We are really proud of each and every one of our alumni.
You are the evidence of the OU’s success. As such we want to keep you firmly in touch with your university, your subject interests, and your fellow students and alumni. This section of Platform is just one place in which we aim to do that. You'll find more on the full range of our services for alumni below and on our services page.
Privacy and security have always had a controversial relationship. On one hand security requires the collection of information about citizens, but on the other, it can be seen as infringement of their privacy.
Kirstie said: “Surveillance has many positive uses, including law enforcement and investigating criminal activity, but it can also affect human rights and civil libertarian issues. Public perception and technology change over time, so surveillance techniques need to be reviewed to ensure they are still relevant and not infringing on people’s lives.”
Kirstie will be involved in two European Commission Framework 7 projects commencing in February 2012. The first, Surveillance, Privacy and Security: A large scale participatory assessment of criteria and factors determining acceptability and acceptance of security technologies in Europe, will re-examine the relationship between security and privacy. This relationship, both at state and citizen levels, has informed policymakers, legislative developments and best practice guidelines concerning security developments across the EU. Current security policy, however, needs to be reviewed in light of new research questioning the validity of the security-privacy trade-off, suggesting it may have over-simplified the impact and acceptability of current security solutions.
The second European project, Increasing Resilience in Surveillance Societies will use public attitudes towards surveillance to identify its impact on everyday life and gauge trust in political institutions. The focus will be on the effects of surveillance in combatting crime and terrorism, and how it affects citizens in open and democratic societies.
A third project, The New Transparency, funded by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada, investigates the role of technology companies in promoting surveillance internationally. The team will look at factors contributing to the general expansion of surveillance as a technology of governance and the social consequences for both institutions and ordinary people.
Find out more:
Dr Kirstie Ball, Reader in Surveillance and Organisation at The Open University, has received funding totalling £450k to investigate whether people view surveillance and the collection of information as acceptable in return for enhanced security - commonly positioned as a trade-off. Privacy and security have always had a controversial relationship. On one hand security ...
Dr Petrina Stevens, the graduate representative on Senate updates on the latest meeting.....
Unfortunately, the paper on the Open Media Operating Policy was withdrawn from discussion in Senate yesterday, so I can’t update you on the latest issues. I hope we can get back to it when Senate has time.
It is difficult to select topics which specifically interest Graduates and Alumni, unless they refer to return to study. For this reason I want to take this opportunity to ask you as Graduates and Alumni members, what OU issues you would like to discuss and have reported, should they arise in Senate.
Despite having a number of people view the Platform Graduate rep’s report, there were no comments. As a lone voice in Senate I can’t make great changes but each voice is heard, and with support from other Senate members it is possible to have issues addressed and modified.
As the request for comments comes only a few days before Senate, I wonder if you feel you do not have the time to respond. Unfortunately there is not much we can do to change that, but if we could have comments on-going, then when those issues arise in Senate I am well versed as to your opinions and won’t have to rush you to respond. This means you will have more time to think about issues which affect or interest you.
Having previously studied with the OU, you may now in hindsight, have an opinion on how the approach of the OU could have helped you in a more relevant way. You may have ideas on how the OU can offer relevant Professional Development input, or support you in other areas of training. As some of you may be thinking of returning to study for your own interests and self-development, registration and enrolment issues may be an appropriate topic to cover.
Perhaps you can comment on the types of qualification offered, funding and financial support for returning students, tutorials (both actual and telephone), assignments and a heap of other things on which I am sure you have an opinion.
The ideal place for all these discussions is through Platform in the Graduates' and Alumni Forum Group where you can start our own topic or comment on others. I really look forward to hearing your ideas.
Dr Petrina Stevens, the graduate representative on Senate updates on the latest meeting..... Unfortunately, the paper on the Open Media Operating Policy was withdrawn from discussion in Senate yesterday, so I can’t update you on the latest issues. I hope we can get back to it when Senate has time. It is difficult to select topics which specifically interest Graduates and Alumni, ...
Action for Children worker Nicci was selected by the London Organising Committee of the Olympic and Paralympic Games (LOCOG) after being nominated by her manager, Eve Chinnery.
Nicci is looking forward to her Olympic role, which will see her carry the torch along a part of the 70-day Olympic Torchbearer Relay around the UK. Nicci said: "I don't know where I will be carrying it yet, but I have been told I will have it on May 27th somewhere between Swansea and Aberystwyth. It could be anywhere on the route, but I hope it's close to home!"
She added that when she received the confirmation email from LOCOG, she couldn't believe it. “I was gobsmacked but absolutely delighted to be chosen as I thought the chances of actually being picked were so minimal. I couldn't be more pleased.”
The keen runner has raised hundreds of pounds for charity by completing the Cardiff Half Marathon and is set to compete in this year’s London Marathon. Eve Chinnery, Action for Children Service Manager, said: “Nicci thoroughly deserves to take part in this historic sporting event. She is a hardworking and dedicated member of the team at Powys Community Support Service and also dedicates her spare time to the disabled children outside of working hours, as well as studying for an Open University degree and bringing up to two teenage sons.”
