Sunday, 29 September 2013

On your marks, get set. . .

Right on cue, on Friday September 20th, my S141 OU course materials arrived. Exciting stuff! Having said that, excitement was dampened somewhat when I opened my package to find two vital items missing - the 'mugmat' (a piece of plastic to be used in an experiment) and the pH paper. An email and phone call followed to 'dispatch' to get the missing bits posted. Well they are going to have to get their skates on because the 'mugmat exercise'  takes place on Week 1, as a sort of ice-breaker exercise to get us using the tutorial technology and communicating with fellow students online. So without this piece of plastic I am going to struggle a bit!

Anyway, no panic just yet, I will trust in the OU to sort it out. Meanwhile, my tutor is called Dr Victoria Nicholas, who will hopefully prove as good as the excellent Gordon Woodhead who was my tutor for S104. I've already made a start on the 'Maths for Science' book by whizzing  through the first couple of chapters of basic maths skills revision. Nothing too demanding there but useful revision nevertheless. 

Today, around lunchtime I joined a 'drop-in session' designed to check that the technology involved in the on-line tutorial sessions was working and that we were okay with using it. From my perspective, I had no experience of the OU's previous online tutorial system, which apparently has more than a few glitches associated with it. The new system, 'OU Online' seems pretty good if today's short taster is anything to go by. How things go with about ten students and a tutor all trying to converse at once, I'll find out on October 8th. Should be fun, provided of course that I receive a bloody mugmat!

I intend to use this next week to work through a chapter or two of Understanding the Weather and try to get ahead a bit. I found when doing S104 and also the short ten point courses, that it is always a good idea to give yourself a bit of a buffer just in case life throws a spanner in the works, stopping you studying for a week or two. 

So initial impressions are very good. I've taken a couple of years break from OU study and while a multitude of changes have taken place and are indeed still ongoing, my instinct says that ultimately things are going to be just fine. I find myself really excited about study and testing myself. There's nothing riding on it really. I will be studying stuff that excites me and I am studying because I want to and that ladies and gentlemen, is what education should be all about!

See you next time,

Monday, 9 September 2013

Fourteen days and counting. . . .

So, this is it. Game on! After what seems like years of planning and with two unconditional offers from two universities reluctantly turned down, it's back to the Open University, to recommence what I started in 2008. 

On September 26th the website for S141:  Investigative and Mathematical Skills in Science opens for business. Building on the 60 level 1 credits already achieved with the science foundation module S104, this 30 credit course adds some experimental design experience plus meteorology and a whole lot of serious maths!

Strangely enough it is the maths that I'm looking forward to the most in this course. I think it is with maths that I have most to prove - to myself at least. Way back in 1978, I failed my 'A' level maths spectacularly with a grade 'F'. But I have always  believed that that failure was more down to the inadequacies of Mr Wells' teaching than any inability on my part. Well now I have the opportunity to prove myself right and Mr Wells wrong. 

I have never forgotten the day when Gary Bennett and I, desperately struggling with a particular maths problem, went to the staff room together to ask Mr Wells for some extra help. His response was thus:
"Are you lads going to throw the towel in? If you are struggling it means you need to work harder"! 
No extra help was offered and from that point on I did indeed 'throw the towel in'. I simply gave up on maths and concentrated on trying to pass Geography and Physics which would be enough  to do the Geology BSc course at Oxford  Polytechnic. An offer of two 'D's was more than achievable!

Alas it was not to be as a narrow fail in Physics sent me to Luton College of HE to do a Geographical Techniques Higher  Diploma instead. The rest as they say, is history!

Well now is the time to 'right a wrong' and study the subject closest to my heart plus other areas of science as the urge takes me as I journey towards an Open Degree. I'm sure a bit of astronomy will get in there somewhere in all probability. 

For now I will be pondering the weather, trying to ascertain why the forecasters get it wrong so often. Alongside that will be a multitude of mathematical problems to wrestle with which is designed to set you up for the level of maths required at higher levels of scientific study. S141 rounds off with experiment design, which might be useful for Geology and maybe even astronomy.
Should be a laugh and a challenge and I will keep you posted.

Cheers for now,