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Christopher Douce

A233 Journal - February 2024

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Edited by Christopher Douce, Monday, 1 Apr 2024, 09:50

17 February 2024

Over the last couple of weeks I’ve been working through the two set text I’ve chosen to write about: The Custom of the Country, and The Age of Innocence. I really like these texts. I’ve been re-reading them using my Kindle, highlighting sections, and adding some notes when have some reflections. As I read, I find earlier notes. When I read them, they looks strange: I can see an earlier version of myself reading the book, figuring out the words, settings and characters. I see earlier ideas of where the plot is moving to.

18 February 2024

It’s editing day. I have a go to make sense of all my notes. I have a set of headings, which relate to the question, which have emerged from the various notes that I’ve made from my reading.

19 February 2024

Whilst in the middle of my workday, I have another go at editing up my assignment. Although I feel I could draw on some of the additional materials, I’m starting to be roughly happy with what I’ve managed to pull together. I need to think of my word count.

I go in hard, cutting two big paragraphs which I’m really pleased with. If they don’t progress an argument, or help to emphasise any significant points, or they are tangential to the main aim of the essay, the words should go.

That’s it. My TMA 3 has gone in. It’s not my best work, but I feel as if I’ve learnt some things, which is, of course, the point.

20 February 2024

It’s first thing in the morning, before getting stuck in with my day job. I start reading the second book on my Kindle. I notice that there a couple of books that I need, but I haven’t got. Although this isn’t my preferred method of study (although I am getting increasingly used to it), I download the texts and get reading.

21 February 2024

Again, first thing in the morning, I’m reading my Kindle again. I finish reading the first chapter of the second book, and read a couple of takes from the set text. A reflection that I had was: I’m not making as many notes as I have done with other modules I’ve studied. Instead, I’m adding notes directly to the text using my Kindle, and saving more bookmarks than I’ve ever done before. I feel as if I’m learning things, but I do need to sort my notes out, now that I’m more than half way through the module. It’s hard to believe that there’s just one more TMA, and the EMA to go.

Before starting work, I login to the module website, tick off all the bits that I’ve completed, and have a quick look at TMA 4. Some students are saying that there is an option where you write a fairy tale! (Not to be confused with a fairy story; that is something that is totally different).

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Christopher Douce

A233 Journal - January 2024

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Edited by Christopher Douce, Monday, 1 Apr 2024, 09:50

7 January 2024

I’ve been doing a bit more than I’ve actually noted down, but this week has been quite light on the study, since I’m now back at work, and my inbox is a mess.

I began the week by receiving a reply to an email question I asked my tutor, which was about the choice of some text from Blunden to focus on. I’m mindful that I need to broaden out my choice a bit more. I then went onto read the module materials about Roy, which I found quite interesting.

This morning I’m starting to make electronic notes, which will form the basis of my TMA. I’m a bit less confident than I was the last time, since I don’t think I’ve mastered Blunden. There is so much that is going on in the text, and it feels overwhelming – which reflects, in part, what he is writing about.

I’ve started by looking at the English Literature Toolkit and have found my way to an OpenLearn resource called Approaching prose fiction. I’m going to summaries different techniques, write down some notes from my highlights, and go from there.

11 January 2024

Now that the new year has got underway, I’m now aware of a confluence of deadlines that are rapidly approaching. With these in mind, I email my tutor to ask her whether she is able to give me a potential extension, just so I have a bit of a cushion. Thankfully, that is possible. In return, she offers a reminder about TMA 3, which is coming up hot on the heels of TMA 2. I asked whether my book club choices were acceptable (they were), which was a relief.

I have a vague plan: Sunday (and perhaps a bit of Saturday) is going to be TMA writing and editing day. I have over 2k worth of words in the form of notes. I’m going to continuing to get everything down, summarising all my highlights and notes, before printing everything out, and starting to edit together an argument, and a sensible structure. Fingers crossed!

13 January 2024

There’s a ‘write now’ tutorial today. I’ve just got enough time to login to see what it is all about. Tomorrow is writing and editing day, along with a bit of further reading, of course. There were 80 students at the tutorial. I made a bunch of notes. Just before I got to the section on structure, I had to sort something out in the house; there was a birthday party going on in the background. This is one of the idiosyncrasies of online tutorials; you can slope off and do other things in the background if you need to. You can’t do this during face-to-face tutorials.

14 January 2024

It is writing day today. I spend the morning adding to my notes, and then I spend the afternoon deleting them again after realising that I had discovered a structure. Towards the end of the day, I run out of steam. All I have to do now is the conclusion bit at the end.

