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no blog for April

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Edited by Michael Gumbrell, Sunday, 7 May 2017, 16:05

I did not do any blogging here in April.

After a long illness, caused by industrial illness, asbestos, my father passed away on the 5th of April. So many things to think about and do during the month of April.

We were fortunate to be supported by some wonderful NHS staff during my fathers final days, I thank them for that.

so I did not climb mount Snowdon on the 19th of April, my fathers cremation was on the 20th in Portsmouth, so I did not fancy the 5 hour drive each way under the circumstances.

Thank you to everyone who has sponsored me, I will still be abseiling down the Spinaker Tower on the 28th of May. So I hope every one who has sponsored me is happy for the money to carry forward tot he abseil.

My final TMA was very difficult to write, the deadline was the 18th of April. So I did not score well, the essay was written under very difficult circumstances and to be honest, I really did not care much about the sure, under the circumstances.

So now I have done the ICMA and will finally finish with the exam on the 6th of June.

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TMA 5 Time

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All my study is concluded, time to write my TMA 05.

At the end of the block we were encouraged to have a look through the library at relevant articles.

It was a little disheartening, the quality of the works presented is exceptional and here I am, trying to write 2000 words that are on a pathway to quality. It did scare me, I imagine what I will write is like the scrawling's on a 5 year old child, compared to the works in the library. 

It is hard to see how my work is going to progress to a level that is even 1/100th of the quality of the peer reviewed articles in the Library.

Perhaps that is because I tend towards analysis rather than any ground breaking insight when I write. It is a little frustrating when put into a wider context, I work full time and study part time, so I tend to study to make sure I can pass my module rather than having the time and freedom to properly explore and drill down on the material I am studying. There are just never enough hours in the day to do everything I would like to do.

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counting down the hours

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I have about 8 hours of study left in block 5. The last block, block 6 is revision for the exam, so very much the home straight now. I will have to write my TMA5 a week early because of my fundraising excursion to climb mount Snowdon the following week.

So time to stop procrastinating and get on with wrapping block 5 up....

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What goes UP must come DOWN

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What goes UP must come DOWN.

Which is me, i have to now squeeze my TMA 5 in 7 days before the cut off date because i will being doing something else on deadline day.

On Wednesday 19th of April i will be climbing up Mount Snowdon.

This will be the UP part of my challenge, and on Sunday 28th of May i will be abseiling DOWN the Spinaker Tower ( 103 meter's or 315 feet). all to raise funds for my chosen charity.

Here is the link to my just giving page, it would be wonderful if any of my fellow students could sponsor me to complete this challenge,


Thats the UP.

This is the DOWN

and this is who i am fund raising for,

your support would be very much appreciated,


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Just trying to get my head around TMA 5. Globalisation and political practice is hard.

Fukuyama has much to ssy about the end of history on thst subject.

I am just sweating the end of this block and tma 5.

Oh look, another level 2 is hard post from me. Well it has been a couple of weeks since i mentioned it.

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a new style of self reflection.

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Well level 2 continues to surprise me.

for our TMA 5 we have to post our essay plan in a online forum. This is quite a challenge for me, as I do not tend to write an essay plan out, I do a simple spider diagram of what I want to say in sections, why I want to say it and then sit and write the essay in one sitting, then save and revisit twice over a couple of days, making revisions at each sitting.

So to produce a plan was new to me, but I made an infographic of my spider diagram, so hopefully this is a correct submission. We then have to write a self reflection about how looking at other students essay plans made us realise the strengths and weaknesses in our own essay's. It carries a 15% chunk of the final mark. So it is quite an important element to get right.

Hopefully my essay plan infographic is strong enough to help other make the strength and weaknesses cases in their own self-reflections, otherwise I might let the side down.

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Tutorial 5

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So i enjoyed the tma5 tutorial. It was interesting and really made me think.

I am personally an international realist and so my tma will be in that context.

Nearly at the end of this module now.

