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New starters.....

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Ago 21, 2009, 12:04pm

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.

Set 4, 2009, 10:47am

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.

Out 15, 2009, 3:52pm


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!


Jun 3, 2010, 5:45am

Okay - you meant last year, I know, but I'm so excited I have to post this somewhere! I just signed up for (2010) October's MA in Englsih Lit (A815). I did my BA Hons with the OU some years ago and loved every minute. Sadly I was struck with back problems half way through and had to leave work so it never really counted as a career move but I still had a lot of fun with the course. I've always wanted to go back and do some more study and I've finally decided I deserve to treat myself. I'm waiting now to hear there are still vacancies on the course and I'm itching to get started (can't wait for the thump of those course materials on the mat). Is anyone else out there doing this course?

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.

Jun 3, 2010, 6:26am

Booksloth, congratulations on the sign up for the MA, its a huge step. I'm halfway through A815 (Defoe and Coeztee) and really happy to talk to you about the course.

Good luck to anyone with exams looming or who are completing ECAs.

Jun 3, 2010, 6:51am

#5 That's the bit I'm not looking forward to - not a Coetze fan - then again, I was surprised at some of the books I grew to like when doing the BA so I have fingers crossed that the same will happen here. Have you found the course enjoyable so far?

Jun 3, 2010, 8:10am

Yeah riverwillow, spill the beans. I'm getting itchy sign up fingers as we speak ;-)

Booksloth, I agree on the Coetzee - I've tried to like him but we are not friends right now.

Jun 3, 2010, 9:30am

Oh where to start?

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.

Jun 3, 2010, 9:59am

A815 does sound interesting - I'm almost tempted to start again, hearing you all getting so enthusiastic about it, but I probably shouldn't. You need a lot of time and motivation(*) for a postgraduate course: I'm not sure if I've got that at the moment. I have lots of admiration for Booksloth having the courage to start again after a long gap - good luck!

(*) 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.

Jun 3, 2010, 10:26am

There are loads of back-of-house issues that are contributing to fee rises on courses at the OU. Apart from a general reduction in higher ed funding which looks to be getting worse with our new govnt, there is also the implementation of ELQ restraints that target the OU specifically over other universities. All Universities get a per-student amount from the government but this has been removed as a source of funding for any students who already have a qualification of equal level, no matter how old or different it is. As the OU is one of the main avenues for people to requalify or retrain they have been heavily penalised in relation to full time universities. Knock on effect is going to impact course fees now and in the future. Spoke to Lord Putnam, the chancellor, about this & he said he was in the meeting at govt when this idea was floated & about as much thought went into it as deciding whether to have sugar in your coffee. I think the OU seemed a soft target.

Jun 3, 2010, 10:38am

Aw go for it, thorold - life's too short etc. To be honest, I don't think I'd be considering it at non-UK prices, the UK price for part 1 is £2760 and that's bad enough, though part 2 is usually considerably cheaper. I've wanted to do this course for ages but couldn't really think up a good excuse for spending all that money - now I consider it to be a well-deserved treat to be paid for out of an inheritance. I think you're dead right about the high fees. Even more annoying, my daughter has been working on an introductory course hoping to convert her Sociology BA to a Psychology one and half way through her first year she was informed that the vital second year course is being cancelled - I understand this is down to money reasons too. (And my son is working through his Physics BA, also with the OU - it's definitely catching!)

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?

Jun 3, 2010, 10:57am

Unfortunately the OU, like all other institutions, has been hit by cuts in funding from central government so fees are going to go up across the board I'm afraid.

Jun 3, 2010, 11:07am

Late as usual, and with only half the story - thanks klarusu.

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.

Jun 3, 2010, 11:25am

>11 Booksloth:
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.

Jun 4, 2010, 6:19am

Well, this morning I got my confirmation - I'm officially a student again! Looks like a long day on Amazon today ordering set books. This means my TBR pile is about to shoot up again but at least I'll have a good excuse for once.

Jun 4, 2010, 6:45am

Excellent news and have enjoy your guilt free buying.

