What it’s like to study ~ AA100 ~ The Arts Past and Present at the Open University

This post is all about the Open University module “AA100 The Arts Past and Present”. When I began my Open University adventure three years ago, this was the first module that I took. It’s now been replaced by “A111 Discovering the arts and humanities”. Looking through the description for A111 some of the content looks suspiciously similar to AA100 which makes me think that this post may still be useful. AA100 was an “interdisciplinary” module, which means the it covered lots of different subjects. You probably already knew that’s what “interdisciplinary” means … but I didn’t when I started.

One of the most exciting days for almost any Open University module is the day that the course books arrive. I say ‘almost’ because I think that some modules are now entirely online. Anyway, AA100 had books; lots of them. There were seven in all: four text books on different topics, two books of art images, and a study companion (study tips). There were also CDs and DVDs.

The book pack also included an assignment guide. This described the assignments for the year, including the questions that we would be expected to answer over the coming months. So, in August I already knew the questions that I would be answering in October, December, March etc.

The module books were divided into chapters, each of which was scheduled to take a week to work through. Each chapter covered a different subject. For example, Book 1 “Reputations” had chapters on classics, English literature, art history, history, music and religious studies.

In addition to the books, the module also included an online study planner and regular face-to-face tutorials. I travelled about twenty miles to get to my tutorials but I know that some people had to travel a lot further. The tutorials were really helpful but they weren’t very well attended. For two of mine I was the only student who turned up. The tutorials were timed just before assignments were due which meant that they were a good opportunity to listen for clues for what the tutor would be looking for when marking.

Assignments are an integral part of studying with the OU. The idea is to periodically check that you’ve understood what you have learnt so far. The assignments for AA100 were all essays. In Open University jargon these periodic assignments are known as “TMA”s. Some of the early essays were very short – a sort of warm up. In each case there was a choice of essays so if one question didn’t catch your imagination another might. Each of the questions directly related to one or more chapters in the module books. Having the questions in advance meant that it was easy to spot which chapters needed lots of attention and which could be skimmed through (or skipped when things were getting really tight).

The module ended with an “EMA” which is an end of module assignment. It was just like a TMA, but the essay was longer. Again, there was a choice of questions and these were listed in the assignment guide.

The marks for the TMA and EMA assignments counted towards the overall module score. When I took the module, the pass mark was 40% for the TMAs and 40% for the EMA. The TMAs and EMA are submitted for marking via an online system. It took a couple of weeks for my tutor to mark and return each of my TMAs. They were returned lots feedback from my tutor. The EMA was different. It took a couple of months to come back and when it did there was no feedback. My tutor had explained that this would be the case, but it was still frustrating not having notes explaining what I had done well … and not so well.

All-in-all I loved AA100. I really enjoyed studying a wide range of topics. The module introduced me to subjects that I had never tried before, most of which I enjoyed. My favourites were probably classics, philosophy and religious studies. It also showed me that some subjects were not for me (history and English literature … meh). You may have spotted that I haven’t mentioned creative writing. Well that’s because it wasn’t covered in AA100, but it was included in my next module “A105 Voices, texts and material culture” which will be the subject of a later blog.

I hope that this blog has been helpful and if you’d like to find out about the Open University’s new module A111 Discovering the arts and humanities, here’s a link to the Open University’s information page:

http://www.open.ac.uk/courses/qualifications/details/a111

Copyright 2019, Noa Summerlock.

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