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As we are approaching the start of the new academic year next month, i thought i would post a new thread to see if there are any new or current OU students on LT at the moment.
I'm a new OU student. I'll be starting my first level 1 course at the beginning of October. It's most encouraging to read some of the older posts in this group from those who have been through the process already.
I am a French Open University student. I am on my second level 3 course (AZX300 - 20th c lit), in order to get a BA (Hons). I enjoy it very much!
I'd love to hear how sphenisciforme and soniaandree are getting on now with exams looming. Good luck to you both and to anyone else who is deep in revision right now.
Good luck to anyone with exams looming or who are completing ECAs.
Booksloth, I agree on the Coetzee - I've tried to like him but we are not friends right now.
You know the books. I do have to say that I am with you on Coetzee, and Robinson Crusoe isn't that great a read either and as for the Bushmen, oh my.
As this is the first year they keep asking us for feedback so some of this may change.
As with all higher level courses the course materials are relatively scanty - a couple of ring binders with print outs, all available on pdf as well. But there is great tutor support, we've had a face to face tutorial or a day school plus an online tutorial for each block. The online tutorials are a little difficult and quiet, mainly I think because we all research and study in different ways - I know the tutors have been talking amongst themselves about the best way to structure these for the remainder of the course and in future.
I'm in the South East and we've been offered 3 Saturday day schools at Birkbeck which run from 10.00 to 16.00 - in the mornings we are all together for a series of short lectures and discussion and in the afternoon we have separate tutorials. So there is lots of support.
There are 5 TMAs - Antigone; Jane Eyre and Wide Sargasso Sea; Coriolanus; Bushmen, Coetzee and Defoe; and Milton and Blake. They're quite evenly spaced being due every 6 - 7 weeks. They build up the word count, we started at 2,000 words and then had two TMAs at 2,500 with the last two at 4,000 words - its actually quite hard to write within these limits, but its ever thus with the OU.
The last TMA is due at the end of August - I really have not missed studying over the summer - and the ECA (5,000 words) on Byron and Kipling is due on the 20th January, you have to select your topic for this - we have a day school in December specifically geared to this.
The OU library is, as always, fantastic - we've got access to the Cambridge Collections online amongst other stuff.
The only other piece of advice I can give is that it may be worth investing in an e-reader - all the OU library stuff comes in pdf form, you get all the course materials in pdf, plus a couple of the course books and of course the public domain books can be accessed via Project Gutenberg - if I printed out all the articles from the library I've accessed I would have destroyed a forest and I can only read so much stuff on the laptop as I have to read a lot for work. I bought one that allows you to make notes and, although I am convinced that they are the work of the devil, have found it invaluable for study.
Do have a look at my library I've logged everything I've borrowed from the library or bought for the course in a collection called 'Course' - and, I've just noticed, have tagged some things course :o) - which may help you get an idea of the extent of the reading. There is a fair amount of postcolonial theory on the course and if you can track down a copy of the The Postcolonial Studies Reader, the Second Edition if possible, it is a useful, but weighty, tome to have around.
Not sure if there is anything else I can add - but you know where I am if you want to ask anything.
(*) And money - is it my imagination, or has the OU got a lot more expensive in the last few years? I do remember being made to pay through the nose as a non-UK student before, but I'm sure it was never as much as the 4360 pounds they're charging for A815.
riverwillow - I took a look at your profile and was especially interested in what you said there about an e-reader. Like you, I've always considered them to be the devil's toys but I can see how one might come in helpful for this. No doubt, as usual, I'll resist the idea as long as I can but I suspect it will happen somewhere along the way. Thank you for taking time out of that ECA to comment, btw. I'm also not crazy about Robinson Crusoe and don't much fancy the bushmen but it sounds as if I won't be entirely alone in that. Are you going on to part 2? Is it even being presented yet?
Booksloth - yes the plan is to go onto part 2, but the details on this are very sketchy - its due for first presentation in May 2011 and looking at the prices for the current dissertation course (£1380) it will still be expensive. There may be a couple of TMAs and tutorials - I took the old English project course and when we got to the project section we had quite a lot of support in picking our subject. Hopefully information will start to trickle through at some point but I suspect that they won't publish too much information on A816 until close to the closing date for the last presentation of A817.