Nicci certainly has some exciting times ahead. “2012 is going to be a good year with my Graduation, the London Marathon and of course being a torch bearer which I am very honoured to be doing, and to top it all I was one of the lucky people to get Olympic tickets so will be going to the stadium with my sons to watch the Athletics on 10th August too.”
With such a busy lifestyle the OU’s study path was the best option for Nicci who is currently studying for an Open Degree.
“I am very excited to be attending my graduation ceremony in the Barbican at the end of March! I really enjoyed my studies with the OU, I like the flexibility, the support was excellent and I could fit it in around everything else to suit my schedule. I would thoroughly recommend it to anyone.”
Find out more:
OU student Nicci Shrimpton has been selected as one of the 8,000 runners who will be carrying the Olympic torch on its nationwide tour ahead of the games in London. She was chosen for her work with disabled children as well as many extra fundraising efforts for a variety of charities. Action for Children worker Nicci was selected by the London Organising ...
Beginning with a study of current levels of awareness, attitudes to mental health and service provision to adults and children with mental health problems in Ethiopia, the project will also conduct an evaluation of the effectiveness of Ethiopia's community health worker (CHW) training in mental health issues. This training is based on new learning resources, written by Ethiopian health experts with support from the OU as part of the OU's HEAT (Health Education and Training) programme. Following evaluation, these learning resources will be revised and the new materials integrated into ongoing CHW training in Ethiopia.
The project is likely to have a significant impact on the lives of children with autism and raising autism awareness in one of the most underserved areas in the world, with effects continuing to last well beyond the life of the project.
The co-investigators on this project are Lesley-Anne Long (International Development Office), Dr Basiro Davey (Faculty of Science) and Drs Charlotte Hanlon, Yonas Baheretibeb and Abebaw Wassie from Addis Ababa University.
Find out more:
- Autism Speaks: details of the project
- Study with the OU SK124 'understanding the autism spectrum'
- OpenLearn: What is autism?
- OpenLearn: Dispel some myths around autism and talent
- Test your knowledge in the Autism quiz: busting the myths
The OU has been awarded of $199,750 from Autism Speaks to conduct a two-year research project in Ethiopia. Led by Dr Rosa Hoekstra (Faculty of Science), a team of researchers from the OU and Ethiopia will collaborate in this initiative which intends to raise awareness around mental health issues and about autism in particular. Beginning with a study of current levels of ...
It is no wonder that the OU sees itself in the forefront of Open Media public broadcasting, freely providing educational materials to the public. Before the arrival of the internet it was noted for its television broadcasting which now seems very dated, but these programmes had a following outside of the OU’s student population. Even from the start the OU was making material freely available.
The arrival of the internet offered even more opportunity to reach its audience, not only in the UK but worldwide. The internet was also available as a media tool for other educational institutions, so it was essential that the OU provided a unique service. As media was the main public face of the OU, it was essential that it remained distinctive in its media usage. Having provided educational materials to the public for forty years, and through the BBC, also supported online activities, the OU had a head start in its experience of utilising media opportunities. However, there have been many changes over the years and the OU has had to adapt to new technologies and cope with many financial fluctuations.
The changes in funding are of course in the forefront of issues the OU is addressing. The development of Open Media is now essential to promoting the OU brand and fulfilling the commitment to education in its charter, which states that through ‘means such as broadcasting’ (and other technologies) it will, ‘promote the educational well-being of the community generally’. For this reason one of the chief roles of Open Media channels is to support this mission.
Open Media offers greater public awareness of the OU, hopefully making it one of the obvious considerations for those who wish to continue their education. It would be helpful to know from you as OU graduates, if you are aware of the OU’s role in Open Media. Perhaps you have noticed it mentioned in a number of television programmes, or discovered OpenLearn.
As a graduate, did you know for example that you could also access OU materials through YouTube, iTunesU or Google Book store and Apps store? If this is all new to you then it would be great if you could let us know. It would be helpful, for example, to know what percentage of the 6-8 million visitors who engage with OU educational materials through Open Media, are OU graduates.
Those of you who have accessed these sites, you may like to tell us if this engagement encouraged you to take on further courses with the OU. It is hoped that the taster material offered will encourage some ‘conversion’ to courses, especially for graduates and alumni,
but if you are unaware of its availability then the opportunity is lost.
As usual I haven’t given you much time to respond, so apologies, but this is due to the fact that the minutes cannot of course be available until close to the meeting date, to ensure they have the latest information available. Further comment on this subject by the end of Tuesday 24th January would be gratefully appreciated, however, the discussion is on-going, so even if the date has passed your contributions will be really appreciated.
Any other issues on which you wish to comment are also very welcome. I suggest you join Graduates’ Forum in Platform and then we can have a good debate!
Dr Petrina Stevens is the alumni representative on Senate. Here she reports on the issues which will be covered in the next Senate meeting and asks for your views..... It is no wonder that the OU sees itself in the forefront of Open Media public broadcasting, freely providing educational materials to the public. Before the arrival of the internet it was noted for its ...
