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Michael Gumbrell

Getting marked

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Just got the email to say that how my upcoming module is being marked, is being changed.

Apparently it will now be a weighted average of everything lumped together, including the exam 

So no more OCAS and OES just a lumped together average.

Will have to take a closer look at this later on to see if it is a positive change.

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Me in a rare cheerful mood

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So it won't be the lower of the TMAs v the exam?  Crikey, that's a big change.

Michael Gumbrell

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Yes Simon, it is a big change... however in the email sent through to me, it is described as...

'We are making a small change to how your module mark is calculated'

So we they students think it is a large change, however our OU overlords consider it a small change.

It puts more pressure on tma's. Previously you could have a bad tma... lowering your OCAS and still gain a better score by performing well in the exam....

Now if only i knew someone who scored 94% in their final exam of their degree to make sure they achieved an excellent overall classification.... oh hold on a minute... didn't you perform that Herculean feat?

Going forward it looks like i will have 3 years of not being able to risk a poor tma mark, for fear of damaging my whole result!

Me in a rare cheerful mood

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No, it's the other way round.  It is better for the students.

The current marking on most (all?) modules is you get the lower of the TMA mark or the exam mark.  Get a distinction in the TMAs and a Pass 4 in the exam and Pass 4 is what you get for the module.  If they are averaging it all out, a disastrous exam won't totally trash excellent TMAs, and awful TMAs can be rescued by a superb exam score.

Michael Gumbrell

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Okay Simon, good news for us students then.

All hail the benevolence of our OU overlords.

Me in a rare cheerful mood

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The bad news is: when they have trialled it, then will eventually increase all the %age banding points to compensate for the grade inflation this will cause, meaning higher marks will be needed to get the same grade.  The good news is, if you are lucky, this will take a few years and you'll get the benefit of better module marks before the do this.

Michael Gumbrell

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Interesting points Simon.

I thought the grade boundaries with the OU were more harsh than at brick and mortar universities?, so would grade inflation make them even harsher?

My wonderful partner, Ros, scored a 78% overall on her social work degree and was awarded a first with honours . . With the OU, 78% is just sneaking into 2:1 range.

If grades do inflate then will they raise the minimum pass mark, up it from 40%, as well?

I also wonder how it would effect my overall classification? Because i am on the Politics, Philosophy and Economics with honours pathway, i only did one module at level 1, i have to do 3 at level 2 and a final 2 at level 3 

So i have already been marked on two level 2 modules, under the old system, and am about to start the third level 2 module under the new scoring system.

I have checked the regulations page for my pathway (Q45) but it has not been updated yet, in fact my module study planner page does not reflect the new changes yet either.

Me in a rare cheerful mood

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"I also wonder how it would effect my overall classification? Because i am on the Politics, Philosophy and Economics with honours pathway, i only did one module at level 1, i have to do 3 at level 2 and a final 2 at level 3 "

The OU does my head in at times.  On the open pathway I did under the QD rules, I had to do 120 points at level 1, 120 points at level 2, and 120 points at level 3.  It is not permitted to do anything else.

Doing more modules above level 1 can only help with the final degree classification.

Regarding marking, I understand the OU uses a different way of marking from other universities whereby you get  a higher %age, but the boundaries are higher to compensate.  The "Use the lowest of the TMAs and the exam" rule was - I believe - to give the OU results more respectability and counter arguments against the OU being easy.

Grade inflation is where more people start getting better results - using the average of the TMAs and exam will cause this.  To compensate, yes, the boundaries would need to go higher, or the marking done differently to result in lower %ages.  Or change the whole mind-bendingly complicated weighted grade / threshold grade points / quality assurance points / quality assurance thresholds business.

Me in a rare cheerful mood

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In your case, doing 3 x level 2 and 2 x level 3, I think what happens is your worst level 2 module gets disregarded in working out the degree classification.

(Where I got two Grade 3 passes at level 3, and a Grade 2 and Distinction at level 3, if I were to do a third level 2 module and get a Distinction in that, my 2:1 would become a 1st.)

So you get an extra bite of the cherry to get a great mark at level 2.  smile  Given you have done two modules at that level already you now know what they want of you, so you're in with a good chance of doing so.

You also get more value from your degree - I'm not sure what I really learned at level 1 other than how to submit TMAs, referencing and that other students can give better advice than some tutors.  Level 2 was where the learning about stuff began for me (except for A222, of course).

Michael Gumbrell

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Well Simon, if i do get to drop one level 2 score from my classification the it will be the A222 classification that gets binned for sure.

I found that the one level 1 module i did was good to learn how to structure TMA's correctly, introduction, unpack key terms, linking sections and having 600 words paragraphs of key themes.

Having learnt that and getting a grade 2 at level 1, i then went straight into the level 2 module of politics. Again my TMA's held up well, building on what i had learnt at level 1. Again i got a grade 2 pass and got a couple of points away from distinction.

