Sunday, October 02, 2011

Diary Of A University Student Aged 44

Corporate logo of Leeds Metropolitan Universit...For better or for worse then, introductory course Y-180 is a wrap.  I have submitted my assessment essay on Chris Ofili's mixed media painting Afrodizzia, I have done the multi-choice online exam and that is it, the course is complete.  All I have to do now is sit back and wait for the result and hopefully 15 points of the 360 I require to get a degree.

Except...I'm not sitting back and waiting because I signed up for a 60 point module, AA 100 - The Arts Past And Present, and as the Openings module ended, the new one began.

On Saturday I became a proper student as along with a largish crowd of fellow Open University students I attended our induction day event in the Rose Bowl at Leeds Metropolitan University.  A number of the Yorkshire (Region 7) students had contacted each other via Facebook, and so wet met up, slightly nervously, at Leeds Station before trooping off en masse to an actual brick Uni.

I know the first course was proper study, but this course feels more real after meeting fellow students face to face as well as getting to meet our course tutor.  Now, the Open Uni has rules about talking about tutors but I think it's alright if I say that our tutor seems decidedly forthright, blunt even, but in a very honest and helpful way.  I think he has left us in no doubt of what we need to do to pass this module, what we need to do to pass this module with flying colours, and what sort of things we should avoid to avoid looking like complete muppets - handing in 5,000 word count essays when the question asked for 500 for example.

I had a flutter of unease during the tutor introduction session, but not to do with this course, it was just that as the tutor explained why we must remove the 'I' from our essays I was thinking back to what I had written in my essay on Afrodizzia and wondering whether there might be a bit too much of myself in it.

Now, I know that some of my fellow students may well read this as my blog posts to Facebook, and I do want to panic anybody who might be struggling with the coursework, but...I was a bit worried when I took on this degree work that it might be too challenging for me, that I might struggle with the work and fall behind.  The opposite seems to ring true, well, its either that or I'm failing to understand the work.  I know that I have not quite nailed the art of the academic essay style yet, partly because I am far too used to writing in a chatty and informal style, but that will come with a bit more practise.  My first tutor also kept giving me a great bit advice - get in close to the subject.  I realise that I have a tendency to stand back a bit and look at the topic in overview, to try and drag in extra information and expand on the question asked. Practise should make better here if not perfect, read the question very carefully, and then, very carefully, answer the question that was asked.

I love all the work.  Our tutor said we can't possibly enjoy everything, but so far I have, the 1st World War Poetry was moving and powerful, Chartist history opened up for me a part of history I knew nothing about but was glad to learn, and the art, oh wow, the art is fantastic.

Scientist Michael FaradayWhen I started this, I was pretty sure that a degree in English Literature was the one for me, after all, I read loads of books so it should only follow that my main strength and interest would lie in literature right ? I still love Eng Lit, but some of the art sets me ablaze.  Before learning about techniques, meaning, and especially context, I was content to look at art and judge it on whether I liked it or not, which is at the base level what everyone does.  When I can learn about the back stories to, and history of people like Picasso and Cezanne though it makes their paintings come alive for me, I can identify with what they saw and what they were trying to achieve, why they painted in the way they did.

Eyes down then, time to both study and enjoy it, our first theme is reputations and the people we are studying are a fantastically diverse group, Cleopatra, Christopher Marlowe, Paul Cezanne, Michael Faraday, Joseph Stalin, Madonna (the pop singer), Maria Callas and the Dalai Lama. It's all great, I'm sure I will hit a point when the work becomes a struggle, when my comprehension leads me astray and I need to phone my tutor and say "Help", but for now, I love the work, I love the way the OU and the modules work, everything is wonderful.

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