By David Wells, editor at Surviving the OU

David has started H800 and takes a look back at the first two weeks of study

OU H800 Week 1

A nice, solid start to the module, nothing too taxing apart from some introductory questions to ponder. Navigating the home page was the biggest “challenge” as I’m always worried that I’m missing something.

‘H800 begins here’ says the introductory text (see screenshot above for proof), so off we go. The opening pages are standard introductory spiel from the module co-ordinator on behalf of the tutors, before we are asked to hop into the forum and meet our fellow students. This struck me immediately, the forums are a huge part of this course. We will be spending a large amount of time discussing, debating and chatting about ideas with our fellow learners – more so than in any of the previous years I’d been studying with the Open University. Also it becomes apparent that participation and adding quality input into the forum discussions will add points to the first assessment/TMA so definitely a big emphasis on forums and group study here. Here’s the first table of activities:

  • Creating the H800 materials
  • A3: How much changed when printing arrived?
  • Your tutor’s role
  • A4: Generations of information seekers
  • A5: Are the ‘Net Generation’ great at multitasking?
  • A6: The Google Generation: a crisis of information literacy?

We are then required to set up our computer for OU Live sessions. This is a new thing as well for me; I’d ever used the Blackboard software to speak with others until now. All tutorial sessions will be online which is good in that I won’t need to physically attend tutorials but I need to invest in a USB headset to participate. They emphasise USB and not the little green and pink input jacks or external speakers as that all affects sound quality. I went on to Amazon and purchased these for around £25.

iChose USB 5.1 Headset/Headphones with Microphone Mic – Virtual Surround Sound for Pc, Laptop, Desktop Computer, Gaming, Skype

There rest of the opening week looks like this:

  • Ideas for further reading: Week 1
  • Additional activities
  • Learning outcomes: Week 1
  • References
  • Acknowledgements

Usual stuff really for a first week. On to Week 2.

OU H800 Week 2

This is where we really get going. By the end of the second week I now realise that this is a serious business. Plenty going on and lots to ponder. We started with a paper entitled Examples of Technology-Enhanced Learning which began in the form of a lecture from an American professor who was discussing study group learning versus individual study before we moved on to look at citizen journalism and citizen science. The latter was fairly interesting as we were tasked with looking into some projects detailing volunteer nature spotters collaborating with scientists to produce statistics and results on various projects.

Later in the week I experienced my first OU Live drop-in session. No face-to-face tutorials means we communicate over this instead and I had to download some software to run the programme, which was a challenge for my ancient PC. Blackboard Collaborate the software is called and a group of fellow students convened at a pre-arranged time to use it. Once logged on, our tutor chatted with us and put on some slides. We could talk, use emoticons, a chatbox and even video if we preferred (nobody did this). Once I had got the hang of it, the software was pretty good and easy to use.


Only one problem I had with the call was of my own making. The USB headphones I bought were a pile of cr*p to be honest. They fitted badly, I had trouble hearing my voice during the soundcheck, because the inflexible mic was too far away, and both sides of earphone holders broke open. I was able to click them back together and sellotape them in one place but should I really need to do this? Where’s that receipt…

Tip to self: Make sure you get a decent pair of USB headphones

You’d think after all of that we’d be ending and looking forward to the third week – but not so fast!

Wait, there’s more?

Yes indeed there is; that was only half of week two. In the final part of week two we looked at technology and pedagogy (it’s a term for learning and teaching) in higher education in Bhutan and Nepal and the cultural implications of teacher-centred learning. Plenty of new unfamiliar terminology thrown in this week for me to get to grips with. Then we reached some sections on geographic costs and limitations, with interesting lecture papers to read and an activity to complete in the forum. Finally, distance learning through the medium of audio in Canada, during the 1920s, was the order of the day. It was actually really interesting material but having already chosen the Bhutan/Nepal section to focus on (we chose one of these two to study in-depth) I had less time to look at the Canadian stuff.

Canadian National Railwas

CNR: We looked at the Canadian National Railways during week two

Throughout all of this we were constantly checking back into the tutor group forum, swapping ideas and getting feedback from previous tasks. The interesting part of all this is that we are using a study forum while discussing the usefulness of study forums! Pretty meta. As some students are ahead or behind as well, there are messages being posted in older threads too. You are able to skip to the first unread message whenever you go back in, which is handy, and subscribe to email notifications when threads we’ve commented in previously are active with new posts.

I’m sure there’s plenty more but that will do for now.

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