Why I chose to study with The Open University (OU)
I always regretted not being able to stay on for higher education after school, instead I ended up getting a job in a bank. It was years later when I was a house wife with two young children that The Open University adverts that I had seen in local media attracted me to send off for a prospectus.
I chose the OU as I am registered disabled, and I wanted to work at my own pace, fairly flexibly and to fit my studies in with my own personal circumstances. I also thought that the fees were reasonable, and the way the prospectus described the different levels and paths of subjects you could take to eventually achieve your goal, was easy and accessible.
Getting advice and support to study
The one thing that worried me was whether the demands the studying needed outweigh my own personal limits. I looked at the higher levels to see if it was a necessity to attend a residential school, as I knew that it would be inappropriate for my personal circumstances, although when I read the reviews I regretted that I would not be able to attend. My worries were not necessary as there was alternative learning experience (ALE) program in place, and I also read with interest the support that the OU was able to give to disabled students.
I was taken back with the friendly response, motivation and eagerness of the disability department to come out and visit me to talk about my personal requirements. I was very apprehensive, but was soon put at ease by the gentleman who visited me, and his advice was so valuable, I was also fortunate to receive financial help as well as an adaptation in my learning and studies to help suit my needs.
Initially I studied Understanding Health and Social Care (K100) as I was always interested in helping others and at one stage had wanted to work with the elderly or children. I realised that if I was to commit myself to study I wanted to achieve a significant goal such as a degree. I was able to work out that in my first course in Health and Social Care I could gain a Certificate after the first level which would be an achievement in itself, and if I wanted to continue I could count the level towards a degree.
As I could not attend tutorials the OU arranged telephone contact, from my tutors, and I was even told that I was eligible for a home exam. The Invigilator was a very kind and professional lady who I nicknamed in my head ‘The Sergeant Major” as we had to synchronise watches after her first visit. I should not have worried as in my very first course I managed to achieve a distinction, and was so proud of my achievement. This also spurred me on to enroll in the next course towards a degree.
A degree in psychology to focus on long-term writing ambitions
I decided to pursue psychology, as my son had dyslexia, and I had suffered from mental health problems and wanted to learn more about them. I was also trying to work hard on my book that was a true account of my past called ‘A Fine Line A Balance to Survive by Lisa WB'. I had suffered from extreme child abuse and was interested in learning more about psychology to not only improve my expertise but to also help with my writing.
As I studied with the OU my confidence increased, and each time I had to study a new course, I initially worried about whether the new tutor would understand that I couldn’t attend tutorials and be empathetic towards my needs as my illness is unpredictable. At some stages I would be unable to study for a few days or even weeks. I tried to combat this by working as hard as I could when able to keep ahead in case I was ill.
Once again I am still astonished at the response by the Open University staff, all my tutors were very friendly, understanding and supported my needs. At the ALE they even let me promote my book in one of the forums at the end of the course.
It was in December 2011 that I received my results and I was fortunate to have achieved a 1.1 First Class (Honours) Degree in Psychology.
I will always be grateful to the Open University, as I believe it was because of the University’s willingness to support my disability and the way they helped me manage my studies I was able to achieve what I did. One of the tutors even endorsed my book when it was published.
I was so sad when I took my final exam as I felt I was leaving a friend behind, although, through the Open University I have made many new friends.
Becoming a published author
The University helped me with my confidence to finish my book: A fine line, which has been praised by The British Psychology Society, and the ebook has been a best seller in many categories for over a year.
I am now writing a sequel called The Survival, and am hoping to include some of the expertise learnt from my psychology degree.
I hope if other people are thinking about studying, they give the Open University a chance, as it has been one of the best experiences in my life.
Find out more:
Lisa Whenham-Bossy chose to study with the Open University as she is registered disabled. She believes the support she received from the OU during her time as a student, enabled her to ‘spread her wings’ and achieve not only a First Class (Honours) Degree in Psychology, but go on to become a published author. Why I chose to study with The Open University (OU) I ...
What does it involve?
Our volunteers assist OU staff in congratulating graduates on their special day as well as handing out information on the Alumni Association. Your help will ensure that we are able to speak personally to many more graduates, both about their experiences of studying with the University, and their plans for the future.
If you would like to come and help us on the Alumni stand, please email email@example.com (Title DC volunteer) or telephone +44 (0)1908 653815 for more details.
* Please note lunch and refreshments will be provided on the day where applicable but volunteers are responsible for their own travel costs to and from the venue.
Find out more:
Can you spare a few hours or a whole day to help on the OU Alumni Stand at one of our 2012 degree ceremonies?* What does it involve? Our volunteers assist OU staff in congratulating graduates on their special day as well as handing out information on the Alumni Association. Your help will ensure that we are able to speak personally to many more graduates, both about their ...
It was a double accolade for Clive Cumming and his wife Sharon, from Bristol, who were both named MBEs in the New Year’s Honours list, having fostered 150 children over 35 years.