15 January 2024

First thing in the morning, after a coffee (which is the best time to write), I finish my conclusion, double space everything, and then get a printout.

16 January 2024

After reading through the TMA and making a few edits with a red pen, I transfer these corrections to my Word document, and send it off. I let my tutor know that I don’t need an extension. In return, she said I can upload revisions until the TMA cut-off date if I need to.

Towards the end of the day, I see that there is bit of Facebook chat about the book club choices. A fellow student has chosen the same option that I have, which is reassuring. Whilst I’ve already read my chosen text, I do need to re-read The Custom of the Country.

17 January 2024 

First thing in the morning, I access the module website and look at the TMA 3 question, and transfer an edited version of it to an empty TMA document. I create two headings, one for each text. If I were more organised, I could have just copied and pasted my completed Custom of the Country learning journal, if I had used it, to my TMA document. Looking at this again, I’m going to start to use this to prepare some notes. Despite being up to date, I’m now feeling a bit behind again!

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Christopher Douce

A233 Journal - December 2023

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Edited by Christopher Douce, Monday, 1 Apr 2024, 09:49

11 December 2023

I’m surprised that so much time has passed since my last note. 

I’ve done a couple of things, and one thing has happened.

Technically, I’m up to date with the block reading (but I’ve read through the blocks quite quickly), and I’m behind with the online activities. I’m also ahead with my reading of my book club preference, The Age of Innocence, but I’m behind on all my quizzes.

There is a tutorial this morning, which I’m hoping to attend, along with another one that takes place this evening. I think I’m remaining committed to Blunden, since I feel frustrated with both The God of Small things, and Hotel World. I’m drawn to the Blunden TMA 2 question.

The thing that has happened is that I’ve got my TMA result back. I’m happy with the result, but I would have liked to get a higher score, of course. My tutor has given me some helpful pointers about my writing, which I’ll try to integrate into my writing. Two practical tips I remember are: always italicise titles (I thought I had done that), and make sure that you don’t end a paragraph with a quote. The point here is: if you do this, what is the point?

My next steps: back to the module materials – but mainly the online materials. But before I go there, I need to do my own TMA marking. There are always things to do!

15 December 2023

I try to attend an online tutorial, but I was scuppered by technology.

I gave the OU IT helpdesk a ring, and it was all about a clash of cookies, but I suspect it could have been resolved really simply. Essentially, bits of the OU websites was getting muddled with my two accounts: my tutor account, and my student account. When I logged into the module page to access a tutorial, it wouldn’t let me in to the live version, or let me view any of the recordings.

After deleting all my cookies, everything seemed to start working again, but by then, my tutorial had passed.

I’ve realised that similar things can occur if I don’t close my browser between browser sessions. Now I’m a lot the wiser.

Anyway, I attended a tutorial that covered Blunden, Smith and Roy all in one session. I made a whole bunch of notes. Although I’m ahead on my novel reading, I’m a bit behind on the online materials.

17 December 2023

A day of two halves: the first was listening to a tutorial about Blunden (where I made a bunch of notes), and then I got back to the module website. What I really liked about the tutorial was the focus on the close reading, which will stand me in good stead for the TMA. When it came to the website I cheekily ticked off the module materials that are related to Roy and Smith (although I have read the block chapters), and realised I’m up to week 10.

Here's a note to self: I must complete the online activities that relate to Blunden. There is an activity question which is about memoir, which I think I know how I’m going to answer. I need to look at all the other ones, of course.

19 December 2023

I’ve completed my three posts for TMA 2! I picked up a trick, which was the ability to search for fragments of text, in the ePub for Far from the madding crowd, and within the downloaded version of the Blunden text, which I have on my Kindle. This made it a lot easier to pick two passages.

I quickly eyeballed the assignment question again. For some reason, I though it was about memory rather than what was being asked. This makes me question my own memory.

I have a plan of action: to re-read the block materials that I’ve worked through, to complete the online activity about reviews (there might be something interesting in there I might be able to use), and then do a close reading of Blunden again, whilst referring to the online map which a fellow student has mentioned. There’s also something called a 2015 edition which the module team recommends.

I think I’ve got all my Christmas reading all sorted.

26 December 2023

Boxing day. I found a bit of quiet time in the morning where I did a bit of reading. There’s quite a lot to a chapter I’ve been reading in Undertones of War. I made quite a lot of highlights using my Kindle.

