Monday, 19 November 2012

Why do I do OU?

I was sat here last night, without the computer turned on, doing a bit of reading for my OU module "Understanding Global Heritage" and struggling a bit with some of the wordier bits.  I began to think (as an undercurrent, in that prevarication sort of way you do when you are getting a bit bored with whatever you are meant to be doing) why I put myself through this year after year.  Why was I so upset when the OU put the fees up this year meaning that once I've achieved this Humanities degree under the transitional arrangements I can't possibly afford to go on studying?  What is it about studying at the OU or Barnsley University Campus or even Barnsley College that seems to make life more livable.

I tried a variety of answers (and I had to write them in pencil on the back of one of the sheets of my study guide and wow! did just 100 words hurt my wrist and thumb!):
  • to gain a degree - well it can't be that as I've already got one
  • to learn more stuff  - nope not that either, I could just read the books
  • to meet like minded people - well it could be, but I've blown it for this year with the tutorials being in York
  • to keep busy - getting warmer although I could just do more Family History, or volunteer more at the Eldon Centre or join more societies - ah, if I was well enough to get out and about any more
  • to feel worthy - increase my self respect, self improvement is a GOOD thing, protestant work ethic and all that and seeing as I haven't got a  job ... studying is the next best thing
  • to stop my brain seizing up  - oddly I do enjoy the deadlines, doing the TMAs (Tutor Marked Assessments, they make me HAVE to do things, I can't put them off or I would have wasted money
  • because it's something I can do EVEN THOUGH I'm not very well - I can work at home, with my feet up on the sofa or even in bed
The current transitional arrangements at the OU meant that I have had to declare an aim (the qualification that I was trying for) in order to get the rest of the modules that counted towards that qualification at the old fee rate. 

The old fees were in the realm of £700 for a 60 point module (that's half a year of undergraduate study from a usually three year course), the new fees are £2500 for the same course.  If you have no degree you can get a student loan, if you already have one, tough, if you want to study for personal development, career change, or just for something to do then you will have to pay the full wack.

I had been collecting various modules since I started work at Sheffield Hallam University (SHU) in 2001.
DD201 Sociology and society (2011)
AT308 Cities and technology: from Babylon to Singapore (2007)
MST121 Using mathematics (2006)
M150 Data, computing and information (2005)
M248 Analysing data (2004)
MDST242 Statistics in society (2003)

As you can see they show a change in direction, not history any longer, but maths, computing and social sciences.  I started off doing things that were useful for work and then threw in AT308 because it was about architecture, something I knew very little about, but it did have links, of course, to history.

I didn't really have an aim, and I had actually stopped studying at the OU after AT308 as I became more ill and couldn't manage real work and study at the same time.  I did my PTTLS (Preparing to Teach in the Life Long Learning Sector) certificate at Barnsley College (one evening a week) with my daughter in 2008/9 and my Advanced ECDL (European Computer Driving Licence) in 2009/10 as part of my over arching plan to change my career to part time teaching, which I hoped I could manage when commuting to Sheffield and the stress of Student Records at SHU all got too much for me.  I started a PGCE at Barnsley University Campus (part of Huddersfield Uni) in the autumn of 2010, by which time SHU had begun the process of terminating my contract due to ill health. 

Unfortunately I wasn't able to complete the PGCE - the 8 hours a week in service (actual teaching) they stated at the interview actually became full time after Easter 2011 and there was no way I could manage that.  Just catching up what I had missed in early 2011 when my father died took weeks and eventually I had had to throw in the towel, with all my academic work completed, but short half my practical teaching hours.  I do now say I'm three-quarters of a teacher and the Uni did recently send me a certificate to say I had successfully completed half the course (they didn't count the last two essays I submitted - and passed -  as I hadn't done the teaching practise to go with them). 

So why back to the OU again in 2011 for DD201?  Because I had my redundancy money and I could, I suppose.  I had enjoyed the sociology bits of the PGCE and thought the OU module might expand on that.  It didn't really but it was equally interesting in lots of different ways. 

Then they announced the fee increases and the transitional arrangements.  I hadn't thought I qualified for the transitional arrangements because of my pre-existing degree, but I was chatting to the invigilator at my Sociology exam (I got rest breaks because of my ill-health) and she said I should enquire as she was sure I did.  However I had to make a decision about what my aim was and register that quite quickly to qualify.  And I would have to study at least one module a year from then onwards without a break until I had achieved it.  So no time off, no rest years, no leisurely thinking about what to do next.

After a lot of work with the OU qualification calculator I worked out that I could have a BSc (Hons) Open (not a named degree, just one that is in nothing in particular) straight away using the maths and computing modules or I could add a few more modules and go for a BA Humanities.  Either would end up being 2:1 as my level 3 credits for AT308 and the module I did online with Oxford Uni (yes, they are allowing me to count that as well) are that grade. 

The second option gave me the chance of two more years at £700 a module so I plumped for that.  Hence Heritage this year and "From Enlightenment to Romanticism" next year. Lots of reading, which I can do while resting and exams at the end, but I've got that sussed now after the palaver with the doctor for a note for the Sociology exam. 

What will I do after that?  Well at least I shouldn't have to worry about that until 2014.  But as you can tell, I have already started ... worrying that is!!

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