You're right, of course: if I really knew I wanted to do this, it would be stupid to postpone it until I retire. Who knows if something similar will still be offered, if I'll survive that long, etc?
Motivation to finish is the thing: When I did my OU BA, I was very conscious that it was a tougher challenge than the full-time courses I did straight out of school, and I really wanted to prove to myself I could stick to it (I had a lot of fun along the way as well, and surprisingly it's even done my career a bit of good). But I think it would be tough to get that level of motivation back again for an MA. I've done a research degree, and I know it's 95% hard slog and tedious details.
Have you looked at the level 3 creative writing course? I did briefly consider this, but somehow it didn't ring my bell. If I need a breather before the dissertation, and at this rate I may, I quite fancy the children's literature course as those books are fabulous.
Klarusu - I haven't thanked you yet for all that lovely information on the inside track of OU. It certainly makes interesting reading. And I'm overwhelmed with jealousy at the very thought of anyone living near enough to Walton Hall (not to mention actually working there) to make proper use of all the facilities.
I finally got allocated my tutor and found that all my tutorials are around 50 miles away. It doesn't sound much but it's a long drive when you have a dodgy back and it constitutes about equal travel v tutorial times so I don't see me getting to many of the groups but I do plan to use the train to get to the first one at least - after that we'll see how it goes.
I've hit a massive rock in my study so far in that I simply cannot get myself to finish Robinson Crusoe. I thought Heart of Darkness was pretty dire in an earlier course but this one really takes the cake (and is much longer).
I know we all have busy lives that are about to get much busier but it would be great to be able to chat to other 'sufferers' here.
Heart of Darkness was pretty tough going, but the one that quite literally stopped me in my tracks on a previous course was Sunset Song, oh my.
How is your postcolonial theory? There are a couple of books that I have found invaluable for this course, The Post-Colonial Studies Reader and Colonial and Postcolonial Literature, which I definitely own but seems to have dropped out of my library - both really helped with Coetzee and Defoe, Jane Eyre and Wide Sargasso Sea, oh yes and you will revisit the lovely Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak and the course work from AA316 on this section. I'm also thinking of using postcolonial theory for my ECA for my sins.
Good luck and if there is anything I can do to help you, as a previous (and continuing) sufferer do let me know.
Edited for typos
Thanks to your earlier recommendation, I have got The Post-Colonial Studies Reader and it looks both interesting and helpful. I'll keep a lookout for the other books you mention. Good luck with your course too and thanks for your comments!
I've still got all the stuff from A421, BTW - I don't know if there's anything important there that's not in the reader, but I'm happy to dig it out if you need something. Let me know.
I didn't do A300 so that would explain why Sunset Song is unfamiliar but I've no doubt blanked out my experiences of Spivak - maybe I'll check out the reader which still lurks somewhere on my shelves.
Then I am also applying for next year's MA with Caen University (France). The OU's MA fee is too high for me (unemployed), the French one is still affordable, so...
I am horrified at the fees the OU is having to charge lately. I waited ten years after my BA looking at the prospectus wishing I could afford the Masters and the fact that I'm doing it now is only due to me 'treating myself' since Mum died last year and left sufficient funds. Considering what a crowning achievement the OU has always been in the history of the Labour Party, 'New Labour' should be ashamed at the way it has continued to withdraw funding. My daughter started trying to convert her Sociology BA to a Psychology one, only to find that after her first year the relevant courses were withdrawn due to lack of funding. I don't want to go all political in this thread but whatever happened to Lifelong Learning? I worked in Adult Education for many years and watched that wither away in the hands of T Blair and his cohorts and now it seems the same thing is happening with the OU just as they try to tell us they want 50% of school leavers to go on to tertiary education.
Sorry. Rant over.
As a European OUSA rep (technically, I'm the union's Comms Officer for Southern Europe), the transparency about OU fees (the university being a registered charity) is being discussed at the exec meeting, since EU/overseas students are paying up to two/three times the UK amount, when other UK universities are on an equal footing UK fees = EU fees. I was told that UK=EU, because the UK fees were mostly 'subsidized' by the government, thus resulting in a lower fee to pay for UK students, and that it was mostly a 'matter of perception'. I disagree about this explanation, because 2/3 times the UK amount to pay from our pocket is definitely not a matter of perception. The MA's 9 months course I was so keen on is around £4,500 (+2ksomething for the second year). There is no way I can pay that, even less in Euros. This is why I shall be back to a French uni next year (distance learning), at least it costs me 300 euros admin fee, then this is it (well, books to buy, etc.).
