Now that I’ve seen the light so to speak (the glaring headlights of the oncoming ED209 exam that is) I thought I might try to be a little bit more organised about notes for future courses, hence this little page which gathers the notes and comments for the courses I’ve done over the years. All the courses are from the Open University apart from a growing number from Open Yale and Coursera (which are indicated as appropriate). Current courses include:

2016 October DE300 Investigating Psychology 3, is billed as mainly online but in practice you can do almost everything via the ePUBs, PDFs, audio and video downloads (around 7GB in total). The TMAs are mainly marked by experts in the various fields which complicates TMA submission a touch and reduces the value of the feedback on them. My notes so far are at DE300RevisionNotes (these will be tidied up in due course).

——– In the frame for the following 12 to 18 months  ——–

Next up, I’d really like to get going on the masters where I’m looking at:

  • Mental Health Science at the OU;
  • Molecular Biology and Biotechnology at Queen’s, one year full-time or two part-time;
  • Translational Medicine at Queen’s, one year full-time;
  • Structural Molecular Biology at Birkbeck, two or three years distance learning;
  • Molecular Biology at Staffordshire, two years distance learning but with two summer schools; or
  • Medicinal Chemistry with the OU, three or four years distance learning.

At the moment, the MHS seems the front runner in that it combines the biology and psychology which seems a nice combination in principle. Very much as an after-thought at the moment, I’m also planning on gradually increasing the number of courses within my miscellaneous interesting courses degree with D240 Counselling: Exploring fear and sadness, November S283 Planetary science and the search for life,  the second 30 pointer for my Certificate in Astronomy and Planetary Science, being the top of my short list. Further down the road is A326 Empires: 1492-1975, the 60 point follow-on from the World Archaeology course that I did a few years back and A200 Medieval to modern history with the Creative Arts degree from the OU’s sister university, the Open College of the Arts remaining in my thoughts.

——– Notes and comments on previous courses follow ——–

2015 DD307 Social Psychology comes with just two text books but the project more than makes up for that. All the course materials are available on PDF and the videos are available via OUAnywhere. My notes are at DD307RevisionNotes.

2015 DXR222 Exploring Psychology Project is the project module corresponding to the main psychology project. The week starts relatively easy-going with lectures on topics on memory and communication but the pace really picks up when the project gets going. You choose a project broadly in one of the eight potential areas in memory and communication that were covered. There’s quite a bit of post-residential work to be done to get the project written up. All the course materials are available as PDFs. You’ll need access to some of the DSE212 course materials as well.

2014 DSE212 Exploring Psychology comes with what seems, in comparison the science level 2 courses, a surprisingly reasonably quantity of books: book 1 is two volumes and covers the basics of psychology, book 2 looks at a number of issues in psychology, and the third book is the methodology book. You get a normal DVD, a DVDROM (which is Windows but you seem to be able to watch the videos on Linux/Mac) and SPSS (for Windows and Mac; you can download the Linux version). All the course materials are available as PDFs. My notes, along with references to other revision resources, are at: DSE212RevisionNotes.

2015 April D171 Counselling, is useful to run alongside DSE212 as it expands somewhat on the content of chapter 9. This is a course about the theories behind counselling rather than being a practical counselling course so it can be a bit heavy going in parts. All the course materials are available as PDFs and you can get the videos on OUAnywhere.

2014 Principles of Evolution, Ecology and Behaviour [Open Yale], is quite an engaging course that covers a very wide ranging topic.

2014 SK320 Infectious disease and public health, should be the final course for my Life Sciences degree. It’s mostly online but you get the books as PDFs on the DVD sent about a month before the course starts and can get a printed version of the three books via print on demand for about £110 which seems quite expensive but you’re getting around 1400 pages for that. There’s a lot of reading to be done and tutorials nearly every week but it’s generally fairly easy going though with the volume of work you really need to start the revision quite early. Worth noting is that many people drop 20-30% from their assignment marks to their exam mark. This was the final one for my Life Sciences Degree.