Clive graduated from the Open University in 2000 with a BA (Hons) in Psychology and says his OU studies helped him both in his job as a commercial manager with the Ministry of Defence and as a foster parent.
He said of his OU degree: “Aside from giving me a better understanding of human behaviour (particularly useful during commercial negotiations!) the main benefit has been in relation to the fostering work which my wife and I undertake.
“Many of the young people who come into our care have experienced emotional trauma in their early life. An understanding of how this affects their subsequent development helps us to understand behaviour which they may present whilst in our care.”
Clive started his OU student journey in 1993 with a social science foundation course and progressed with further studies to achieve graduate membership of the British Psychological Society.
He said he and his wife Sharon were delighted to be appointed MBEs and think of it as a reward and recognition for the good work that all foster carers do.
For more information read this story in the Bristol Evening Post.
An OU graduate has been awarded an MBE for his services to children and families – and says his psychology degree helped him get there. It was a double accolade for Clive Cumming and his wife Sharon, from Bristol, who were both named MBEs in the New Year’s Honours list, having fostered 150 children over 35 years. Clive graduated from the Open University in 2000 ...
With constant changes to the current economic climate and funding in higher education, fundraising income and money from philanthropy is becoming increasingly important for the University. The telephone campaign is a key part of supporting this.
But who is being called and why, what is it like being a caller and how do you motivate a team of callers throughout a campaign?
Platform caught up with Sophie Hoyle, Legacy & Fundraising Assistant in the Development office to find out more.
Who are you calling and why?
We call Open University alumni and current donors. The reason we fundraise is basically to help us in our mission to provide education to all – so by providing other forms of income for the University means that we can do so much more for students or projects that need our help.
How many calls have been made?
We’ve called over 6,000 people in the last year alone
That is a high number. Is it cold calling?
No, not at all. We write to people in advance to let them know about the telephone campaign and they can opt out at that stage from receiving a call. The response from many of the alumni we speak has been very positive, they enjoy getting the call from the OU. There are many who also share great stories with us about their studies or relationship with the university.
What is the money raised used for?
Access to Success Fund
The fund is a new initiative, set up to help us to provide financial support for those students who would not otherwise be able to study with us and who wish to take their first steps into higher education. In this first instance, we are helping to subsidise Openings modules. Openings are short access and taster modules designed as an introduction to study which can help build a students’ confidence and develop their study skills.
TESSA (Teacher Education in Sub-Saharan Africa)
The TESSA programme aims to improve the availability and quality of primary education for children in Africa by bringing together teachers and teacher educators. Launched in 2005, it is a research and development programme creating Open Educational Resources to support school based teacher education and training.
The TESSA programme is now being used in at least 12 countries and has in the last month received global recognition in the form of a WISE aware (World Innovation Summit for Education).
Disabled Students/Access Bus
The Open University’s dedicated Disabled Student Services team (DSS) offer support on all aspects of studying including specialist equipment, study resources, and assistive technology. The OU Access Bus is equipped with a wide range of assistive technology including specialist software and ergonomic hardware and furniture which students can try out. The bus is staffed by OU Access Centre staff who are on hand to offer expert advice and training. The rising costs of maintaining the current Access Bus have led to the decision to build its replacement and equip a new bus.
Alongside the role of the donors a key part to the success of a telephone campaign are the calling team.
How do you motivate callers throughout the campaign?
Calling shifts are anywhere between 3 and 6 hours but there can be times when callers are struggling with not getting through to people or speaking to a lot of answer machines - so we organise games throughout the shifts where callers can take part and win prizes kindly donated by OU staff and local external companies. Many of our callers will also be working full or part-time, as well as studying and juggling childcare commitments, so it is vital that we recognise the dedication required and help reward their support. Providing prizes, vouchers and incentivising the calling team is a great way to motivate our callers, encouraging them to have fun at the same time as raising money to help more students.
We would like to thank the following companies for providing prizes for the campaigns in the last year:
Purely Banking, Hilton: Milton Keynes, Hi-Tech Flooring Ltd, Jaipur, MK DONS Sport and Education Trust, Ranstad Recruitment, Saks Hair & Beauty, SGL Resourcing Ltd, Tate Recruitment, Calcutta Basserie, DiscountVoucherSite.com.
What is it like being a caller?
Find out more:
The OU telephone campaign takes place several times a year to support OU students and projects. In the past 12 months the campaigns have raised over £85,000 and the OU has raised £2.4m in fundraising income in the last year. With constant changes to the current economic climate and funding in higher education, fundraising income and money from philanthropy is ...
Marie is currently studying for her BA (Hons) in Leadership and Management with the OU.
How long does a telephone campaign last and what hours do you have to work as a caller?
The telephone campaigns tend to last between 2 and 4 weeks depending on the type of campaign. The hours typically involved are 2 evenings in the week just for 3 hours a night and then one weekend day. It is really flexible and you can work as many or as few of those as you like, it’s great.
You currently work full-time so is this is an extra job?