There is a picking choice of two of the books out of four for essays, so it's either Rowling OR Pullman, Gavin OR Reeve. The last book mentioned is changed every year, depending on who wins the Carnegie medal that year.
So far, the course is very interesting (I have just started it), I am enjoying it.
As for the MA, it is a research Master in English Lit, Civilization and Language (LLCE). It is, as far as I can see, the only distance MA I find suitable for me in the area, so I am going for it! ;-)
It wouldn't be conceivable to go back to a uni campus, since I live in the Normandy countryside.
The children's lit course does sound lovely - especially as it's a case of choosing between Harry Potter (no thanks) and Phillip Pullman (whose books I love). If I ever have the time, money or inclination to go back to undergrad courses just for fun I think it would be at the top of my list.
The Euro fees are coming down a wee bit next year. But even though the lack of Government subsidy does make a big difference some of us remain unconvinced that the differential is fully justified. I know the Open University Students Association has pressed the OU on this a lot over the years. The reps from Northern and Southern Europe have done a good job in continuing to fight for both lower fees and better service delivery and I hope the rest of us have done our bit too.
We keep trying! :-)
Nowadays, with the level of all the fees much higher and the OU providing so many of its services over the internet anyway, the "overseas surcharge" doesn't visibly bring much in the way of extra service, and it's high enough to be a real deterrent to taking a course. If I were starting again, I don't think I would automatically make the OU my first choice.
- one gives us the electronic handouts of his face-to-face tutorials (because I am in France), but he is tricky to get answers from by emails, as he is generally busy in his private life. And he doesn't grant the past-noon grace period extentions we would probably take for granted, so best send the electronic essay the day before.
- the other has called me at home to check how things were going, and tutorials are online; I have still to see how he compares with TMAs, but let's wait and see.
Juggling with 2 courses can be tricky, but I am trying! :-)
Seriously? I suppose the person was not giving any hard copies at the face-to-face tutorial then, otherwise it would have been easy to just scan the document and send pdfs by email to the absentees. Maybe the tutor was a technophobe.
I have seen a lot of discrepancies over the years in terms of tutors, and I have had the best as well as the bad. I remember my level 2 tutor in the UK (before I left for France) was a bitter American pensioner who was unable to tell me what was wrong in my essays and kept me at grade 3 level during the year, but I had a first at the exam, which was great. I also had another tutor for two different courses, and he was great: we had telephone conferencing as EU tutorials, and lots of course discussions over the group's forum.
To be fair, in my 1st degree OU life I had a total of three tutors over the 6 years. One was harmless but uninspiring and the other two were quite brilliant, as were many of the tutors I came across at residential schools. To me it's one of the beauties of OU that, although tutorials and dayschools are useful you can manage just fine without them and I suspect I might be doing quite a bit of that this time around.
With OU tutors, you could count on them being available at the times they said they would be, you always got the TMA back on time, and they always seemed to know enough about the subject and about the course to answer your questions. The "bad" ones didn't go beyond that minimum; the good ones put in lots of extra (and presumably unpaid) hours giving individual help or organising group activities.
Having said which - tutors don't actually have a choice as to whether they accept the post-noon grace period or not any more than they can choose not to accept TMAs via the eTMA system. It's an OU wide decision and I'm afraid the tutor concerned is just plain wrong.
NB It is not always advisable to tell a tutor he or she is just plain wrong - a more diplomatic approach is usually advisable!
That's what I usually tend to do. It is true that tutors are not very well paid these days. With all the funding cuts, it is already hard for the OU to try and stretch the budget as much as necessary; and EU students tend to pay too much for courses these days, so I am hoping to see a reduction in EU fees. This is what is putting me off for doing an MA next year, so I'll go for the French fees instead.
I know the Continental European fees are an ongoing issue - along with their lack of face to face tutorials, the occasionally erratic delivery of hardcopy materials and, to a lesser degree, the proof of posting nonsense.
There has been a small reduction in those fees along with a bit more explanation on the supposed justification for the extent of the differential but I can't say I'm happy with the situation either!