2014 TM190 The story of maths, is a mix of history and maths which teaches you things like how to count in Egyptian. It comes with the Story of Maths TV series on four DVDs and the accompanying book but the course guide is online. The iCMAs are almost entirely on the maths parts of the course and the EMA is on the historical aspects so the marks vary widely.

2013 S346 Drug design and synthesis, ties in with SXR344 from last year. This starts off quite biological and turns into a chemistry course at the half-way mark. Just the one DVD with the molecular modelling software (which is downloadable for Linux, Mac and Windows). All the course materials are available on PDF. The tutorials can be serious affairs which generally kick off around 7.30pm and can run for as much as 2 1/2 hours. Overall, rather an intensive course for 20 points and one that doesn’t really come together until towards the end.

2013 The American Revolution [Open Yale], is a real insight into not only the American revolution but also into how political decisions come to be. Fascinating for us non-Americans though I’d love to know why it didn’t happen in Canada as things don’t appear to have been radically different there.

2013 S377 Molecular and cell biology, addresses the “we’ll explain this in more detail later” bits from book 3 of S204. Quite heavy going at times as you go through the course but fascinating when you get to revision time and can pull all the disparate threads together. You need to cover all the optional chapters of book 3, volume 2 from S204 as preparation (they’re available on the S377 course description). All the course materials are available on PDF but you’ll need Windows or VirtualBox to run the DVD. A very pleasing end to my Diploma in Life Sciences.

2013 Diabetes: Diagnosis, Treatment, and Opportunities [Coursera, UCLA], is a very approachable medical based course that brings you right up to date with the latest research.

2013 Social Psychology [Coursera, Wesleyan], is a bit of nuisance in some ways as you can’t record the lectures but it’s worth the hassle, ranging from interesting to totally fascinating throughout.

2013 A Brief History of Humankind [Coursera, Tel Aviv], is a course that if you go by the description sounds odd and you’d be right. But it’s odd in a good way, starting from the early humans (not just Homo Sapiens!) and motoring on right up to the present day. Recommended.

2013 Early Modern England: Politics, Religion, and Society under the Tudors and Stuarts [Open Yale], is presented in what seems a peculiar way: “this is how it was” rather than the story form of most history courses which makes it a bit of a struggle to keep going with it. So, fascinating content, but put across quite poorly.

2013 The Early Middle Ages, 284–1000 [Open Yale] covers a very varied stretch of history ranging from the end of the Roman empire through to the early days of the formation of Europe. Quite an enthralling period to cover and one which explains how a number of present day European political situations arose.

2013 Archaeology’s Dirty Little Secrets [Coursera, Brown], is a fascinating little course which examines the practice of archaeology through the eyes of four real-life digs: the expected Egypt and middle-eastern variety, of course, but also a South American and Caribbean one. One of those courses that I really miss.

2013 Information Security and Risk Management in Context[Coursera,Washington], is well presented when the lectures were prepared for Coursera, but very flakey for those that they’re recorded for other purposes which is a shame as those reused ones really pull down the overall feel of the course.

2013 European Civilization, 1648-1945 [Open Yale], ranges over the whole period of the bedding in of Europe and how the various conflicts along the way came about.

2013 S187 Elements of forensic science, gives you a broad overview of forensic science and therefore skims over quite a number of areas. You’d be best to have some genetics and chemistry behind you before starting this as otherwise it could be quite hard going in parts. The course materials are available on PDF but the course text isn’t. This completed my Certificate in Contemporary Science.

2012 S347 Metals and life, is a good complement to S377. Although it’s a chemistry course, the biology largely takes precedence. The course texts are available on PDF but there’s a lot of online multimedia stuff too. The S347 DVD works on Mac, Linux and Android (not iPad due to flash) but it also comes with the periodic table and physical methods DVDs from S205 which require Windows or VirtualBox. Very much an online course though you can download the totally online chapters using Firefox flash download addons if you want to.