Yes, I have my own business in insurance so because of the hours with the business, the evenings are really good to earn some extra pocket money.
What was your main reason for applying for the role of telephone caller?
I’ve been studying with the OU on my BA Hons degree since 2009. In my first year I had a lot of support financially because in your first year in business there isn’t much money coming in. I really wanted to give something back to the OU because without it I wouldn’t have been able to get onto the path of studying. I do telephone calling a lot in my job and wanted to do something that was making a difference.
Is there a lot of training involved to become a caller?
You have to be competent and have a certain level of confidence to go on the phone for the first time. The first training was over a weekend and then refresher training tends to be half a day to a day after that. So it’s not a lot of training but they do make sure you’re confident and you’re happy to go on the phones. It’s also on going during the campaigns as well.
Is it difficult to ask for donations? And does it get easier?
I don’t find it hard to ask for donations because you’re having a conversation with somebody who studied with The Open University and if you can really have a good conversation with them it’s just a natural progression. At first you are thinking ‘oh gosh I have to ask for money’ and as you get more confident I wouldn’t say it gets easier but you do get better at handling any questions should any arise. It’s not particularly hard to start with as long as you do what you’ve been shown the training is there to make it easier for you.
What kind of questions do you get asked?
You get asked if you’re a student yourself and what it is you are styudying/studied. So it’s good to have a recap of the courses you’ve done. You’ll often get asked where the money is going (that’s a big one) although you’ll explain campaigns to them. They want to know what their money is going to do. Is it going to go on just admin, does it pay the callers or does all of it go to the causes?
Do you have crib sheets to help you?
Yes you have prompts so if for example someone says “I already give to charity I really can’t do something how do you expect me to find the money?” There are ways of being able to reassure people. And we get asked “how do I know you are calling from the OU?” and there are ways of managing that as the information we have only the OU would know.
How would you sum up your experience as a caller?
Working on the first campaign really changed my life around. When you work on your own or just have a team of 2 or 3 people working remotely for you, you don’t have a lot of human contact so it’s really easy to become quite cold and icy towards people. Being on the calling team formed me. It helped me to be more personable and made me remember why I went into business in the first place. I’ve got a lot more confidence. From a study point of view I’d taken a break after a particularly difficult 2010 and it gave me the little push to go back and study again which I’m doing now.
Has doing this role changed the way you feel about the OU? (If so, how?)
The OU always in my mind has always been unique but the campaign has reinforced that it’s just a really amazing community to be around and it is unlike any other form of studying. There’s nowhere else you can go to be able to keep doing what you’re doing and still work towards a degree. If you need help it’s there. So it’s just reinforced my belief in the good work that it does and especially with everything changing in the next year how important that is going to be because without the OU there would be hundreds, thousands of people who wouldn’t be able to get a degree.
Why do you think those in the OU community should give calling a try?
Find out more:
- Telephone campaign: become a caller
- Giving to The Open University
- BA (Honours) Leadership and Management
One of the keys to a successful telephone campaign is its callers. Student Marie Coles is currently working on her second campaign and told Platform what it’s like to be a caller and why she recommends giving it a try. Marie is currently studying for her BA (Hons) in Leadership and Management with the OU. How long does a telephone campaign last and what hours do you ...
In 2012 graduation ceremonies will be taking place all around the UK and overseas. Booking are now open.
Photo by: Karen Parker
Here is your chance to celebrate the success of your studies. In 2012 graduation ceremonies will be taking place all around the UK and overseas. Booking are now open. Photo by: Karen Parker 1 Average: 1 (1 vote)
Are you interested in starting a medical career with entry at graduate level. Accelerated medical courses are designed specifically to train graduates with a non-medical degree as doctors.
Date: 14 February 2012
This event will be held at Senate House, University of London, Malet Street, London, WC1E 7HU.
More information and booking details.
This course will help you to find out about:
- Specific degrees, by talking to admissions staff, course organisers and medical students
- The major differences between the courses offered
- How to fund your medical degree
- Writing a successful application form and support statement
- The various entrance exams schools use.
Medical schools represented last year included:
- University of Nottingham
- Barts and the London
- University of Cambridge
- King’s College London
- Imperial College London
- St George’s, University of London
The day will consist of:
Presentations – from representatives of key medical schools
Networking Session - with admission tutors and staff
Are you interested in starting a medical career with entry at graduate level. Accelerated medical courses are designed specifically to train graduates with a non-medical degree as doctors. Date: 14 February 2012 This event will be held at Senate House, University of London, Malet Street, London, WC1E 7HU. More information and booking details. This course will help you to ...
The open access journal aims to publish original research articles, review articles and short communications, in all areas of mathematics and computer science.
Subject matters cover everything from pure and applied mathematics to artificial Intelligence and human-computer interactions. The journal is a high quality, peer reviewed, open access, international journal.
Find out more:
Doctor Patrick Wong, lecturer in Intelligent Computer Systems, has recently been appointed Associated Editor of the British Journal Mathematics and Computer Science. The open access journal aims to publish original research articles, review articles and short communications, in all areas of mathematics and computer science. Subject matters cover everything from pure ...