Jun 4, 2010, 10:43am

Yay booksloth, I am so jealous! I really can't afford it until I know how stable my job's going to be so I shall live vicariously off yours and riverwillow's experience and fanatically browse the course listings until I know them by heart. Maybe next year (*le sigh*). Actually, I don't think I can convince my husband that we need to invest that much in yet another course ... yet ... give me time!

Editado: Jun 4, 2010, 11:02am

Ooo, and I handed my assignment in on time today so I'm free to browse without guilt! I stuck some of the creative writing I did for the course onto a blog (in a vain attempt to keep writing without TMAs to spur me on - it's if anyone wants to see the kind of things we did on this course - I can highly recommend it ... the course, that is).

Jun 4, 2010, 11:25am

I loved this course as well - I took it to decompress after finishing my BA. Have added the blog to my googlereader and will check it out when I've got my TMA out of the way.

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.

Jun 4, 2010, 3:09pm

I've been mulling over the children's lit too, it looks like a great course. Klarusu - well done at getting that final assignment in on time - wonderful feeling, isn't it, when that last one goes off? If you're going to be a vicarious part of my course can I blame you if it all goes horribly wrong please?

Jun 5, 2010, 6:30am

You may have already seen this, but the course description, but sadly no fee, for A816 is up on the OU website. Interesting.

Jun 5, 2010, 6:43am

#21 Oooh, thank you! That must have happened overnight - I'm sure it wasn't there yesterday. Off to have good browse.

Jun 5, 2010, 6:50am

Just had a read through. That looks very interesting. Being a dissertation course, there's not much they can tell us about it, I know, but I do like the whole idea. Now you're a long way into A815, riverwillow, do you know already where you'd be going with your dissertation?

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.

Jun 7, 2010, 4:52am

>23 Booksloth: Not a clue, we are constantly being told not to think about our dissertation and that the ECA (where we have to come up with a topic) is not a dry run for the dissertation. I suspect that I will only start to think about what I would like to do once this first course is finished.

Set 28, 2010, 5:50am

Well, I guess I'm not the only one whose course starts next week. Good luck and happy studying to everyone else who's in the same boat. Like most people, I've tried to get ahead with some of the reading and finding my way around the various websites but I'm a little overwhelmed by just how much information is out there. Does anyone have any tips on how to cope with it all?

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.

Editado: Set 28, 2010, 6:58am

Don't worry you are not alone with Robinson Crusoe, most of the students moaned about this section of the course. I will confess that I only skim read it the once, which is very very bad of me. You can't love every book on a course, and if this is the only one you dislike you will be much happier than me.

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

Set 28, 2010, 8:09am

Gotta say, I was really hoping somebody would tell me they'd coped by just skim reading Crusoe - now I feel a lot better. As for Sunset Song, that's a book I've never read; which course did that one come up on? Spivak seems to have escaped my attention too - I'm feeling very ignorant. Maybe the relevant under-grad courses have changed since I took them (surely I didn't sleep the whole way through one year?

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!

Set 28, 2010, 9:37am

Sunset Song is one of the set texts on A300, Twentieth Century Literature and Debates and it's a barrel of laughs (not). Spivak came up in the Jane Eyre section of AA316, The Nineteenth Century Novel, she's one of the critics extracted in The Nineteenth Century Novel:A Critical Reader and it's pretty dense reading, even at post-grad level, and so dense that snoozing through her is recommended. She's another one you can miss out, depending on what they've offered as TMA options.

Set 28, 2010, 5:08pm

I think I remember Spivak from A421 - not fun. Good luck!
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.

Set 29, 2010, 5:29am

One thing I noticed in my first round of OU studies, and which is obviously still true, was how helpful everyone is. There's none of the competition you find with so many other things of this kind. Yes. we're all competitive with ourselves in as far as beating our last TMA score or breaking our necks to try and get that 'first' is concerned but I love how OU students are always so pleased to help each other and share information. I wonder if it's something in the nature of the kind of student who applies or in the courses themselves but it's lovely to see that is still thriving. Thank you so much for all these offers of help.

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.