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Mark arrived

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My feedback for tma 4 came in this evening.

I scored 82% so not bad, i think this module is coming in at a pass grade 2. 

I would need to find 3 extra percent and scored 89% on my final tma plus 85% on my exam to get a distinction. Thanks a stretch, so a grade 2 pass is more likely for me.

I will have to make sure i really stick the exam to be sure.


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errors upon errors

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I do have a question about how many errors or miss-prints are considered reasonable in module text books and the study planner?

For my module DD211, we have had the following:

TMA 2 guidance notes were incorrect

TMA 3 guidance notes were incorrect

TMA 4 guidance notes were incorrect

TMA 5 guidance notes were incorrect

Week 14 had dead links in it

Week 19 had incorrect information in it

Wee 21 had dead links and missing information in it.

Plus the whole online tutorial event on the 5th of October failed to work, despite us all wanting to do it because we had missed our first lecture because the tutorial booking system was a mess.

all this came after a update to the module books in June 2016, which i include here because some of the typo's are funny.

  • Book 2, Block 4, chapter 14, page 41. Tony Blair was elected in 1997 and left office in 2007
  • Book 2, Block 4, chapter 14, page 42. Jimmy Carter left office in 1981, not 1991
  • Week 26 audio transcript for “Political concepts revisited” should read “serfs” and not “surfs”
  • Week 26 section 4.2 the audio interview with Richard Heffernan indicates that in the US decisions on smoking in public places are covered by federal law. This should be 'state' law rather than 'federal' law.

Serfs not surfs!

Does anyone else have this kind of level of errors in the course materials?

Or have DD211 this year just been extra lucky?

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waiting is wilting

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i still wait,

under no pretense that i am waiting with any kind of grace.

Got on with my Block 5 materials, it is hard to believe this is the last block, revision for block 6, so this is it, the home straight and an exam to do.....

I might suggest it has all been exhausting!

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Waiting for the mark

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I may have mentioned this before,

I am not great at sitting back and waiting for the marks to come in.

This time it is TMA 4. The sooner i have the feedback, the quicker i can self reflect and act on it.

Hopefully it will be soon. I find myself getting frustrated the the student home only updates itself once a day- just after midnight. The mark could have been sitting there since 7pm, but it wont update until midnight, which means i will not see it until the next morning.

I really am no good at sitting back, being passive and waiting.

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having revised and resubmitted my TMA 4 a couple of times now, I am starting to feel the love for it a bit more.

hopefully it will get a good mark, looking at the guidance notes and the tutorial notes I hope my TMA has hit the mark, literally!

But it was very much a frustrating block and writing experience, I was hacked off by ideology and TMA 3 but this module and TMA trumped that.

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grinding out TMA's

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Well i am not staring at a blank page any more, I have done and submitted my TMA 4.

It was very hard going, I have found the last 2 TMA's and blocks to be really had going.

But I have managed to grind out the 2000 words for TMA 4.

This module has been hard, I was really challenged by the jump from level 1 to level 2 at the start, and the difficulty has just kept rising all through this module.

What is disappointing is that the sense of satisfaction has not been forthcoming during the progress through this module, I find myself thinking more and more that 'thank F@@k that TMA and block are done, I will be glad to see the back of that block, and now I find myself thinking I will be glad to see the back of the whole module, I may have learnt on this module, but I cannot say I have enjoyed much of it.

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marks, marks and more marks

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Edited by Michael Gumbrell, Sunday, 12 Feb 2017, 11:56

i know it is way to early to be considering this point, but I have been looking through the classification rules for honours degrees. I am a little bit compulsive/obsessive about these sort of things and so I cannot help but look and think about them.

So YO32 and DD103 were just distinction or pass ranks, I passed both, with an average mark of 80%, but no distinction for me (85% required), and now we are on to level 2 scores the 1,2,3 and 4 scoring systems kick in.

So through my first 3 tma's I rank 83%, which is a level 2 pass, but as is well documented the exam/ema scores that you get as the final part of the module are even harder to score well in.