27 December 2023

Reading the online materials for Week 11, and watching the short video about Blunden. I’ve also started to look at John Greening’s 2015 edition of Undertones of War, and I’ve noticed a comprehensive notes page, cross references to the text, and a comprehensive introduction. I’ve sent the notes pages and the introduction to my Kindle. I made a note of a point that the presenter made which struck me as being quite useful, and relevant to the TMA question.

I did try to complete the activity that was about book reviews, but I didn’t get very far. I only found a couple, and none of the ones that were mentioned in the module materials. I found the library instructions pretty confusing, and I was wondering whether I was pushing the wrong buttons. This said, I’ve never really thought of the significance of book reviews. A point was made was that they were written in the context in which a book appears. This means that they offer a particularly useful perspective.

One of my other actions of the day was to ask my tutor a question. I think I’m happy with the passage that I’ve chosen, but I wanted to get a feel for whether I’ve chosen something that is too big, and whether I should choose a couple of paragraphs, rather than a whole chapter. I am, however, mindful that there is quite a big word count.

I’m starting to feel a bit more confident, even though I have a long way to go before putting the broad structure of the text in my head, but I don’t think I need to do this for the TMA.

28 December 2023

The notes pages from Greening is pretty useless without the actual text. I go to the Week 10 online materials, download the PDF version, and email it to my Kindle.

I’ve also found the online map, which I need to look at. This resource reminds me of a similar resource that was used with The Custom of the Country.

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Christopher Douce

A233 Journal – November 2023

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Edited by Christopher Douce, Monday, 1 Apr 2024, 09:51

1 November 2023

I went to a tutorial about Wharton that was led by a member of the module team and a tutor. It was fabulous! We looked at some close reading skills, which I sense is something that I need to get better at. I asked some questions about the TMA, and got quite a few tips. What I need to do is to edit my TMA template, and get started with reading, and re-reading the passages that we have to analyse.

The presenters mentioned that it is a good idea to complete the module team’s version of the study log, which offers some guidance about reading, and gives us spaces to make some notes. I need to look at this. I also need to look at the activity for week 6, which I think is coming up soon. I’m not adhering to the study calendar as closely as I feel as I ought to; I’m in a situation where I’m trying to get ahead, but ‘life’ and ‘work’ things keep setting me back.

Another comment I’ll make is that I’m nearly through reading the Blunden text for the first time. There was an interesting comment in the tutorial that Wharton also wrote about WW1.

Just to remind myself: I need to edit up a TMA template, get my coloured pens out, and complete those Week 6 activities.

Back to the day job… 

11 November 2023

I’ve done quite a bit of reading. I’ve finished reading Blunden, which I found quite heavy going, and I’ve nearly found my way through The God of Small Things

This is my second time reading The God of Small Things. I first read it when it came out. I only got about a third of the way through before completely losing my way. Although I’m finding it quite a difficult read, I am getting into it, and its description. Since we have a choice in the next bit of the module, I think I’m still drawn to Blunden, but I will, of course, make my way through the module materials, just in case I change my mind at the very last minute.

It's time to prep for the writing of my TMA. 

I’ve already created a blank document with the title. My next step is to transcribe some of the headings from my tutorial notes onto the TMA document, so I remember what is important. When I’ve finished doing that, I’m going to go onto the close reading. My approach is to scribble on a printout of samples of text, with different colours of pen. I am to do my best to get a feel for the text, and hopefully come to a view about similarities and differences.

In between doing all of this, I’m going to go to the gym!

I did have a quick look at the study log files, which have been produced by the module team. I’m a bit worried that my study approach at the moment is predominantly strategic, rather than systematic. I have a lot on in my day job, and outside of my day job, which is why I’m a bit time poor at the moment. 

I need to follow my own advice, which is: “make an appointment with your own studies”.

16 November 2023

It’s TMA submission day!

After proof-reading a printout of my assignment, I make some last minute changes, and make a submission. 

My TMA is slightly under the word count, but I’m pretty happy with what I’ve submitted. I guess I’ll find out how I’ve done in a couple of weeks.

22 November 2023

Almost a week has passed and I’ve hardly done anything!

The last thing I’ve done, which was a couple of days ago, was to look at a book club activity, which was to listen to interviews with various academics about their favourite text, and why they should choose it.

Amongst all the options, I remain drawn to The Age of Innocence, for the simple reason that I really enjoyed The Custom of the Country. I don’t know whether comparing the book club text with a book by a different author would be a good idea. I guess this is a question for one of the tutorials, or to go directly to my tutor. Either way, I need to find some time to do some serious reading of The Age of Innocence.