2012 The modern world: global history since 1760 [Coursera, Virginia] is a really enthralling account of history from the start of the modern world at the end of the 1700s. Taught in very much a one to one tutorial style which I found very appealing.

2012 Astrobiology [Coursera, Edinburgh] is a very information packed introduction to astrobiology which is amongst the best presented courses I’ve ever encountered.

2012 A History of the World since 1300 [Coursera, Princeton], is a course that it seems to take a while to “get into” but once you do, it’s quite engaging.

2012 SD329 Signals and perception: the science of the senses, covers all the senses that you know about and several that you didn’t know you had. Quite a difficult course in parts if you’re coming to it without some biology, chemistry and psychology behind you but if you have those then it doesn’t seem to add a whole lot (ie not so interesting as you might expect). All the course materials are available as PDFs; you’ll need Windows or VirtualBox to run the DVD.

2012 SXR344 Organic synthesis: strategy and techniques is a very busy week of experimentation and tutorials that culminates in the preparation of your very own insect pheromone after three days of individual experimental. Quite scary in parts with a lot of individual work but there’s loads of help available and your confidence in the practical work builds enormously during the week. All the course materials are available as PDFs and the DVD runs on Android (not iPad due to flash).

2012 SXR376 The molecular basis of human disease, comes with around 200 pages of preparatory reading and virtual experiments. The week is split into genotyping DNA, analysis of protein production and a couple of days of additional related experiments. I for one was thoroughly impressed with what we’d done during the week when I got around to writing it up for the EMA. Sadly on its final run. All the course materials are available as PDFs; you’ll need Windows or VirtualBox to run the DVD.

2011 S205 The molecular world is a very time-consuming course due to the small mountain of course materials including 10 books of varying sizes, course guides and seven DVDs containing everything from 1970s vintage videos to assorted items of software. Although nothing is explicitly optional, in practice there’s a lot of choice in the exam so some sections can be treated as though they were optional when you’re revising. All the course materials are available as PDFs (on the website and on the DVDs too); you’ll need Windows or VirtualBox to run the DVD software.

2011 SK124 Understanding the Autism spectrum, is a peculiar course in terms of course duration being a 15 pointer running over six months which makes it appear to run at a fairly sedate pace. All the course materials are available as PDFs and the DVD runs very nicely on Android, Linux and Mac (not iPad due to flash).

2011 SA188 Archaeology: the science of investigation started in September. I was intending to leave it to the one side ’til after the S204 exam was out of the way but ended up doing most of it in the couple of weeks prior to the exam revision as it was fairly easy going and fascinating, a combination that usually means that I race through. It’s the how it’s done counterpart to A251 World Archaeology and comes with a heap of different materials from the usual study guide and course text through to DVDs and even a link with a real-life archaeological dig. It’s easy to underestimate the amount of reading as the course guide plus course text don’t seem that large but there seems to be about the same volume of reading on the DVD. Most course material is available on PDF (apart from the course book) but there’s a lot on the DVD and some on the website; there’s a lot of flipping between the various components which would be a nuisance without something like an Android tablet (iPad won’t do as there’s extensive use of flash video on the DVD).

2011 SXR375 Plants, pigments and light starts in late April when the pre-reading arrives. The compulsory CMA seems to be there largely to force you to do the pre-reading along with the very simple virtual experiments; results come out after the final residential week. The 3000 word EMA requires you to integrate the work of some other groups with that of your own and takes ages to do, although it didn’t seem that difficult. All the course materials are available as PDFs; you need Windows or VirtualBox to run the virtual experiments.

2011 SK195 Human genetics and health issues is one of those courses which really drag you in: the biology equivalent of SK185 in many ways. An engrossing course that’s fairly easy to do which is a combination that makes it fly by. All the course materials are available as PDFs.

