DD303, Moodle and OUSA

I posted too soon yesterday. Tucked away in the OUSA DD303 conference, neatly placed under a folder called useful stuff is a wealth of mind-maps and notes created since 2005 by previous students! I was particularly taken by a set of mind-maps created by Glynis Freeman, partly because they give some idea of the scope of the course and partly because despite my best efforts, I can’t create mind-maps myself (though I do find other people’s efforts useful).

I’ve downloaded the things that I think may be of use to me already, because of the impending move by the OU from FirstClass to Moodle, an open source virtual learning environment. The confusion that seems to reign in the OUSA Moodle Feedback forum is such that I’m not taking any risks in such potentially valuable content being successfully moved to whatever environment the OU and OUSA eventually decide to use to replace the FirstClass forums.

It’s arguable that the days of  OUSA (but not the OU) needing to provide a closed forum environment for students is long gone, with the rise of independent study groups on Yahoo! and Facebook set up by interested participants, but I for one will be sad to see FirstClass and the myriad of strange (and often sparsely populated) OUSA forums finally go (in July 2010?).

It’s interesting to note that OUSA’s own priorities for forum migration (as expressed in a recent posting to the Moodle feedback forum) is OUSA business forums first, followed by the OUSA study support forums, followed by the social forums. While it’s perhaps understandable that the stduent organisation needs to talk to itself and support its democratic processes, this task could be simplified by rationalising the rarely used myriad of business and branch forums to – let’s be really radical here – one, supported by managed web content and blogs for everything else. The stuff that’s of real value to most students is in the OUSA study support forums – and these (as we found out on ED209) are largely redundant if the course team runs a great closed conference. As for the social forums, they’re definitely a nice to have rather than an essential. I really wouldn’t mind too much if, for example, the OUSA Computer Games, Eurovision, Reality TV and Muppetania forums were to be quitely retired.

Charting the course of Moodle implementations within the university, it seems to me as if the OU and OUSA are painfully discovering what software and IT professionals have known for a long time: even if the application is free (as in the case of Moodle), it doesn’t mean that it costs nothing to deploy, manage and use it. The investment made by the OU in employing programmers, designers and other IT staff to ensure Moodle meets the demanding requirements of the university must be pretty considerable already. There’s no way to know for sure outside of the OU team responsible for the programme, but I wonder if the actual (re-)development costs that the OU has had to invest in making Moodle meet their requirements have been more or less than remaining on FirstClass with some determined negotiation on licence fees and/or functional upgrades?

Judging by the reaction on the OUSA Moodle Feedback forum, there would certainly have been far less angst from the OU’s customers, the students. It’s not just angst, either, but potential lost revenue from course fees. Some OU students have been so disappointed with the capabilities seen elsewhere in other Moodle implementations (inside and outside of the OU) that a small minority have even said they will no longer study with the OU once Moodle becomes the standard. Personally, I’d never go that far as its the course content I’m primarily interested in, but it will certainly be interesting to see how participation in OU and OUSA forums changes (for better or worse) next year.

Thinking about DD303

With only 26 days left to go before the ED209 results are out (and it may be earlier if the experience of previous years OU results are to go by), I’ve started to have a look to see if there are any useful resources out on the Internet that might help me get a flavour for DD303 before the course books arrive. According to my OU homepage, this is due to be on the same day that the ED209 results are out on 18th December.

I don’t seem to have found that much, really. There are a small number of podcasts on consciousness taken from the course that the OU has posted in beta form, there’s a 10 hour module on attention on the OU’s OpenLearn site which has apparently been taken from DD303 and the course team’s recommendation to read Principles of Cognitive Psychology by Michael W. Eysenck before the course starts. Other than that, there’s not much else out there with the exception of a few blog posts and tweets from previous students, mostly about how much they were dreading the exam or that DD303 didn’t interest them as they didn’t like statistics.

I’m hoping that Erika Cox will be offering her excellent revision notes for sale again, but at the time of writing her site is still referencing the availability of notes for the 2009 presentation. Hopefully 2010 notes will be available after the course starts at the end of January.

My intention is to make a start on DD303 around Christmas, so that my usual practice of trying to get a draft of the first TMA completed in advance of tutorial one is achievable. I did that for ED209 last year and just about managed to cross the finish line for the course in time for the October exam. Life and work has this annoying habit of getting in the way of the OU!

What next?

There’s a large ED209 shaped hole in my life at the moment. DD303 doesn’t start until January 30th next year, though I see from my Open University homepage that the materials will be with me sometime before Christmas. An early start for DD303 appeals in exactly the same way as it did for ED209: in other words, absolutely essential, if I’m going to get to the end of the course in time for the exam.

As I’ve now managed to successfully move my blog to its shiny new location I’ve got lots of new toys to play with, so I apologise in advance if some strange things happen over the next few days. Hopefully I’ll figure out what works and what doesn’t in a self-hosted wordpress environment fairly rapidly.

I did notice a fair number of infuriating typos in my ED209 notes as I was revising. I’m going to sort those out as part of the process of moving all of the media files from the old blog to here. It won’t do me (or anyone else that took ED209 this year) any good, but I’ll feel better about it and assuming that ED209 is staying the same for the next couple of years at least, then they may just be of use to those who come after us.

One thing that’s been bugging me about my Open University course record is that as I’m taking the D15 conversion diploma in psychology (which has its own byzantine rules on registration), it hasn’t been possible to link the courses I’ve taken / about to take to the qualification through studenthome. However, suffering from ED209 withdrawal symptoms, I had another play this morning and although the same formal registration rules for D15 remain, you can now link the courses to the qualification! I can’t wait to print my academic summary off again in a couple of days time to show that I’m doing a proper qualification, rather than just a few random psychology courses. (Note to self: that’s not really that exciting I guess – the ED209 shaped hole is worse than I thought).

I also need to catch up on some of the jobs around the house that I’ve been putting off. Fortunately, it’s raining in Derby today so I can’t do anything useful in the garden. I have made a half-hearted attempt to do some filing of bills and payslips and other pieces of mail that I feel I need to keep this morning, but if I’m honest I’m not enthusiastic about that particular job at the moment.

I could always drag my UK101 and MZ-80K out of the attic I suppose …