So at the moment I am ranking as a level 2 pass, or the equivalent of a 2:1 degree. I find that very scary considering the final exam might well not be as much of a good score, so the thought that even with, what I thought were good tma scores, I might only rank as a level 3 pass for this module is a little disheartening.

There are quite a few blogs and forum posts online about how hard it is to get a good degree classification from the O.U and having looked at the level of mark required to get into the top 2 degree levels I tend to agree with them.

At a bricks and mortar university the grade boundaries are different and lower, someone i know got 78% and that was a first class degree in social work. 78% with the OU would leave me sweating on a 2:2 or a 2:1 pass !

on my degree pathway, BA (Hons) Politics, Philosophy and Economics I have 3 level 2 modules and 2 level 3 modules, I only had one level 1 module. Since I have 90 credits already, this module I am currently on, DD211' investigating political institutions in the modern world' would give me another 60 credits, taking me up to 150 credits. I think I might investigate the options for transferring out of the O.U to another online provider or a part time course with a local bricks and mortar university.

I suppose it is a fine balance, the OU want us to study with them, after all they get the fee's for our study, however they need to have a large take up to support themselves financially. But with some of the cost cutting measures and restructuring work done by the Vice-chancellor I wonder if the level of fee they charge, combined with the challenging high marks required for a top 2 level pass is worth the debt I am incurring for it(I pay for my study with a student loan).

So I will have a look at my other options, I am sure I cannot be the only student who has considered or done this before. my apologies if I am just reiterating the previous concerns of other students.

Without wishing to state the obvious, it is a learning process. I enrolled for an access module (YO32) to see if study suited me, I had no idea back then about grade boundaries and module study. I qualified for the free Access course, then when I decided I wanted to start a degree, found that the cost of £ 675 for the access module had been added to my student loan! I had first opted for an open degree, but having done some research, I decided to switch to a degree pathway and study Politics, Philosophy and Economics.

So it has been a learning process, so I feel a little bit ungrateful for having benefitted from the process, to now been in a position where I am questioning the value and nature of the process, it's classification process and considering changing to a new provider.

However I will have a £ 18,000 debt on completing study, with the O.U or elsewhere and for me and my level of income, that is a huge debt and I will be paying it back past my retirement age. So I feel I have to be sure I have made the best possible use of the loan, and off set the risk of having the loan by securing the best possible outcome from using it.

So is a £ 18,000 debt, 6 years of study and the amount of study required worth it? If I scored a solid 75% in my 5 of my 6 years of study and received a 2:1, then YES.

but if I end up with a £ 18,000 debt, 6 years of study and, what I would considered a solid mark of 70%, with a 2:2 degree, the I would say NO.

I would be very interested in your comments, I would like to know if I am being unreasonable, or if you might think I am right to be concerned?

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I am very glad to have waited before trying to write any of my TMA 4, until after the tutorial.

The tutorial was very good, and made me realise I was barking up the wrong tree with my essay plan.

I had taken the compare and contrast element to literally, in fact the tutorial matched the student notes and explained more clearly the structure of answer required for a successful answer.

I did notice though that as with my previous level 1 and level 2 worries, level 2 is much harder now and the academic language needed is more dense and specific.

So my TMA 4 will need to discuss the merits of codified and uncodified constitution and symmetrical versus asymmetrical bicameral representatives. Fused and separated executive, and the hard one, but important to define, majoritarian is different to plurality.

I just need to get on a write it now!

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I recieved my mark for TMA 3- 80%.

So i have averaged 83% across the first 3 tma's which are 45% of the total OCAS.

so i am a couple of percentage points below the 40% minimum OCAS. But i still have two 25% TMA's to go.Which is great.

That takes all the pressure off the last 2 TMA's. Now i am looking to keep my mark up rather than stress about needing a certain score to pass. 

Happy days.

Although level 2 is still hard.

