One way of saying thank you

After I’d cross-posted my last blog entry onto the B07 Facebook group, some one asked me if I was still using the notes I’ve published here to help support a charity. Back in 2010 I asked readers of this blog to think about contributing to the HOPEHIV charity – and we jointly managed to raise around £700.

The justgiving page I created for this purpose is long since closed, but if you’d like to make a donation to HOPEHIV I know that it would be appreciated by them and used well. Their own donation page is here should you wish to drop them the odd pound or two. For those of you who don’t know what they do, they support a wide range of projects in Africa to help children orphaned through HIV.

More recently, I’ve also become aware of the work of a charity known as The Matthew Project – who work with people and communities affected by drugs and alcohol in Norfolk and Suffolk. It just so happens that their chief executive is part of my wife’s music group – and charity does begin at home (even though it should never end there). You can find their donations page here if you’d like to support their work.

If you have (or are!) finding my notes useful in your studies and are able to – and only if you are genuinely able to as I do appreciate how tough times are for many – please think about donating a small sum to one or both of these incredibly worthwhile causes.

Thank you.

… and breathe

I’ve tidied away my cognitive psychology notes and books this evening, ready for their ritual transfer to the attic on Saturday. One more year down, one more to go on the psychology diploma. The most shocking thing about the exam for me on Monday morning was that of the 5 chapters I’d revised for part II of the exam (attention, perception, recognition, concepts and problem solving), all 5 came up! I was expecting to have a choice of 3 or 4 from the 6 questions, but having 5 to choose from threw me completely for a few minutes at the start. In the end, I went for the perception and concepts questions after I’d answered the ones on connectionist and rules-based models.

I’m not entirely happy with what I wrote, but I hope that it was good enough. I certainly wouldn’t have been able to write more in the 3 hours, but on reflection perhaps I could have written less and written it better. Anyway, all will be revealed a couple of weeks before Christmas, I guess!

I’m definitely going to take a break from doing anything related to OU psychology for the next few weeks; there’s a whole heap of things that have piled up in “real life” this year that I really need to take some time out to deal with. However, it won’t be too long before I get to have a peek at DD307. I see from my student homepage that the books are due for dispatch on 19th November – if that’s right, I think that will be earlier than I’ve ever received a set of books in advance of an OU course starting.

I know that there’s been a fair few people studying ED209 this year that have found my blog – I hope the exam went well for you all today and it’s been nice to hear from some of you too!

I’m now going to take some time to breathe again, but I’ll still be blogging. It’s been great to have your company over the last few months and if you’re doing the social psychology course next year I hope you’ll stick around – and even if you’re not, I still hope you’ll stick around!

One thing I’m absolutely certain of is that DD307 will be a very different experience to this year’s course. Onwards and upwards …

DD303 Week 21 – TMA04

I’m very relieved as I now have a first complete draft of TMA04. Even though the submission date isn’t until 20th July, I have a couple of very busy weeks ahead of me which means that I could do with having it finished properly by the end of tomorrow. Next week I’m off to our US offices in Reston, Virginia; I arrive back on Friday morning at Heathrow (and knowing me, very, very jet lagged); and then have to drive back up to Derby and re-pack for residential school in Bath the following day. So I figure I need to have TMA04 pretty much finished by tomorrow evening to take some of the pressure off me.

I chose option 2 for TMA04  in the end – a discussion on whether or not research into formal judgements indicates that human decision-making is fundamentally irrational. The problem is that there is so much research in this area provided in both the chapter and the offprint that it’s been very difficult to (a) be selective and (b) fit it all into 1,500 words (and I’m currently sat at 1,594 words as I write this). I’m not particularly happy with what I’ve written, but hopefully another couple of drafts will sort it out into something worth submitting. I can at least take heart that my score on TMA01 was way beyond my expectations, which means that I should benefit from the substitution rules on this assignment if it’s not so good.

As I won’t have much time between arriving back from Reston and travelling back down to Bath for the residential school I’ve also been putting the final touches to my project proposal form revisions and have created my acetate for the 5 minute presentation we have to do on them at our first session on Saturday evening. Having survived the DXR222 residential school two years ago, I’m quite looking forward to this one now it come around. I can’t believe I’m 2/3rds of the way through the course already – where has 2010 gone?

All this, and meeting Emily’s boyfriend’s parents for the first time today and having lunch with them. I managed to get through that experience ok – so the next couple of weeks ought to be a breeze 🙂


If you can, please donate something to HOPEHIV

Update: 1st November 2010

My justgiving page for HOPEHIV is now closed. If you would still like to donate to them, please do so directly at

A number of people have suggested to me that I ought to charge a fee for the notes I created and published on this blog for ED209 in 2009 and for those that I’m currently creating as I work my way through DD303.