As we count down to London 2012, give yourself a special insight into the world's most exciting sporting event with The Open University's collection of exciting interactives, academic insights and lots of free opportunities to take your learning even further in the world of sport.
Find out more:
- Olympics 2012
- Y164 Exploring sport online (OpenLearn free material)
- Sport and Fitness modules at the OU
What does it take to be a top Olympian or Paralympian? OpenLearn have created a game that will let you discover your perfect sport - Try Olympisize Me. As we count down to London 2012, give yourself a special insight into the world's most exciting sporting event with The Open University's collection of exciting interactives, academic insights and lots of free ...
If you are interested in researching volcanoes for study, work or personal interest join The OU's Professor Hazel Rymer and her team who are conducting groundbreaking project in Nicaragua.
Recent data analysis from previous volunteer efforts in the field suggests we may be close to achieving better methods for predicting volcanic eruptions.
This is your chance to play a part in the cutting edge project, exploring the rim of Nicaragua's spectacular Masaya volcano.
To find out more and begin your adventure visit Earthwatch , call us on +44 (0)1865 318831, or email the team.
If you are interested in researching volcanoes for study, work or personal interest join The OU's Professor Hazel Rymer and her team who are conducting groundbreaking project in Nicaragua. Recent data analysis from previous volunteer efforts in the field suggests we may be close to achieving better methods for predicting volcanic eruptions. This is your chance to play a ...
For those who submitted a question there was also a chance to win a signed copy of The Impossible Dead. Thank you to everyone who posted a question,. The winner is: David McIlveen
Here are Ian's responses to your questions:
The local colour of the various locations in Scotland shine through in your books and make it all so real, living in Aberdeen I have often walked near places you've written about and half expected to see your characters pass me in the street. Where do you start if you're needing that sort of local flavour in a location that is new to you? Beth Scott
Well, it certainly helps to spend time in a place if you intend writing about it. Even a day spent tramping the streets will give you a sense of the place. For the Aberdeen scenes in 'Black and Blue' I checked into a hotel just of Union Street for three or four days. I did a lot of walking, and asked a lot of questions.
I have just come back from a weekend break in Edinburgh and loved it! Which other major city would you set your books in and why? Maz Loton
I'm not sure which other city I would set my books in. I like Vancouver and Ottawa and Halifax (in Canada), and see some similarities between them and Edinburgh. Writing about them would be a good excuse to go stay there for a while....
Do you envisage more Malcolm Fox adventures coming along, or is he just making "guest appearance books" with his team from time to time? Debbie Pitt
I don't really know. When I begin planning a new book, I get the theme and story first, then decide which main characters would help me explore both. In real life, cops only join internal affairs for a short time (between 2 and 5 years), so Malcolm will eventually go back to 'normal duties'.
How do you find your continual inspiration and do you write in a good old fashioned book for ideas and research or do you write direct onto a word processor? Ray Packham
Inspiration comes from anywhere. Maybe a news story that makes me think 'what if...?' Or someone might tell me an anecdote. Or an idea might just pop into my head fully-formed. I then do some thinking/mulling, and scribble down ideas and such like. Then I type these up. When I start the actual book, I type all of it on my coal-fired laptop.
How much of yourself went into Rebus? Were you a dark and moody heavy drinker? Ian Simmins Was I dark and moody? I suppose I was. I spent a lot of time on my own and was never terribly gregarious. I had no direction in my life. I lost my mother when I was nineteen and I was maybe listening to too much 'dark' music (Joy Division, Throbbing Gristle, The Cure). But that's not to say Rebus is 'me'. It's just that he is imbued with some of that darkness from the man in his early twenties who invented him.
I have read nearly all the Rebus books, and some short stories too. I wonder where he is now? He had no life outside the job. Has he really retired? Is he sitting in the corner of the Oxford all day, doing the crossword and downing pints? Does Siobhan drop in now and again? Has he been beaten up by some lowlife as he staggered home, now he hasn't a badge? I can't believe I care so much, but I do! David McIlveen
As was hinted at in the 'final' Rebus book, Rebus himself is almost certainly working for the Cold Case unit of the Edinburgh police. They have also changed the retirement age, so it is possible he has asked to re-enlist. He certainly has not gone 'gentle into that good night'. And he still sees Siobhan.
Will you bring back Rebus? Anthony Blacker
I think so, yes. We have some unfinished business, Rebus and I....
How would you get away with murder? Phillip Tennant
I've been told by fire officers that one good way to get away with murder is to get someone blind drunk, then simply turn the heat up under a chip-pan and leave them in the kitchen. Another tip is to murder someone who won't be missed - a vagrant or similar. You're welcome...
Which was your favourite OU course and why? Christine Carrot
'Listening to Music' was interesting. I discovered that for over 40 years I had been hearing music passively rather than actively listening to it. The elder of my two sons also did the arts foundation year and I enjoyed sneaking a read of some of his course materials, and my wife has been an OU student for about ten years.