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Christopher Douce

A230 Journal - April 2023

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1 April 2023

A serious post for April Fool’s Day!

I’m going through the block materials about Sam Selvon, and I’m quite enjoying it. I think I might go this direction in the EMA, but I have to read Lonely Londoner’s again.

2 April 2023

Just finishing up reading the chapter about Selvon, and then I move onto the chapter about Elizabeth Bishop, which is proving to be slow going. I find the readings and work through a couple of them, and find them to be quite difficult. As a bit of side reading, I have a quick read of a summary of Bishop’s biography.

10 April 2023

I’m pulling together a set of notes before pulling everything together for the EMA. Today I’ve been focussing on one of the set texts: The Lonely Londoners by Sam Selvon. Despite its obvious issues, I’m starting to really like this book.

11 April 2023

I’m moved on from Selvon and onto one of Joyce’s short stories. I read it again, underline some passages, read a review of the story, and then transcribe some quotes into my notes document. My next task is to make some notes from the module materials.

15 April 2023

I get a couple of hours to work through all my notes whilst on a short break. I move different notes into group of categories, set up a few subheadings, and a structure emerges: introduction, text 1, text 2, compare and contrast, conclusions. I manage to work on the introduction and the beginning to the text 1 section.

19 April 2023

I find a bit of time in my day job to do some writing. I cut a few notes and quotes that I feel I don’t need, and work on text that flows between the different sections.

20 April 2023

Another couple of hours for writing. I return to reading one of the texts, identify a couple of elements, and comment on these within the EMA document, and then completely change the conclusion, editing up a new version. It’s time to cut out all the temporary headings, see what my current word count is (I think I’m roughly on target), and get a printout ready for editing. I think I’m two days away from submission. Even if I need to make some further changes, I can go ahead and submit revisions before the cut-off date.

When I take out my structural headings and exclude my references, Word tells me that I’m slightly below the word count. I do some editing on my printed document using a pack of coloured pens: one colour that is an edit, and another colour that confirm that the edit has been actioned in the submission. After the edits, I’m a touch over, but only by a tiny amount.

I submit my EMA, ridiculously early.

Being a swot, I still hope to attend the EMA prep session that my tutor runs, just to make sure that I haven’t completely got the wrong end of any sticks.

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A111 Journal - April 2021

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Edited by Christopher Douce, Sunday, 2 May 2021, 12:41

2 April 21

I’ve got my TMA 4 results back and I felt that the marking was fair, and the feedback was really detailed and thorough.

I discovered that whilst I tried to answer the essay question, I did go a bit ‘off piste’. In other words, I was trying to be too clever, and moved away from some of the key themes and topics that were presented within the module materials. That’s okay, though. Other than the first TMA, I’ve never really written an arts essay before, so I should be pleased with my score.

I’ve finished reading the chapter about the play called The Island, which I enjoyed. I learnt a lot about the history of South Africa, and the way that a play can transcend different boundaries. I’ve read half of the next chapter: Music and Protest in South Africa. What I need to do now is to go back over the online materials; there is half of the Antigone materials to work through, and all of The Island materials to work through. I feel as if I’m just about keeping up, but by the skin of my teeth.

I’ve reminded myself of the next TMA cut-off date, which is coming up in around three weeks. Next week I have a plan to prepare my TMA document, and then have a very good look at the questions. 

In other news, I’ve also registered for the follow on module, A112.

5 April 21

My registration for A112 has been confirmed. It’s going ahead! Now, all I’ve got to do is to complete TMA 6.

To prepare for this final TMA, I did a bit of reading yesterday. I read over the chapter that was about South Africa, protest and music quite quickly. I do plan to spend a bit more time working through the online material in a lot of depth, since I think this might be my focus on TMA 6. I got a bit further than I had expected, and got to the chapter about the art of Benin. There’s such a lot in this new chapter that I don’t know about. I guess I’m balancing studying in a strategic way with studying with the intention of making sure I learn about new things that I don’t know about, and might help me understand new perspectives.

Aware that I need to get a move on, I’ve started to prep for TMA 5.

I’ve created a new document and have added the reflective question that I need to answer. I have also copy/pasted in the assessment criteria, and a summary of all the question points that I must address.

My next step: to review the very useful feedback that has been given by my tutor, and to review all these blog posts.

16 April 21

Between this post and the last post, I have been doing a bit of reading, but not as much as I should have been. 

Today I re-read a chapter about the looting of Benin, a chapter about the way the Benin bronzes were perceived and presented, and then got to a chapter about the relationship between the bronzes and modern art. I found this last chapter really interesting, although quite difficult to read; some of the text was quite dense.  

