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.

Thursday, 10 July 2014

DD209 Running The Economy : Course Result available earlier than expected.

It was a bit of a surprise to find that the course results are out today, and a lot earlier that expected.

I ended up with a not entirely unexpected Pass 2, the exam result was petty much as expected and not high enough to get me into the distinction grade boudary.

The exam had some surprises in regards the marking,

Q3 Multiplier Question -  75% to 100%, pretty much as expected.

Q4 Real Interest rate and IS Curve - 50% to 74%, this is a big band, but even so I thought I had aced the question and would have expected above 75% - oh well :-(

Q9 Apples and Hats - 50% to 74%, pretty much as expected.

Q10 Game Theory - 75% to 100%, pretty much as expected

Q14 Interest Rate Targeting Model, 85% to 100% - very pleased with this, as I thought I had done well.

Q17 Terms of Trade, 55% - 69%, I was not sure about this question and the mark is a big disappointment, but I don't know if it was because I missed what the question was getting at, or because I just got things wrong.

It is a shame they don't give you a better idea of what your actual mark was, but this is at least useful information.

They do however tell you that 318 people sat the exam and also the exam break down, which is not necessarily the same as the overall module result as the grade boundaries can be shifted and there are bound to be more distinctions than just 5%.

                             A       B        C        D        E       F       G     Total
No. of students     16     109      87      69       21     11      5     318
% of students         5%    34%     27%    22%       7%    3%    2%

Part 1
It also shows that of the many people who did Q9, 42% got an A, which really shows how badly I did this, I got a C.

Part 2 List A
Q14 was a reasonable choice with 17% getting an A, only Q11 was done better with 20% getting an A.

Part 2 List B
Q17 appears to have been one of the hardest to either answer or understand as only 6% got an A, compared with 33% getting an A for Q16, which was the question I should have done.

So some good, some bad, some disappointing and a feeling that if I had chosen a different question on List B things may have been a bit different.

I am, I suppose, content with a Pass 2, but I am disappointed that I didn't do better in the exam - I had hoped to have had a reasonable chance at a distinction after the excellent TMA and iCMA results.  The trick then is to turn this disappointment into 'study motivation' for next year and try for a Distinction then. Although there is no exam next year but some sort of project and I am a bit worried about that as these types of project can be difficult to control and it can be a situation where having a good and interested tutor makes a world of difference.

If anybody is to get a First Class honours degree you need at least one level 3 course result to be a distinction, so from the respect of the final degree classification this course result has not really made that much difference - so no real damage done.

So, two level 3 courses to go and the target is one Grade 1 and one Grade 2 - or better. Seems like a bit of a tall order..... we shall see.