Set 30, 2010, 4:29am

Since last year, I am now on the final bend before achieving my BA (Hons), so this year, I am studying both EA300 'Children's literature' and A251 'World Archaeology'.

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...

Set 30, 2010, 5:44am

Good luck in that final year, soniaandree. That Children's Lit course didn't exist when I did my BA but it does sound very interesting. How have you found it? And is your MA full-time with 'real' attendance? What is the subject?

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.

Editado: Out 2, 2010, 4:04pm


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.).

Out 2, 2010, 4:03pm

P.s. The 'Children's lit' course (EA300) is a new OU course, it includes Harry Potter, Northern Lights, Treasure Island, Little Women, Peter Pan (the play), an anthology of poems, Voices in the Park, Junk, Roll of Thunder Hear my Cry, The Other Side of Truth, The Tale of Peter Rabbit, Mortal Engines, Swallows and Amazons, Tom's Midnight Garden, Coram Boy, The Graveyard Book.
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.

Out 3, 2010, 5:36am

#33 I do feel guilty complaining about the UK fees when I realise how bad it is for overseas students. I also worry that the final solution may be simply to raise our fees rather than to drop the European ones, which is often teh way these things go. I'm a huge believer in lifelong education and I console myself with the thought that no money spent on education is ever wasted - that doesn't make it any easier to find though.

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.

Out 3, 2010, 6:49am

Re: Message 33

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.

Out 4, 2010, 3:42am

>I know the Open University Students Association has pressed the OU on this a lot over the years.

We keep trying! :-)

Out 4, 2010, 3:43am

Esta mensagem foi removida pelo seu autor.

Out 4, 2010, 3:44am

When I did my degree (I finished it in 1996), I didn't see the fees for non-UK students as a problem - we definitely got extra service for the extra money. We got VHS or audiocassette versions of all the broadcasts in advance, for instance, so there was no need for getting up at 5am to watch BBC2. The only real irritation was with tutorials for those courses where there weren't sufficient Benelux students to run them in The Hague or Brussels. Benelux was administratively part of Newcastle region (presumably because they had some spare capacity), so we got assigned to tutors in convenient, accessible spots like Penrith or Kendal. Some made an effort to provide support for the "foreign" students they'd been landed with, others just marked the TMA's.

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.

Nov 22, 2010, 12:15pm

Now that I have started my two final courses, I have compared my two tutors:
- 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! :-)

Nov 22, 2010, 12:47pm

Mine expects one person from the group to take notes at tutorials then copy and circulate them to absentees. Funny that - I thought he was the one being paid to teach the course. When I was teaching I spent hours preparing handouts and notes for the students - maybe that makes me a fool.

Nov 23, 2010, 6:16am

>note-taking at tutorials
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.

Nov 23, 2010, 6:51am

#42 Seriously! He obviously has a lesson plan which could just as easily be copied to use as handouts. I suspect he may not be so much a technophobe (he does have quite a bit of online contact to get through after all) as just someone who thinks tutoring OU is an easy ride.

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.

Nov 23, 2010, 10:57am

I suspect that your attitude to OU tutors might vary according to what else you've experienced: having previously been an undergraduate in a "conventional" university, and having done a bit of tutoring myself as a postgrad, I was very impressed by the standards the OU maintained. It's probably not the case any more but, thirty or so years ago, English universities were unbelievably casual about the way they ran teaching. Most of the time there was little evidence of any kind of planning or coordination of the various forms of tuition, no assessment of teaching quality, and no sort of follow up when things went wrong. Most departments were so short of people that anyone who wandered in off the street would be signed up for a few part-time teaching hours.

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.

Editado: Nov 23, 2010, 6:35pm

To be fair tutors are pretty badly paid and get naff-all for producing handouts. Nevertheless most do just that and not a few organise visits, provide extra links and so forth. Although I have had a couple of tutors I didn't much care for in the 16 or so courses I have taken all but one of them worked hard and did their best to be helpful.

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!

Nov 24, 2010, 7:52am

>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.

Nov 26, 2010, 2:36am

>46 soniaandree:
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!