During this last chapter, I learnt about the connections between modernist art and modern art, and the way that the notion of ‘primitive’ art had been challenged by the technical precision of the Benin bronzes. Whilst I was studying, I took a couple of pictures (using my mobile phone) of what I thought were key paragraphs about the way in which the bronzes were understood and viewed.

17 April 21

Two days to go before the TMA 5 cut-off date. I’ve started it, putting all the main ingredients together. I now need to go back to my document, edit it all together (drawing on the activities that I have completed), and get a submission together. 

A few days ago I reviewed the module assessment strategy after reading some questions from a fellow student, who asked: “do I have to submit TMA 6?” I know that TMA 5 accounts for 10% of the overall score, and TMA 6 accounts for 20%. Although it looks like I can get away with not submitting the final TMA and still pass the module, I’m going to submit it anyway.

At this stage, I’m torn between doing the literature and music question, and the history and art question for TMA 6. I think I’m going to do some re-reading before I decide.

Meanwhile, on to TMA 5.

27 April 21

I found a bit of time to attend the only tutorial I’ve managed to go to for TMA 6. The tutorial focussed on the Benin bronzes. When I started, there were about 12 students online. By the time it finished, there were about 4 or 5. The tutor did a great job talking us through the different materials, and there were three practical activities which connected to something that we had to do in the TMA.

30 April 21

I’ve got my TMA 5 result, which I’m really pleased about. 

I’ve read through the feedback, but I need to read through it again. A reflection is: I need to review the guidance about writing an assignment, which was given to me with my TMA 4 feedback, since that looks to be really helpful.

I’ve been really busy at work recently, which means that I’ve not done as much as I had hope to do. I need to do a bit of catching up.

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A111 Journal – March 2021

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6 March 21

I didn’t make it to the TMA tutorial, but I did work through the online materials for Remembering and Forgetting in Ireland.

Since the clock is now ticking quite loudly, it’s time to get strategic.

I have two things to do during this session: go to a recording of an online tutorial about the Gothic Revival, and go straight onto the online activities.

I found the recorded tutorial interesting. Our tutor spoke about Catholicism, Protestantism, the Palace of Westminster, and the Gothic revival. He also touched on broader aspects of architecture such as modernism (specifically mentioning Le Corbusier) and the design of the Reichstagsgebäude building by Foster.

My next step was to actually look at the TMA question: “’Writing may be as important as designing for an architect.’ Discuss”. I found this immediately puzzling, but maybe the reason what I hadn’t yet been through the online materials, and had only very briefly read the module materials that had been presented in the course text.

To try to fill this gap, it is back to the materials, where I soon learnt more about the difference between a classical arch, and a gothic arch.

12 March 21

A few days earlier, I worked through the printed module materials again, making notes, in pencil, in the margins of the book. This gave me some good ideas, and a bit of focus about what to write about.

I gave the TMA a good go; I re-wrote my essay plan and then set out all the key points I wanted to make. I felt that I was responding to the question, whilst also drawing on the sources that were presented in the module materials. I was able to quote some of the phrases and terms I had identified from my re-reading of the materials. 

I got up to approximately 1200 words, which suggests that there is a little more I might be able to write about. I have some ideas.

13 March 21

I’ve done it! I’ve submitted TMA 4.

I found it difficult to answer the essay question and write about the materials that were presented within the module. I found it easier to go outside, but I hope the external materials that I’ve drawn upon are appropriate and useful, and connect well to the context (and themes) that were presented within the module materials. I tried to “bring myself back” to the examples in the module materials to try to show that I had understood everything.

Next bit: a section called Moving Forward. I can also see there’s a discussion forum that I need to have a good look at. These resources are all about making a choice about the next module, and answering the question: “what bits did I enjoy the most?” I also listened to these short audio clips of students talking about their experiences.

The moving forward section offered a strong steer towards the optional further study activities. I’m going to look at Revival of the Gothic Tradition materials (if I have the time, of course).

Having a quick look through the websites, I think the next module is going to be (providing I finish this one, of course) A112 Cultures.

16 March 21

I went to a module wide event, which was called “moving forward”, whilst I was doing a bit of multi-tasking in my day job. I was surprised to see that there must have been over 450 students attending. 

20 March 21

I have started to start reading the first chapter of the next book, Crossing Boundaries. This chapter was about Antigone (an-tig-on-nee, apparently), a Greek tragedy written by Sophocles.

21 March 21

I’ve finished Antigone. I’m don’t really know whether I liked it or not. I think I did. Spoiler alert: everyone dies.

