I intended to blog quite frequently on my way through my first module with the OU. Part of the problem has been that it has overtaken my life! On reflection, how could it do anything else but that. What I will do in this piece is try and describe my expeience as an OU newbie to a slightly less than newbie!
So, the lovely books arrived and I flicked through them before the official start date, but didn’t begin in earnest until that date. In future I will begin as soon as the books arrive. There is no finer a feeling than getting ahead – only experienced twice in the last seven months!
You begin the reading and you complete what they call the dummy TMA01. TMAs are the means by which your personal tutor keeps track of your progress I guess. You have a cut-off date when the work has to be uploaded by. TMA01 doesn’t have any real work in it as such, it just familiarises you with the idea of how to lay things out, title the work and submit it.
I worked through the first chapters and you tend to think, ‘Well this isn’t so bad…’. But at some point, and it seems so long ago now I could not say when, it starts to feel like work. Getting that first proper TMA in is a lovely feeling, a real accomplishment. An evenings work including checking and rechecking in my case.
This carries on for some time. The subject matter is inspiring. I have had so many questions answered whilst reading these books. I have also learnt things I could never in my wildest dreams have believed I would ever learn, let alone in the detail I have.
If you are thinking of studying S104 or have started, the BIG change comes with book 4, Chemistry. I had seen mention of this before I got there, and there is a document on the site that warns you too, if you come across it. Book 4 is a beast. Clearly a lot thicker than what came before, it teaches you chemistry and bio chemistry. To a complete chemistry newbie like me, it felt at times as if I was taking a degree in chemistry itself! There is so, so much detail in there. You can’t remember it all, but I see now that they had to go into the detail it does just to be able to teach you the stuff that comes later. In the end it is a very satisfying experience. The books are extremely well written, in my opinion.
As the course progresses, the TMAs become increasingly more difficult, detailed and longer. By TMA04 (Chemistry), you are looking at a week of evenings to get it done. I took a day off work the day before submission to ensure it went in. Always try and submit the night before, don’t work up to the wire, you will fry your brain!
Then F5 (refresh) in your browser becomes the predominant internet traffic on your broadband line. You will be watching the TMA results section avidly every hour, half hour, five minutes hoping your result have been returned. When that % number appears, it is such a relief. Get a good result and it will boost your confidence immeasurably. Mark-wise, the TMAs have no bearing on your final pass mark. Shame really but that is the nature of a degree I gather. But, you do need to attain an average mark of 40% in the TMAs to be able to take the final exam. Without the TMA pass, you can not pass the module.
By the time I reached the final compulsory section, Life, I thought I could never understand any of it. Biology was something that held no interest whatsoever for me, how could I learn? I was in the happy position that the first five TMAs had taken me above the 40% pass for the TMAs, so didn’t even need to submit that final one. But I became a convert. The chemistry before had given biology a completely new twist for me. Describing the structure of proteins and membranes at molecular level was just an eye-opener, never to be forgotten. So I did the TMA, took a lot of time over it, researching and understanding and made 84%. I did better in others, but that one felt like a real achievement for me. The chemistry TMA came second in the achievement scale at 1% higher!
Ok, so where am I now? In twenty two days time, I will be sitting at a desk in Canterbury taking the exam. Taking an exam is going to be a totally different experience to completing the TMAs. They allow you to spend time working on them and all materials and resources may be used. In the exam it all relies on me remembering stuff. A certain amount of the physics stuff still seems to be in my head from my past forays into higher education. I think. So a couple of weeks of intense revision and hopefully I can pull this off.
What would it mean to pass? I haven’t taken an exam since 1986 at Plymouth Polytechnic. I have wanted to ever since, never made it. When you don’t have to, it is not easy to make yourself, especially when life gets busy and learning is no longer your sole focus in life. If I pass, it means I can carry on with the next part, which I *really* want to do. I have signed up for two 30 credit modules, MST124 Essential Mathematics and S141, Mathematical Techniques and Methods. One reason I started the course is that I have been trying to find a maths course to study for years. You can’t as a working adult, there are none. This way you get to do that and more. S141 too, that seems like the perfect course for me. I could not believe when I saw the subject matter – weather! I am an enthusiastic weather observer and recorder (https://g6afy.info/wxsat) and having to do it for an OU course and in depth? Heaven. So I am looking forward to next year, well October start, very much. That means I get about four weeks between finishing one and starting the next. I ‘m not even sure I want that gap, it will feel odd not being at the books first thing in the morning and after work, it has become a way of life. The housework has suffered somewhat, but that can wait a bit longer. But the other hobbies have not been progressed for some months. I will probably get back into my Pi projects.
Conclusion… If you’re thinking about OU study, don’t think for one second more. If you can afford it, sign up NOW. You can’t lose. Pass or fail, you win. You learn something, a lot in fact. I wanted to study with the OU since I was really quite young, before I even understood what it was. At 52, it is no disappointment and is even better than I imagined.
Please leave comments or ask questions 🙂