Are there OU courses currently, or possible ones in the future, that Rebus could deliver & Fox could take? (Not sure how you'd get Rebus into the teaching role but it would be fascinating to see the results) THEN you could work in the import of libraries & librarians LOL Lana Kamennof-Sine
I dread to think what OU courses Rebus could teach! I don't think I would trust him to impart the correct twenty-first century views to the students. He's too much of a throwback. But I can envisage Malcolm Fox doing all sorts of courses and modules. He is not set in his ways and is willing to learn - unlike Rebus!
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In celebration of the release of his new book The Impossible Dead, author Ian Rankin answers questions submitted by The Open University community via Platform. Ian is the UK’s number one bestselling crime author and an OU honorary graduate. For those who submitted a question there was also a chance to win a signed copy of The Impossible Dead. Thank you to ...
Hi, as an alumna or an alumnus of the OU, how would you like us to keep in touch with you?
Hi, as an alumna or an alumnus of the OU, how would you like us to keep in touch with you?
CBMWC is a non-profit organisation based in New Quay, west Wales, UK and since 1996 has been dedicated to raising awareness of the local marine environment through research and education. Through boat-based and land-based surveys we monitor bottlenose dolphin, harbour porpoise and Atlantic grey seal populations, with a focus on the photo-identification of the semi-resident population of bottlenose dolphins in the Cardigan Bay Special Area of Conservation (SAC).
To find our more and for details of how to apply visit the website.
Photo by: RC_Fotos
Cardigan Bay Marine Wildlife Centre (CBMWC) is recruiting volunteer visitor centre and bottlenose dolphin research assistants for the 2012 season (March to November). CBMWC is a non-profit organisation based in New Quay, west Wales, UK and since 1996 has been dedicated to raising awareness of the local marine environment through research and education. Through boat-based and ...
OU Honorary graduates Dr Mike Bullivant and Evan Davis recently gave talks at the OU campus in Milton Keynes to celebrate the role of its pioneering students.
The two events also included a range of talks from key academics and a chance for many to visit the OU campus for the first time.
Mike’s worked at The Open University for 30 years from 1975 until 2004 as a course manager in the Chemistry department. During this time he also presented the television show Rough Science, a BBC/OU collaboration which aired between 2000-2005.
Mike was awarded his honorary degree for his notable contribution to the education and culture of society in Milton Keynes.
Evan is a British economist, journalist and presenter for the BBC. In October 2001, he took over from Peter Jay as the BBC's economics editor. He left this post in April 2008 to become a presenter on BBC Radio 4's Today programme. Evan Davis is also the presenter for the BBC venture-capitalist programme Dragons' Den, as well as The Bottom Line, a business conversation show, also on BBC Radio 4.
Evan was awarded his honorary degree for his exceptional contribution to the educational or cultural well-being of society.
Evan is now a Visiting Professor at The Open University Business School and recently gave his inaugural lecture on campus.
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OU Honorary graduates Dr Mike Bullivant and Evan Davis recently gave talks at the OU campus in Milton Keynes to celebrate the role of its pioneering students. The two events also included a range of talks from key academics and a chance for many to visit the OU campus for the first time. Dr Mike Bullivant, honorary graduate and a former member of staff, gave a talk on: ...
Roger gained an MBA with the OU and has a wealth of technical knowledge and commercial and management experience. Alongside his work at Qi3, he recently formed his own company, High Q Systems Ltd, working on space technology development. He has been Sales & Marketing Manager at ABSL Space Products, a market-leading supplier of battery and instrumentation technology to the space sector.
Roger has a BSc in Electrical Engineering Science from the University of Salford, plus an MSc in Microwave Engineering & Modern Optics with Post graduate Diploma from University College London.
Can you tell us about Qi3 and what your new role involves?
Qi3 has been in existence since 1999. I have become an associate of the company to enhance its presence in the space sector - which has been showing continued growth in recent years. We have set up my role of Business Development Associate (so I’m not employed by Qi3) in order to enable me to take advantage of Qi3’s existing position in the space market and to bring my network and skills to Qi3 to expand our network of space contacts and opportunities.
How did you make the transition to where you are now?
I left full-time employment because it wasn’t giving me the opportunities I needed. I created my own company, as I have done several times in the past, to give me the freedom to pursue what I feel are the best opportunities in the space field. Establishing and managing my own company I feel is a creative leap of faith in my own abilities and one that I feel to be fulfilling.
How does your core training in electronics and microwave engineering help you in your current role?
My early engineering education and experience is still very useful to me. Although by no means now a technical specialist, I do need to understand the engineering principles involved in electronics or other engineering areas so that I can quickly understand what those specialists are telling me.
Qi3 has been involved in the planning and prioritisation of technologies required for the Aurora Mars Exploration programme. We’ve identified the ‘sweet spot’ where technology developments for Aurora should be supported in the UK. In particular, we identified robotics and key instrumentation technologies, power generators together with entry, descent and landing modelling and simulation software as key foci. This work for the forerunner of the UK Space Agency led to the prioritisation of funding in these areas, and the subsequent strong UK position in the Aurora programme.
