Teaching, learning and assessment methods
Knowledge and understanding are acquired at all levels through distance learning materials, including module-specific text materials, study guides, assignment and project guides; by a range of multimedia materials; through work on information sourced outside study materials (whether electronically or otherwise); and through correspondence tuition.
OU level 1 modules provide an interdisciplinary basis for undergraduate study and are strongly focused on developing study skills and general academic skills as well as exploring a range of social science subjects including politics and environment. The core knowledge and understanding of Geography are delivered at levels 2 and 3. There is progression from OU levels 1 through 3 modules in terms of both the extent to which guidance for students is directive and the range and complexity of the material, concepts, models and theories covered. Assessment at OU levels 2 and 3 is by means of tutor-marked assignments with examinations or end-of-module assessments. Assessment at OU level 3 also includes independent work beyond the module materials provided.
The teaching and learning of cognitive skills is embedded in module content at all levels of study. OU level 1 modules focus on generic cognitive skills appropriate to interdisciplinary undergraduate study; basic skills development is heavily supported through the teaching material, and assessment and feedback is oriented towards skill development. At OU levels 2 and 3 more advanced cognitive skills are progressively developed: skills development takes place both within the compulsory modules, and between levels, with the OU level 3 module building on the skills developed at OU level 2. Assessment is closely linked to skills development. At OU level 2 cognitive skills are assessed through tutor-marked assignments and exams and at OU level 3 by tutor-marked assignments as well as by means of an end-of-module independent project. There is ongoing discussion of inclusion of an exam at either Level 2 or Level 3; the inclusion of a diversity of assessment methods contributes appropriately to a qualification that develops and demonstrates a breadth of valuable skills. Exams present an appropriate and authentic challenge which provide evidence of important skills which relate to real life and which compel students to engage with module materials and learning in a different way to other forms of assessment. It also provides one opportunity in the qualification for the authorship of work to be unequivocally assured.
Practical and/or professional skills and attributes
When you have completed this degree, you will be able to transfer and use relevant key skills in your workplace and daily life.
Practical and/or professional skills as well as key skills are an integral part of all modules at all levels. They are developed as a consequence of module work throughout the programme and are also built into aspects of the assessment process.
The open nature of entry to the OU means that we emphasise reading and writing skills at OU level 1. At higher levels we make assumptions about your basic abilities in these areas, although feedback from your tutor on your writing skills continues to be important. As you work on higher-level modules, you will find that the materials from which you work become increasingly complex and diverse, and you will need more sophisticated skills of interpretation, selection, analysis and synthesis.
Application of number
You are taught these basic skills at OU level 1 in specific parts of the available modules. These skills are further developed at OU level 2. The extent to which you develop these skills will also depend on which modules you take in your options. Modules from economics, for example, enable students to develop these skills further.
These skills are introduced and used in a number of modules but form an important part of the OU level 2 and 3 compulsory modules. As such, a basic IT literacy is an outcome and requirement of the degree programme.
These skills are studied and developed in many of the case studies of policy and practice in the compulsory module at OU level 2 and are taught and assessed in relation to the independent work students complete for the end-of-module essay for the compulsory module at OU level 3.
Learning how to learn
Because OU students are studying at a distance, there is a strong emphasis on helping you to develop as an independent learner. At OU level 1 this means helping you to develop your basic skills (e.g. time planning, using feedback and support) but also laying the foundation for the increasing emphasis on critical reflection and independent learning at OU levels 2 and 3. At OU level 3 this is built into the compulsory module through the requirement of the end-of-module essay to demonstrate a degree of learning independent of the module materials.