Powered by MathJax From GCSE Maths, to Rocket Scientist...: Open University Tutorials

Wednesday, 22 June 2011

Open University Tutorials

O.U Tutorials, hmmm, I have mixed feelings about them.  I have studied a total of 8 modules with the O.U, over the last 7 years.  These include both level 1, 2 and 3 courses in Science and Humanities.

From my own experience, I have noticed a difference in the quality of the tutorials, that the O.U offers with each course.  I have also noticed, that within those 8 modules, there has been some correlation between the academic level of the course, and the quality of the tutorial.

Firstly, let me qualify exactly what I am describing, when I speak of quality.  For me, quality in a tutorial consists of the following elements (other people's ideas of quality, will undoubtedly diverge).

Intellectual level, not too low.

More 'university lecture', than 'group chat'.

Not 'dumbed down', to the lowest common denominator.

Provides actual benefit and consolidates concepts, rather than just a few unconnected exercises done in small groups.

A  tutor with significant exposure to their field through either lecturing experience or research.

Takes place at a University, rather than in a village hall or dark, damp community college room.

Are of substantial length and content (typically a whole day or morning, rather than 45mins / 1hr at night - midweek).

All of these elements are, for me, important in making the experience of tutorials, worth having.  What I have found, is that most of my level one courses, have less of the above 'wish list', whilst some of my level 2 and 3 courses, have had very comprehensive tutorial programmes, held in the environment of a 'red brick' University, and some have been with leading professionals, in their field's.  For these types of tutorials / lectures, I have pre-booked annual leave from work, just so that I can attend.

I find that I very rarely attend more than the odd level 1 tutorial, half of my Level 2 lectures and nearly all of my level 3 tutorials.  I suspect that there are so many students at level 1, that there aren't enough quality venues and even less, experienced or learned professors, to cope with that level of students.  It seems that those courses with a small Nationwide interest, in very specialist fields, seem to benefit from some very interesting tutors and better structure and loci.

I am, of course, speaking in broad terms.  There are, as always, exceptions.  These include an exceptional level 1 French course that I studied in 2007 with a fantastic tutor who held very well designed and useful tutorials, that were full of opportunities to practice speaking and listening with other students.  Also, whilst my current MST121 tutorials don't meet most of  my criteria above; they are run by a tutor who is quite clearly an intelligent and capable scholar.

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