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So I have written my introduction to TMA 04.

I have a plan for my unpacking paragraph in my head (250 words)

then a gap of 1600 words awaits me....

I have completed my part 2- 10% of the final mark and I have set my reference list ready to insert the correct references into the main body of text.

And there it all sits, daring me to write it, which on this TMA is quite daunting.

It is hard to compare and contrast the political systems of the uk and us.

Contrasts abound, I think I can provide 800 words of contrast very easily, the us system was founded as a reaction to the uk system so inevitably it is very different.

Its the 800 words of similarities that I am finding hard to draw together.

So if I use 4 blocks to compare and contrast my selected points then I have to write two paragraphs of 400 of similarities, which I am unsure of. The trouble is if a scrimp on these paragraphs then my essay will be very unbalanced. I do like a good structure and balance to my essays, I often think it is a failure to submit one that has an obvious imbalance of structure to it.

Depending on my TMA 3 mark, the pressure on the tma 4 might not be as great, however substitution is not an option I want to consider, I would rather be able to have the full compliment of 5 essays with a good average mark than sub a score in.

Based on my feedback to tma 2 I changed the style of writing in my tma 03 slightly, so I really do need to know the tma 3 mark to be able to gauge the correct style for tma 4.

as I may have said before, Level 2 is hard...

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second part of TMa's

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i am still waiting for my TMA 03 mark.

So I decided to start my TMA 04 by doing the second part first.

I do like the second part of the TMA's. so self reflection or summation or engagement with previous feedback helps provide 10% of the mark.

Now we are at the business end of the module, both TMA 4 and 5 carry 25% weighting towards the final assessment score.

So making sure I have my part 2's done well can help secure some valuable marks towards my final mark.

so if ever asked for advice, I would suggest making sure you have time set aside to maximise the score of part 2's of TMA's to give yourself the best shot of a overall good assessment score.

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Waiting for the msrk

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I am not a fan of waiting for a TMA mark.

Need to know the feedback so it can be incorporated...

I am not good at siting back and waiting...

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owning the study planner

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Well I bump up against the far end of my study planner again.

I have done the 4 weeks of block 4 and now just need to write my TMA 04.

Same problem as last time though, my TMA 03 is not due till this coming Tuesday, so no feedback for me till my tma 03 is marked.

So I don't like to get so far ahead that the tma I have written has no feedback yet available from the tma before it.

So I think I might pause, spend a week writing tma 04 and go to the lecture next Saturday to make sure I am not too far wide of the mark with what I have written.

Only block 5 to do after that, block 6 is all revision for the exam...

nearing the end of this module already...

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life outside of work and the OU

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Edited by Michael Gumbrell, Tuesday, 24 Jan 2017, 20:17

Well i found some time yesterday to do something outside of Work and the OU !

I produced another cartoon, attached above, for the Star and Crescent micro news site.

Hopefully my editor, Sarah, will like it enough to publish it with my others.

I thought i would share it here, i am studying Politics after all.

I also did a written article, 1000 words, perhaps all this TMA writing is starting to blend into my life outside the OU and work.

I call them cartoons, actually i can not draw for toffee and so produce sarcastic infographics instead!

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where did essay structure go?

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So I am up to and would admit to already have written my TMA 01 for DD211.

it is a very interesting transition. The whole of DD103 was evaluate, compare and contrast, strength and weakness' essays. I liked that, I like structure to written work. I got 72 % on DD103, so I felt I was okay at it.

Now with DD201 these structures are gone. TMA 1 of DD211 asks for me to take a postion, to argue logically and give an opinion. This is very diferant to DD103 and the need to stay neutral in TMA's and just give both sides of a statement in a netural fashion.

I wonder if it is part of the step up from level 1 to level 2?

If you have not guessed from my other blog posts, I do like to over think everything.

Well I have written my first TMA for DD211, it is a while before I can even submit it and the marking will be very interesting. Did I get on the right path, or am I barking at the wrong tree?


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