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A111 Journal – January 2021

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Edited by Christopher Douce, Monday, 1 Feb 2021, 09:26

1 Jan 21

I have a few things I want to finish off before having a good look at the TMA questions again. The first thing is the online section about the set text: The Faber Book of Beasts.

We were set an activity: to create a mini anthology of five poems. I went over the table of contents of the book a number of times, and looked at a few, before settling on an animal related theme. 

The next bit was a discussion about the concept of conceit, and what it means in the context of poetry. I had never heard this term before (other than within the word conceited). One poem was used to demonstrate the idea that a conceit is a “turn of thought” or an “artistic device or concept” (p.182) 

The final bit was a return to the online materials, where we were introduced to the Oxford English Dictionary, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography and Oxford Art Online. I had once used a physical version of the OED, but I hadn’t heard of the other two. 

That’s enough for today.

2 Jan 21

I’ve been misunderstanding things! I thought we had to answer two questions for this TMA; instead, we’ve just got to answer one of them!

In some ways, I’m relieved, but I’m also slightly disappointed that the course isn’t forcing me (in a good way) to really look at another topic in detail.  This said, there’s nothing stopping me from carrying out some independent study.

I’ve made good progress today; I’ve made a rough plan, I’ve started a story, and I’ve made some notes about what I’ve been thinking as I progress. 

9 Jan 21

It seems like I’ve had an accidental short break from everything, which coincides with my first week back at work, following the new year break.

Today is the day of a tutorial. Unfortunately, I arrived half an hour late to a session on Roman and Greek sculpture. I made a note of the phrase that it isn’t about just copying the forms of the sculpture, but recreating and engaging in a symbolic dialogue with the artefacts. There was also a discussion about how the sculptures may have been used, and what they symbolised.

Next up was a section about poetry. 

We were asked the question: what is poetry? And also: how do we recognise a poem when we wee one? We were put into breakout rooms, and asked to discuss some short poems from the set texts. A quite enjoyed this activity, and was quite surprised at the range of different interpretations everyone came up with.

I took away an important point from this tutorial: do remember to include an essay plan for TMA 3.

13 Jan 21

Another day, another tutorial. This time it was a session about creative writing and The Blues. Unfortunately, due to internet connectivity issues, the session had to be cut short. Our tutor dropped out a few times, and there was sometimes a bit of audio lag.

Key points I took away was that there are different ways to define a short story, and there are different definitions for the terms story and plot; a story relates to what happens, an event or circumstance whereas a plot is all about why something happens.

Points to bear in mind when writing a short story includes what happens (story), who things happen to (character), where things happen (place), how and why things happen (plot), and why everything matters.

23 Jan 21

For TMA 3 we have to choose a tradition and make a short post to a discussion forum. Before making my choice, I did a bit of reading, on a popular online encyclopaedia. I became quite engrossed in the subject, and started to look at the references at the bottom of each of the articles. I ended up choosing a subject that I hadn’t really thought of as a tradition before. I remembered that the tradition that I focussed on was also very briefly addressed in the previous tutorial. I’m now looking forward to seeing what other students submit.

It’s back onto my short story. I had completely forgotten where I got to. Before I begin my writing, I prepare a cup of tea to keep me going. I find that tea always helps. There’s something in it that helps you (one) to concentrate.

30 Jan 21

I’ve finished my story. I’m pretty pleased with it. A friend has kindly read it. He has given me a few comments which I’m very grateful for. The process of reflecting on those comments will feed into the reflective bit of the TMA.

I’ve spent a couple of hours revisiting the chapter on creative writing, and rereading the TMA questions just to make sure I’ve got a thorough handle on what is required. 

Although I have done some planning for my writing, it was all very informal – and I think I’m going to have to say this in the TMA. I’m also going to have to have a think about the effect of what my formal planning had on my final version of my story.

Looking back on what I’ve written, I think I’ve managed to address the key ingredients that the TMA was asking for. I’ve also managed to include a couple of surprises too.

On Monday I’m going to send a couple of replies to posts other students have made about the theme of 'tradition', choose the reply I like best, and start to pull together my TMA 3 submission.

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Christopher Douce

Getting published in Open Learning

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Edited by Christopher Douce, Wednesday, 24 June 2020, 10:05

It’s been a few months since I have taken over being the lead editor of a journal called Open Learning (Taylor and Francis website). I’m not on my own, though: there are two fabulous co-editors and an editorial assistant to help me out (thankfully!) The aim of this short blog post is to share some thoughts that might be helpful to anyone who is potentially considering making a submission to the journal. I hope this is useful!