2011 S204 Biology: uniformity and diversity arrived on December 15th in a frighteningly large size of box containing books with a combined page count easily twice the total of any previous 60 point course that I’ve done. That said, you only do about half the third book (although all of it is required for S377) and after that the course splits up into three separate options: animals+plants or animals+microbes or plants+microbes. Not a course to underestimate with almost 2000 pages of course text, over 250 of course guides and heaps of things on the two DVDs. All the course materials are available as PDFs; you’ll need Windows or VirtualBox to run the DVD software.

2011 TT281 Client side of application development would be very hard to keep up with if you tried to follow all of it with forums, daily seminars, an e-book to read (via the dire MyScribe), references to JavaScript books and probably more besides: a 30 point course packed into 10 points in many ways. You learn the basics of JavaScript during the course which makes it quite difficult if you don’t have some kind of programming background and very easy if you’ve done something like PHP, C, or similar before. It’s on its last run but will be incorporated into a 30 point course in 2012; it would be better to wait for that and avoid the TT format courses which sometimes seem like a marathon of fast sprints. All the materials are available as PDFs though you’ve to produce your own PDF of the ebook.

2010 A251 World Archaeology is a bit heavy going in the first week when it gets into definitions of archaeology but seems readable enough when it gets into the archaeology itself although I’m glad that it doesn’t have an exam as I wouldn’t want to have to remember everything that’s covered. The course runs at a 60 point workload and doesn’t hang around which is a shame as I often felt that I’d like to wallow in the texts a bit more rather than racing on to the next topic. The assignments have a very tight word count so you need to be very focused and not try to cover the whole world as the book does. Count on doing a lot of work for the ECA both in terms of research and reading of articles that you find. Despite what sometimes seems like a 90 point workload, this is a course that I genuinely miss doing: strongly recommended. All the course materials (including the bits of the massive course book that you use) are available as PDFs.

2010 S171 Empire of the microbes is a wonderful introduction to biology and a great warm-up for S204. Quite a wide-ranging course dipping into everything from diseases through farming to extra-terrestrial planets. It’s a good introduction to the microbes material in S204. All the course materials are available as PDFs.

2010 TT280 Web applications: design, development and management would be fairly hard going if you’ve not done CSS and HTML before. Study guides are released three weeks before they’re needed which is a nuisance. It’s on its last run but will be incorporated into a 30 point course in 2012; it would be better to wait for that and avoid the TT format courses which sometimes seem like a marathon of fast sprints. Everything except the main course book is available as a PDF.

2010 SK185 Medicines, molecules and microbes is a fascinating introduction to chemistry and comes with a molecular modelling kit that is used throughout the course. The book starts from a very basic level and takes you into serious chemistry so is a good lead-in to S205. All the course materials are available as PDFs.

2010 S282 Astronomy starts off easy enough with astronomy (ie the stars) before moving on to the rather more mathematical cosmology. The TMAs follow that progression too with the fourth one being pretty much entirely mathematical. That change requires a change in approach to the answers too. Pulling out the chapter summaries, adding the learning outcomes and a few diagrams produces an excellent revision document. More of a 45 point course than a 30 pointer if you were doing all the activities (many are optional). The exam is very difficult. All the course materials are available as PDFs.

2010 S196 Planets is a bit dry and has a dated and dull feel to it thanks to it being based around the Teach Yourself Planets book (which you get in the course mailing and as a PDF). The CMA has 17 multiple choice questions with five written ones for the ECA. Together the two of them require you to know a fair amount of information from the course. All the course materials are available as PDFs.

2010 SXR270 Investigative Biology was a lovely re-introduction to lab work. It takes about 10 hours or so to get the pre-course reading done and there’s a 1000 word write-up of one of the experiments plus three short-ish questions to answer for the ECA; all very doable. You could do this as a standalone course as the background science briefings are quite comprehensive and might even manage with just the pre-session briefings as they are easier to follow than the printed briefings and quite complete too. All the course materials apart from the set book (which you don’t need to bring to the residential) are available as PDFs.