I don’t – I’ve always regarded what I do with this blog as a form of motivation to keep me going through the courses I’m taking! And it’s the only reliable way I can think of that ensures I really do attempt to make notes and not just fly into a mad panic three weeks before the exam – which was pretty much my experience with DSE212 in 2007.

However, it did lead me to think about whether I might want to offer a way for those of you who wanted to show your appreciation in a more tangible way than simply leaving nice comments, though I really like those too! My week on holiday at Spring Harvest in Skegness presented me with a challenge that I felt I wanted to take up – that of attempting to raise some money for HOPEHIV (Registered Charity 1079385).

If you’d like to find out more about what they do, then please visit my JustGiving page or spend four minutes watching the video below:

If you want to and are able to help, thank you. I’m going to leave my JustGiving page open until 31st October 2010, so there will be plenty of time for you to donate something.

I’m trying to think of other ways to raise money – I’ll keep you all posted on what I get up too. For example, I’ve already decided that any advertising revenue I get through this blog before 31st October 2010 will also go to HOPEHIV.

Thanks again.


ED209 result

Last week I was trying (not very hard, admittedly) to remember how I’d done in the examination back on 21st October. I couldn’t (and knew I wouldn’t be able to do so!), so immediately after I’d finished the exam I wrote down how I thought it had gone.  Apparently, this was really well on the seen question (Q7), pretty well on gender (Q4) and not so well on executive functioning (Q6). I realised after the exam I’d left out a really good piece of evidence and hadn’t been evaluative enough on the question on executive functioning. But my hand was really tired by then (well, that’s my excuse!)  So I’d already resigned myself to having not done quite enough to get the 85% needed for a distinction in the examination but was reasonably confident I’d done enough to get a pass 2.

And that was the way it turned out. But the really good news today was that I’d done well enough when combined with my TMA scores to get a distinction overall for the course. Yay! I obviously benefited from the ‘Examination and Assessment Boards have limited discretion to set these thresholds slightly lower‘ clause than the 85% OES /85% OCAS guidance as my examination result was below 85% this time around. A similar thing happened to me on DSE212 – except that time around it was my exam result which lifted my overall classification upwards rather than the TMA scores. The other bit of  encouragement was that my self-assessment of how I’d done on the individual questions was right too, judging by my exam feedback. If nothing else, it means I appear to have figured out what the examiners were looking for, even if I couldn’t deliver it to the standard I’d wanted to!

So well done to everyone who passed and for those either taking the examination in April through deferment or because they achieved a bare fail on this paper, all the best.

It’s DD303 for me in January. I’m intending to carry on blogging in the same vein as I did for ED209, so perhaps I’ll see some of you then. In the meantime, once the event I’m currently attending in London for work finishes at around 9pm tonight, I shall have a glass or two of wine to celebrate. And there’s also the little matter of my BCS chartership examination to get through on 5th January before DD303 starts …

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!

Evaluating ED209

I said halfway through the course I’d be writing to the course team with an evaluation of the experience of studying ED209. I’m currently trying to gather my thoughts on this topic (so please feel free to make your own observations in the comments) with the aim of writing them a letter over the weekend. So far, I’ve decided I need to say something about the following topics.


  • A far more interesting and engaging course than I’d feared at the start. My job doesn’t involve working with children (and neither do I want to!) and both my girls are grown up teenagers (if that isn’t an oxymoron).
  • With a couple of exceptions, the course chapters were well written and well structured.
  • Tutor and forum support was good.
  • I learned things from the course that I can usefully apply in my professional life. Concepts like the ZPD and scaffolding have a relevance to any interaction with a potential customer for the software products and services my organisation provides.


  • fOCUS II is an intensely irritating piece of software that got in the way of rather than enhancing the learning experience.
  • There’s too much material covered to justify it being only a single 60 point level 2 course. Book 4 (Developmental Psychology in Action) looks really interesting, but you only get to use a single chapter. I’ve commented previously that it needs to be split off from the first three books and turned into a 15 point course in its own right to provide genuine value for money to students.
  • The ‘seen question’ is a ridiculous method of evaluating learning. It’s a format that I’ve never previously encountered in any academic setting and I sincerely hope I will never see again. The intent behind the seen question is sound, in that it teaches you to independently research a topic and critically evaluate the evidence; the practice of having to memorise that information and regurgitate it as one of three questions you answer as part of the examination is bonkers.
  • Because ED209 has the seen question, you can only answer questions on 2 (and maybe use some bits and pieces from elsewhere) of the 22 course chapters that are presented. The practice of not excluding chapters covered by TMA assignments (as in many other courses – DSE212 and DD303 spring to mind) simply presents students with an unrealistic task for revision or (as in my case) forces you to make an educated guess as to what might come up and focus on that. My guesses paid off (I think!); other people’s didn’t. There’s something fundamentally wrong about turning an examination into a lottery.