Tip 1: Does your research fit?

The question: ‘does my research fit with the aims and objectives of the journal?’ is, perhaps, one of the most important questions that needs to be asked. This question should be applied to any kind of research that you want to share: some journals are more likely to publish your research if it is more in keeping with the aims and objectives of that journal. Another question is: who is the audience of the journal likely to be? Stop for a moment and imagine who they might be. If you can’t imagine them, or picture what kind of research they might be working on, then you need to consider whether you are looking at the right journal. 

Tip 2: Write a clear abstract

Put another way: clarity is important. Does your abstract clearly summaries the aims and objectives of the research. Also, does it present some clear research questions? I’ve seen papers that have been submitted that do not have an abstract, or have an abstract that just isn’t clear. Although academic papers sometimes be appropriately challenging to read, I’m a great believer in respecting the reader, and a way to show that an author is doing this is simple: take time to write a good abstract. 

Tip 3: Consider what has gone before

A really important tip is to be aware of the literature and debates that presented through the journal; reference earlier debates that have been published. This enables your article to be positioned amongst others. This is important, since as a researcher, as well as looking at the title, and abstract, I regularly look at the references before I even start to read a paper to see how it fits into the work of others. If I see that there are a few papers that have been published in Open Learning before, I view this as a very good thing.

Tip 4: Not too long please!

Make sure that the size of your paper is appropriate for the journal. Open Learning has a limit of seven thousand words. In my short time as editor, I have seen papers that are longer than this. Length is very important, since the publishers (and the editors) are working to a fixed number of pages per issue.

Tip 5: Practice papers are very welcome

Open Learning welcomes papers that present case studies or summaries of professional practice. Although practice papers may not be very theoretical, descriptions of teaching practice and accompanying challenges can inspire theoretical thinking and reflections amongst other researchers. As educational practitioners, always recognise what you’re doing is important and consider writing about it; this is an important aspect of your own professional development and contribution to a community.

Tip 6: Approach the editors

Don’t be afraid of the editors. They want to be helpful, so do ask them questions; they are approachable! If you are not sure whether a paper or research is appropriate, feel free to ask. Also, if you’re interested in getting more involved in a journal (it doesn’t have to be Open Learning) don’t be afraid about being cheeky. Ask to become a reviewer; introduce yourself. Any journal contributes to an academic community, so don’t be afraid to ask to become more involved in that community.

Tip 7: Be patient and engage with the process

This is a very big tip and one that I’m sharing from my own experience. Peer review sometimes feels like a brutal process. Treat the peer review as an opportunity to engage and develop, and again, do correspond with the editor if you have concerns that your own submission has been understood or interpreted by reviewers; dialogue is important. If you ever receive what you think is a negative review, try not to take things personally; they are not criticising you; they are only commenting on what they have read. After reflecting on their comments, do engage and work with the reviewers and the editors. Very often, this can lead to a much better submission than you had ever imagined. Plus, the more that you submit papers, the more experience you get.

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Christopher Douce

Open Learning first editorial

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Edited by Christopher Douce, Thursday, 16 Mar 2017, 08:11

In 2013 I became a deputy editor of Open Learning: The Journal of Open, Distance and e-Learning. Open Learning is a journal that began at a internal OU journal that shared information about distance education practice. As distance and open learning became more established, the Journal changed to adopt a more international and wider outlook.

Ever since being appointed, I have been busily working behind the scenes, getting papers reviewed and contributing to editorial discussions. It has been a lot of work, and really good fun. I also feel blessed, since the lead editor, Professor Simon Bell, and editorial assistant, Maria Relaki have been great to work with.

For the January 2017 edition (which is also colloquially known as Volume 32, Issue 1), Simon asked me to write my first editorial, and I'm really pleased with the result; the journal contains some really interesting papers. A copy of the editorial is given below. I finish this post with a resolution: 2017 is going to be the year when I start to do more to 'get out there' and to promote the great work that is published in Open Learning.

Editorial: Open Learning, Vol 32, Issue 1

Welcome to the first 2017 issue of Open Learning. Not only is this the first issue of a new year, it is also my first editorial as deputy editor. I would like to thank our editor, Simon Bell, for giving me this opportunity to introduce this edition.