2010 S151 Maths for science is a very practically oriented introduction to the maths you need for most sciences. It starts off at quite a basic level and takes you up to degree level maths in very doable steps. You’d need more maths than this for physics but it looks fine for all the other sciences. The ECA is a multiple choice online one which you can spend as much time over as you like; it’s best to try the sample ECA first as entering some of the answers needs more thought than working out the answers themselves. All the course materials are available as PDFs.

2009 SK121 Understanding Cardiovascular Diseases is a surprisingly medical course starting off with two seriously heavy duty chapters going through heaps of medical terminology; after those it’s a much easier ride. A fascinating course which ties in well with SK277. No notes for this as the TMA and ECA are quite doable directly from the course texts. All the course materials are available as PDFs. Sadly there’s no Tim-equivalent for the

2009 SK277 Human Biology course so I had to run up my own notes on it which you’ll find here. These are targeted at the June 2010 exam so they only cover the chapters highlighted by the course team for the essays. For the short question revision I pulled out all the learning outcomes and section summaries into one fantastic 27 page document but sadly I can’t upload it as it’s entirely OU copyright. A really fascinating course that’s doable even if you haven’t any biology behind you (though the first book is heavy going if that’s the case). All the course materials are available as PDFs. I’ve collected together all my

2009 ED209 Child Development notes and other resources here. ED209 is an interesting course but you’ll find that the first month is very hard indeed if you haven’t done DSE212 beforehand. This is the first one of my planned Psychology Degree but that’s taken a back seat to the Life Sciences Degree for the time being as they’re doing away with the named science degrees. All the course materials are available as PDFs.

2008 PHIL 176 Death [Open Yale], is one of those courses that really drags you in. Shelly’s laid back style belies his deep understanding of the arguments and it’s the arguments that philosophy is all about. An absolutely fascinating course that really makes you think.

2008 PSYC 110 Introduction to Psychology [Open Yale], is a very useful overview of psychology and a great way to try it out as a subject before signing up for a formal course.

—  Comments only below this as language courses don’t really need revision notes —

2008 U211 Exploring the English Language was the easiest course I’ve done so far, basically because I’d done a number of aspects of it beforehand in either the French or Spanish diplomas. If you’re coming to this with a foreign languages background you’ll find it easy (it only took me three hours a week to do), if you’re coming to it with a literature background you’ll find it heavy going. I didn’t bother with notes on this and just leafed over the books as revision. This was the last one for my Modern Languages Degree.

2007 L314 A Buen Puerto: fast forward in Spanish, follows on seamlessly from L204; a nice end to the Diploma in Spanish.

2006 L204 Viento en Popa: moving on in Spanish includes the excellent residential in Santiago which comes with very civilised accommodation. Fairly laid-back with a mix of Hispanic and Spanish tutors on the residential.

2005 LZX140 En Rumbo: A fresh start in Spanish was much a much better integrated course than the French equivalent. Interestingly, the fluency kicked in at the off with this so I guess the first second language enables whatever it is within your brain that handles foreign languages.

2004 L310 Nouvelle Mises au Point was very dated when I did it but I gather it’s had a proper refresh after the name-change. This completed my Diploma in French which is something that I never ever thought I’d have.

2003 L211 Nouvelle Envol, was all over the place as they bolted on Horizons to bring it up to 60 points. I gather that it had a proper refresh after the name-change. The residential in Caen is useful though don’t expect luxurious accommodation.

2003 LXR122 Action in French is an incredibly intensive course and the one that flicked me over into proper fluency in the language. Much better than the residential that’s part of L211.

2002 L120 Ouverture, a nice introduction to French but don’t believe them when they say that a GCSE is enough to begin this course; an A-level is more than enough so in practice something between the two is where you want to be. Combining this with Alliance Française got me to proper fluency in the language in about nine months which I think is pretty amazing.

My first experience with the OU was through watching the Saturday morning programmes way back in the 1970s but it was 2001 S194 Introducing Astronomy that ended up being my first course. I did it basically as an introduction for me as to how the OU worked. To be truthful, I can’t remember a whole lot about it as it seemed to pass in a flash.

S345 L3/20 Chemical change and environmental applications

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