Then came A222 as my second level 2 module, in A222 the structure of essay was not how they wanted them written. They are clear that philosophy essays are different to normal essays and i struggled with that, as reflected in my grade 3 pass 

I am looking forward to getting back to writing TMA's in the structure i enjoyed and DD209- economics will allow me to do that.

So happy days, and to quote General Patton...

'NUTS' to A222.

Michael Gumbrell

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This is the email i recieved about the change,

Dear Mr M Gumbrell, 
We’re making a small change to how we calculate your overall result for a module you’re planning to study in autumn 2018. 

Previously your module may have been advertised as having two separate components of assessment which were both used to calculate your final result:

* the scores from the assignments completed during the module were used to calculate an overall continuous assessment score (OCAS) 
* the result from the exam or end-of-module assessment (EMA) was used to give an overall examinable score (OES). 

To pass the module you needed to achieve a minimum threshold (usually 40 per cent) on both the OCAS and the OES. 

From autumn 2018 the result for this module will be calculated in a different way – as a single weighted average of all the assessment tasks you complete on the module - i.e. your assignments plus the exam or EMA. To pass you will still need to achieve a minimum threshold but this will be on a single overall score instead of on both an OCAS and an OES. 

So it sounds like a helpful change for me indeed.

Me in a rare cheerful mood

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It will always bother me that I referenced the Monty Pythons' Philosophers Song in an A222 essay and the tutor did not comment on it.  Although he never did comment much other than "That's not how a philosophy essay should look".  It made me wonder just how quickly he skimmed through those essays before randomly allocating them a mark.

He never opened the TMA00 either, which is a shame since I wrote a very short essay around a philosophy-themed cartoon.

Somehow I need to put A222 behind me and forget it - but that's not how my psyche works.  Perhaps, through refection, I could somehow spin it into a positive learning experience.  But I'll be rogered with a smoked mackerel if I can see how to do that.  I learned that just because someone has a PhD in a subject and is a really personable person does not mean they can teach - but I think we all learned that before we left school.  I have learned that philosophy text books are great for standing on to reach the top shelf or for holding doors open but little else.  I have learned that a poorly designed course can turn 30 years of interest in a subject into cold, resentful, dismissal.

I have heard tell of people (in these very OU blogs, I believe) who have ritually burned their textbooks and notes for a module on their garden barbecue.  Perhaps that would be cathartic - a ceremonial sacrifice to Athena; a dispersal of the ashes of dead philosophers' lifeless thoughts, rendered stillborn in the current generation by incompetent academic midwifery.

I feel uncomfortable turning the paperwork into CO2, and the shredder would probably commit overheating suicide trying to get through Cottingham's Western Philosophy even before it got to Socrates dutifully drinking his hemlock rather than have freedom.    Although I have a love of books and cannot bring myself to mark or disfigure one, I associate this module too much with pro-intelligent design teaching and "It's better to kill yourself than disobey authority".  It was an abomination and if ever writing deserved to be burned, this was it.  Even Hitler's barking mad Mein Kampf makes a better work for philosophical discussion than this load of biased and poorly-contrived bobbins of a module.

(On an aside, I wonder which circle of Hell Thomas Aquinas resides in for arguing killing for Christ is morally justified?  If Islamic fundamentalists are morally totally out of order for wanting to kill the infidels, how is this psychotic politicians' apologist toe-rag - responsible for saying God approves of hundreds of millions of violent deaths over nearly two millennia - not fundamentally mental?)

What do you reckon, Michael?  Is module immolation a suitable way to release the tortured evil spirit within A222 and cleanse one's soul of its foul works?  Would a festival of fire and fury finish the fecking thing?

Maybe the fires on the moors and forests this summer has been other students, going out into the wilds to purge themselves of the demonic mind-worm parasites infecting their brains by bunging a book on a disposable barbie.  Show the gods the smoke and smouldering ashes of crushed dreams and hopes for academic illumination, as they laugh at us for aspiring to understanding their wiles and whims.

Michael Gumbrell

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Hi Simon, 

I wont be burning the A222 books or holding any sort of destructive ritual for the module or module materials.

I checked out of A222 with 2 months to go on the module... checked back in a little bit to make sure the exam went okay... then checked back out again. So i am being apathetic to the A222 books, they can sit on the shelf, surrounded by far more interesting books. They can have my apathy, not just as books about the subject, but as a subject in itself.

No need to be angry anymore about A222, to quote the great philosopher, john lydon, 'anger is an energy'. I have wasted enough energy on A222.

It can go into the emotional bin with ex girlfriends, wind up merchants and anything else i should have had more sense to spot coming from a mile away. 

The greatest insult i can apply to philosophy is....

It is just a bit shit really....

Michael Gumbrell

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How is this for a premise Simon?

Using a Humesque redacto absurdium,

(A) Philosophy is a bit shit really.

(B) Teaching philosophy will be a bit shit really


Studying Philosophy is a bit shit really.

Shock! This is the first time I’ve heard of this!

I always do well in my TMAs but haven’t as well in EMAs and written exams. Do you mean from now on this will with to my advantage in terms of my Classification of Honours?