plans and guesing at the questions.

This time tomorrow the exam will be in progress, so I guess with such little tile left there is only time to consolidate what I think I know and try and concentrate on essay plans and case studies

Looking at past exam questions from sections of the course and having spoken to other students, I'm hoping the exam questions are along the following lines.....

Question 1:
Politics not just for politicians, where does politics happen/can you avoid politics, can refugees or vouchers be political actors/political,

Question 2:
Hopefully a question around he values and problems of comparative analysis of politics.

Questions 3:
There has been a real variety of questions in this section, it is almost impossible to guess at what will come up, but if it is a bit left field and based on Gender Representation, then I'm ready......

Powers and Structures:
Another set of questions which are difficult to pin down, it could be anything but hopefully if it is something about the constraints of the power of the UK Prime Minister I'll jump on it.

Evidence & Argument:
Please be something asking what is more important evidence or argument or is evidence important.

On the plus side the last tutorial/day school hinted that  the questions would be fairly open, rather than drilling down on specifics, so I hope that I can find at least 2 really good questions out of these 5 topics and one other I can have a reasonable stab at, and with luck see if I can fall across the 70% threshold.

Sunday, 9 June 2013

DD203 - Power, Dissent, Equality : Not long to go now !!!

Well that's me done for this evening's study. Lots of reading, nothing seemed particularly new - well it shouldn't I had read it before - but recognising text and ideas is very different from remembering them when the chips are down.

I'll keep plodding on and hope the revision is just a safety net and I have already done enough over the course to crack on with the exam.

If the worse happens then I'll just not count this module towards the final degree as it is only two of the three Level 2 courses which count - if that happens I'd better do well in the Economics.

On the upside, just two more evenings to revise, then Wednesday morning before the exam to panic cram and study is over for a few months :-)

Friday, 7 June 2013

DD203 - Power, Dissent, Equality : Dave Gorman interupts revision !

I had to remind myself that I was doing this course for FUN, and at the end of the day the course mark should matter far less than the quality of the experience, but the whole 'exam next week' fever thing seems to build up and overtakes your rationality and you can find yourself thinking of little else and feeling guilty when not studying every available minute.

So, last night I had a complete complete night off.

Went to see Dave Gorman at Tring on his preview shows for his Channel Dave TV show which will be called something like 'Modern Like is Goodish'. Superb show, some re-worked 'old stuff', quite a lot of new stuff, some excellent twists, and the whole thing presented as for a TV audience. Thoroughly enjoyed it.

Then got back in time to watch 'Question Time' and 'This Week' and play spot the theme and guess who's lying. So, we're never really that far from politics and this course.

Wednesday, 5 June 2013

DD203 - Power, Dissent, Equality : One Week to the Exam........

...... which is why I've just spent part of my lunch hour reading an Open University text book.

Birthday party for a relative last night, tickets to see Dave Gorman tomorrow night, a colleagues illness now means I am on call on Saturday (and maybe even Sunday), so it looks as though events are conspiring against me.

I'll be glad when this is over one way or the other.

Monday, 3 June 2013

DD203 - Power, Dissent, Equality : Panic revision now in progress ! ! ! ! !

House guests, family birthdays and the unavoidable specter of work have done their best to disrupt any attempts at study, but for better or worse I now have crib notes on 2 of the three main subjects and have taken to listening to the course audios in the car - should maybe have started doing this a bit earlier.

I think my revision is coming together slowly, but I'm sort of relying on a big weekend of study this coming weekend to get me really confident.

And, I've further limited my scope of study. Having seen every past exam paper I can get hold of I am pretty confident that I would have been happy with any of the questions from Book 2, Book 3 and Evidence and Argument. Book 1 is a back up, as is Powers and Structures, but I won't spend too much time on them.

Oh well, back to the books........

Sunday, 2 June 2013

DD209 Running The Economy : Facebook Group for those starting DD209 in October 2013

The Facebook group of those starting DD209 Running The Economy has just been started.

It is a closed group, so you will have to request to join and the nice people who have set it up and administering it will probably let you join, the link is here Facebook - DD209 Running the economy Oct 2013

This seems to be a spin off from the current DD203 Facebook group which has been an excellent resource for encouragement, motivation and information, so will probably be well worth joining.