Is it time for the Open University to include mischievous moggies with the module mail-outs?

By Rollo Jones

Tutors can be devious beasts and often have quite oblique motives for undertaking activities. I’m no exception to this. For example, during the first tutorial of each module presentation I will invariably ask my fresh-faced cohort to share their tips for successful study.

Over the years the same stalwart answers have been regurgitated but that doesn’t matter. Little do my students realize that it is impossible to give a wrong answer – even the ridiculous such as ‘beer’ can be transformed into genius by referring to it as a treat waiting for you when you have achieved your target. In reality I’m far more interested in my charges reflecting on being autonomous learners; being able to contribute positively in a tutorial and, if online, getting some hands on experience with OU Live.


Figure 1: It is vital we let cats sit on our work

…Or so I thought until I heard arguably the most egregious answer ever – ‘don’t let your cat sit on your work’. “But” I hear you shout, “that is good advice so you don’t get your work ruined by little paw prints” and there was a time when I would have agreed with you. No more, however, the idea of cats sat on TMAs has stuck with me like an earworm and made me reflect on it to the point where I believe that letting a cat sit on your work is vital to successfully completing your degree.

‘What is this madness? You clearly need a dictionary’ you cry ‘cats should sit on mats and not on TMAs.’ Well consider this; cats are not stupid. Indeed they may be the most intelligent creatures in the universe:

  • they don’t go to work for a living
  • they have staff who feed and cuddle them
  • they know they rule the house
  • they don’t worry about paying bills
  • they are part of your family

Perhaps this last point is the most important. Can you think of a better way to remind you of the familiar reasons you are studying than having a member of that family sat in front of you?

And if that doesn’t convince you then consider the pedagogy of the situation. It is well known that our productivity and our ability to learn decreases if we spend too long without breaks. Just Google “work without breaks efficiency” to find out more.

Furthermore in order for our schemas to form we need to allow ourselves enough time to reflect on and internalize our learning.  Failing to do this will, at best, mean that we don’t make those connections that enable us to excel in our understanding; the worst case though is that we end up confused and not really having learnt anything.

confused open university

Figure 2: Do you want to risk being as confused as Dougal?

So come on Open University, stop messing around with new tutorial systems – it’s time to include mischievous moggies with the module mail-outs. Until that wonderful day happens, I guess we’ll have to take responsibility for our own time management so don’t forget to build in study breaks and remember that your family needs you too.

Message from David – This might actually not be as strange as it sounds as your STOU editor has studied alongside his goats in the past!

Author: Rollo Jones is a tutor with the OU

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The Open University study guide is now available! Click on this image to find out more.

The Open University study guide is now available! Click on this image to find out more.


Figure 1: “1 – Jonesy working!.jpg” – Taken by Rollo

Figure 2: “2 – Confused.jpg” –   Website has embed codes