Qi3 has previously been associated with some of the OU space missions. A number of the spin-offs from our space missions have been to improve practical earthly needs – such as air testing kits for nuclear submarines.
Do you think the compact, light and robust batteries used in space technology will ever be developed sufficiently to make electrical cars common-place?
This could be the case, although core battery technology is mainly developed for terrestrial rather than space applications, so the space sector benefits from general advances in battery technology. Nevertheless, the reliability and power management requirements imposed on batteries used in space applications has led to ‘spin-back’ benefits, whereby modifications of batteries for space applications have then been reapplied in terrestrial applications.
Similar to the urban myth of Teflon translating from NASA to the home, have you heard of, or is Qi3 involved in such translation projects? If so can you tell us about one briefly?
Qi3 have been involved in several hundred translation projects from physics and engineering research into industry. Of particular current interest is Geomerics in Cambridge. This company has used geometric algebra techniques developed for analysing astrophysical data and applied it to improved rendition of people’s skin and clothes in computer games. This business has now attracted millions of pounds of venture finance, it employs dozens of people and its first games are on the market.
Often fairly conventional engineering principles can have novel and exciting applications. Have you come across any in the space technology industry?
One of the most interesting of these I’ve come across is a company called Zeeko, which realised that it could manufacture lenses and mirrors with aspheric / conformal surfaces, rather than the spherical or flat surfaces commonly available. The outcome of this is improved optical performance, lower numbers of components required within an optical assembly, lower weight and cost. This has considerable benefits in industrial, defence and healthcare applications, as well as being the basis for novel approaches to telescope design.
Within our curriculum we encourage students to look at the framework of ‘rules’ within which engineers work. These include such things as engineering standards, patent law, environmental legislation and the fundamental laws of physics. How important are each of these laws to the work of Qi3?
Qi3’s work focuses primarily on finding out who wants to buy a technology and why. As a result the focus is on what the technology does, rather than how it does it. The issues above are hygiene factors, i.e. if they are not right, then they will prevent the marketing of the technology, but they don’t provide a driver for people to buy.
Space instruments need to be light, small and robust (able to withstand large variations in temperature) and in most cases durable. How does this affect your material and manufacturing options?
You are right about the need for these parameters to be borne in mind. The space environment is often very harsh and materials need to be able to withstand a range of conditions during the life of the spacecraft, such as thermal, mechanical, radiation, electrical interference and so on.
The launch environment is usually the most stressful period of the mission and materials are used and supported where possible to enable them to withstand the calculated mechanical stresses that will be imposed. During the mission, operating temperatures will follow diurnal cycling, often for many years. This will stress units, where any inadequate assembly processes or design principles could cause units to fail. This is why simulated space conditions are imposed during all levels of pre-launch testing to ensure that designs are rigorous and have margins built in.
Materials also have to be ‘space qualified’ to make sure that they do not out-gas or in any other way impact on their own or other unit operation by releasing volatile materials or failing catastrophically. At the end of the day, experienced space suppliers will start by trying to reduce mass in their early designs and optimise performance, using space qualified materials and components, and then apply space industry standard processes for screening; assembly; test; inspection; performance trending; quality assurance, and so on. This ensures that, as far as is humanly possible, errors and oversights are removed from the design and are not then introduced during the manufacture, assembly and test periods. These requirements are significant barriers to entry for new suppliers to overcome, and something which does not encourage many to enter the space field lightly. It requires experienced space personnel who have been involved in the space industry for many years and applying established principles that have been developed over many previous space missions and seen to work (part of the qualification process, in any case).
And finally, working within such a high-tech arena, what did an MBA do for you?
I started my MBA course with the OU in 1997. For the previous 10 years I had been running a small engineering business, providing satellite systems consultancy services. After many years in the space industry working in technical or management roles, what experience and knowledge I had gained in running a business had been picked up 'on the job' and wasn't necessarily the best way of continuing. I felt that more formal training would be best - both for my career and for the business. So I decided upon an OU Business School MBA.
There were many facets of the OU MBA course that benefited me. More effective time management, as I think many students find, is valuable training in itself. Having to work in small teams of two or three on a case study or other task was good practice - not having time to react to any of the other team members, just getting on and getting the job done together. The courses were excellent, especially the tutorials. Absorbing the written material in my own time then being able to come together to discuss the concepts was a good way of working, especially having to keep down a full-time job and see our daughter arrive as well (she was born 2 days after my first exam). Life is hectic sometimes and education often has to be formed around it to be feasible.
Years afterwards, the same MBA concepts come to mind when facing business challenges, and I'm sure I will continue to benefit from the OU experience in business for many years to come.
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OU alumnus Roger Dewell has recently been appointed Business Development Associate at marketing and technology commercialisation specialists: Qi3. Platform caught up with Roger to find out more about his new role (which focuses on the space sector), his career path and views on space and technology. Roger gained an MBA with the OU and has a wealth of technical knowledge and ...