What it’s like to study ~ A105 ~ Voices, Texts and Material Culture at the Open University

A105 Voices, Texts and Material Culture

This post is about the Open University module “A105 Voices, Texts and Material Culture”. I took this module last year as the recommended second module for my degree course. This module is expected to run for another couple of years after which it will be replaced. A105 is an “interdisciplinary” module, covering art history, classics, creative writing, English language, English literature, heritage studies, history, music, philosophy and religious studies. It follows on from “AA100 The Arts Past and Present” which I’ve written about previously.

The A105 book pack included four text books on different topics, and supporting CDs. Like AA100, each text book chapter was designed to take a week to complete. An assignment guide was provided online, this described the assignments for the year and the questions that we would be expected to answer. If you’d like to know more about how essay-based assignments work see my blog about AA100.https://noasummerlock.com/2019/04/28/whats-it-like-to-study-aa100-the-arts-past-and-present-at-the-open-university/

Despite the similarities with AA100, A105 differed in subtle ways. First, it didn’t feel as well conceived as AA100 and I think I read somewhere that it was created by bashing together two old modules – it certainly felt like that. Second, each book has a specific theme running through all of the chapters. For example, Book 2 was all about authority. this meant that every chapter stressed, and re-stressed the importance of authority within its particular subject. It became a bit of a stuck record after a while. Third, two of the assignments included online group working, which got mixed reviews at best.

I found the first group assignment ok. Our tutor divided us up into small groups and we were given an online task to complete. Our task wasn’t very hard and I think that most of us muddled through it without too much trauma (although some students chose not to participate). The main purpose of the assignment was for us to practice working together as a group. It also gave us chance to become familiar with the Open University’s online forum and wiki systems.

For the following assignment, we were once again put into groups by our tutors. In my case I knew some of the names from the practice assignment but there were new names too. Our group task was to produce either an essay, or piece of creative writing, on a particular topic. The task was designed so that all students would receive the same mark for the completed piece irrespective of how much they had contributed. There was then a small top-up mark to reflect personal contribution. I found the marking scheme and the whole assignment really stressful – to the point that I nearly dropped out of the module. I think the hardest thing was that some of us wanted to try hard to produce the best work we could, whereas others wanted to do the bare minimum. Hopefully the Open University will change the way that this assignment works. It was meant to teach us how to “collaborate” but by the end of the assignment collaborating was the last thing that most of us wanted to do.

The module included face-to-face tutorials and day schools. The tutorials were about twenty miles from where I live but the day schools were two hours away. I went to one day school but, apart from meeting some lovely fellow students, it didn’t seem worth the travel time. The day was split into different sessions, of which only some felt useful.

Instead of having an EMA like AA100, the module ended with a three-hour exam. The exam topics were released early in the academic year along with an example paper. This meant that there was plenty of time to decide which subjects to revise. The exam paper was divided into three sections with a choice of questions for each. Within each section, students needed to answer just one question, which linked to one subject. Many people suggested revising their three favourite subjects for the exam, plus a back-up for each section (in case your ‘favourite’ subject had a particularly horrible question). I decided to just revise one subject for each section – and then kept my fingers tightly crossed!

There were parts of A105 that I enjoyed, particularly the creative writing chapter and classics, but I struggled to engage with a lot of the other material. As a result I didn’t really enjoy the module and I was glad when it was over. But, it may be that you would enjoy it, many people did.

I hope that this blog has been helpful and if you’d like to find out about the Open University’s module A105 Voices, Texts and Material Culture, here’s a link to the Open University’s information page:


Copyright 2019, Noa Summerlock.

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