Misleading course reviews

Since the Open University basically sells its wares online, obviously a lot of effort goes into making sure course descriptions are as accurate and complete as possible.

Thus, not only do you get a description of what the course teaches but you get sections on the entry requirement (ie what experience/knowledge you need in advance), the qualifications that the course can be included in, any issues that could arise if you’re disabled, what course materials you get, how the teaching and assessment work and other courses that those taking this course took. As well as this there are often links to course tasters and reviews of the course by previous students. In short, a whole lot of information about the course.

The problem is that the course reviews for some courses are very misleading. It’s not that they’re intentionally so but that they are, understandably, written with the background of the reviewer in mind. Thus, for example, Exploring English (U211) comes across as a very difficult course that will take much more than the recommended 16 hours a week to complete. Yet, I actually completed the course in around 3 hours per week. How come? Well, the majority of people doing that course come from an English literature background and it’s a language course. I came from a foreign languages background and thus had come across the majority of the concepts before so making the work rather easy.

In a similar vein, Web Applications (TT280) which I’m doing at the moment has received a string of really bad reviews yet when you read blogs about it, they seem to be talking about a completely different course. Part of that is down to changes that have been made in the course over the years but a larger part is down to this being an almost entirely online course. Now you might think that those doing a web apps course would be more likely than normal students to expect to be reading things from a computer screen but many of the complaints are from people who couldn’t and gave off at having to print off mountains of paper. Similarly, you whilst you’d want such a course to be quite up to date, other complaints are that parts were being written as the course was being run which is obviously as up to date as you’re likely to get. Still more complained about the extremely high workload yet I’m three weeks ahead in less than one week and haven’t been knocking myself out doing that either. Very much a love it or loathe it course I think.

What’s really needed is a short background to the people making these comments though I guess that would be problematical with data protection these days. It’s, of course, why the most useful comments are from bloggers where you can usually get a flavour of their background.

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