This issue begins with a short interview with Paulo Dias, Rector of Universidade Aberta, Portugal by António Teixeira and Sandra Caeiro. This is the last in a series of interviews with senior leaders at European Open and Distance learning institutions. This series began with an interview with Peter Horrocks, the Vice Chancellor of the UK Open University in Open Learning Vol. 31, No.1. Our next issue will contain a paper that will present a synthesis of key themes and points that have emerged from all these important interviews. As I write, I know that various authors are working on this synthesis. From my personal perspective, this is a paper that I’m very much looking forward to reading.

This issue contains six substantial papers. The first paper is entitled ‘Towards a pedagogical model for science education: bridging educational contexts through a blended learning approach’, written by José Bidarra, who is also from Universidade Aberta and Ellen Rusman, from the Welten Institute, Open University of the Netherlands. Their paper introduces a compelling model called the Science Learning Activities Model, which is abbreviated to SLAM. Their model is compelling because of its simplicity; it highlights three key concepts: context, technology and pedagogies. The model also contains a set of dimensions called ‘seamless dualities’ which address themes such as openness, collaboration and formality. In some respects, Bidarra and Rusman’s paper can and should be used to facilitate debate, but it can also be used as a tool to think about our own teaching and educational practice. Although their paper has a science and technology focus, they are keen to emphasise the importance of wider disciplines, underlining the importance of arts in STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics). Their reflections about storytelling, gamification and the notion of the personal learning environment are all worth studying.

The second paper by Pankaj Khanna, entitled ‘A conceptual framework for achieving good governance at open and distance learning institutions’ has some similarities with the paper by Bidarra and Rusman; it is also about a framework or a model, but it considers an entirely different but complementary perspective: university governance. Drawing upon the work of earlier scholars, Khanna proposes a framework that comprises seven distinct principles. Some of the key principles include the importance of accountability, transparency and openness. Other principles include the importance of freedom of information and expression, and the necessity for sound financial management. Just as Bidarra and Rusman proposed a set of dimensions to add depth to their model, Khanna offers us a set of important governance practices. These practices include the assigning of clear responsibilities, ensuring capacity and capability, and the need to make well-informed decisions with full information, advice and support. Khanna’s paper is one that is necessarily provocative; it tells university management what they should be doing, whilst at the same time notes the complexity of university life and comments on the challenges of balancing the essential importance of academic standards, the need to ‘bring in business, maximise student satisfaction and develop partnerships’.

A complementary perspective is offered by Ngoni Chipere from the University of the West Indies. Chipere’s paper is titled ‘A framework for developing sustainable e-learning programmes’. Not only does Chipere present a framework, but also offers a detailed description of how 18 degree programmes were delivered. From my perspective, the strength of Chipere’s framework lies with its simple pragmatism; it consists of three key points: the importance of stakeholders, cost effectiveness and operational efficiency. Those involved in the delivery and management of online and distance education will benefit from reading the details, lessons and warnings that are presented in this paper.

Moving from the practical to the pedagogic, Kim Becnel and Robin Moeller from the Appalachian State University write about ‘Community-embedded learning experiences: putting the pedagogy of service-learning to work in online courses’. Service-learning was not a concept I had heard about before, which meant I was very intrigued. Becnel and Moeller’s paper is an interesting case study which applies an approach that could be loosely described as a variant of blended learning. In their research, their students work in a community library, where they learn how to offer services to the library and its visitors. After a period of practical work, students are asked to participate in online course meetings to reflect on their experiences. The strength of the case study lies with how technology can facilitate the productive sharing of learning experiences.

This issue concludes with two studies. The first is by Isla Gemmell and Roger Harrison who studied whether there are differences in the extent to which students access support materials and experience technical difficulties when studying a Masters of Public Health programme. Two student groups were of primary interest: UK national students and transnational students. Their paper is recommended to anyone who is interested in studying issues that relate to differences in a study population.

The final paper, by John Richardson, titled ‘Academic attainment in students with autism spectrum disorders in distance education’ also explores differences. Based on data from the UK Open University Richardson compares three groups of students: non-disabled students; students with autism spectrum disorders and students with autism spectrum disorders who also have additional disabilities. Richardson’s statistical methods and conclusions are very interesting and are worthy of detailed study. Whilst Richardson states that distance learning may be of benefit to particular student populations, he is also mindful of the importance of ensuring that disabled students are supported through effective teaching and learning environments. On this token, I would like to remind readers about Vol. 30, No.1 of Open Learning, a Special issue on the ‘Accessibility of open, distance and e-learning for students with disabilities’.

This issue emphasises the international scope of open and distance learning and the diversity of methodological approaches that can be used to contribute to this field. The concluding papers also offer us an important reminder about the importance of the diversity of the students that we all collectively endeavour to support.

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