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The Arts Past and Present at The Open University

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3 Reviews

Institution: The Open University / Course Code: AA100 / This broadly-focused course introduces you to university-level study in the arts across a range of subject areas, including history, art history, philosophy, classical studies, history of science, religious studies, music and English.

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      10.04.2015 19:41
      Very helpful



      Interesting course. Excellent starting point for arts and humanities degrees.

      I am just coming to the end of AA100 and it's been really interesting and entertaining. Make no mistake it says this course is broadly focused and it is. At times it has felt like a whistle stop tour of the arts. One week classical studies with Cleopatra the next week Elizabethan drama with Christopher Marlowe then art history with Cezanne.

      It really is an introduction to the arts as a whole from four different perspectives: reputations, tradition and dissent, cultural encounters, and place and leisure.

      If you are planning on an arts degree at the Open University this is an excellent place to start. One of the bonuses of this course for me is that it finishes with an end of module assessment as the examinable component rather than an exam (I'm not able to sit exams) so this was a big selling point for me.

      I have seen some students complain that they don't like having to do such a broad based module when they only want to follow a single pathway such as History or English. For me this wasn't an issue as I am interested in the arts s a whole but it's worth bearing in mind. You may well have to study a unit you aren't that interested in but you can still gain important study skills and some good essay writing practise. Sometimes on certain assignments you get a choice of questions so you do get some freedom of choice. You may even find that you really lie a subject you expected to hate! It's an eye opener.

      Quite often the units have interdisciplinary elements so you get to see how different arts disciplines relate to each other in ways you might not have considered before.

      All in all a great course in itself and an excellent starting point for arts and humanities pathways and open degrees.


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      08.06.2012 18:56
      Very helpful



      A really interesting and helpful module. A great way of starting study at degree level.

      Just after I completed my A-Levels my Mother decided she wanted to move some 80 miles away from where we currently lived which ruined my University plans somewhat. I had intended on living at home and attending my local University, Wolverhampton. Of course, this was no longer an option. I could either move with her, leave all my friends and everything I knew behind and attend a different, what would be, local university or I could continue my plans of studying at Wolverhampton and move into student accommodation.

      Neither plan was particularly appealing to me. The thought of living with strangers terrified me. The thought of moving away and starting all over again terrified me even more. I opted for a different plan. Stay where I was and get my own place. The problem with this was that I needed a full time job to support myself meaning I didn't have the time to study. This is where The Open University came in. Studying part time via distance learning was completely ideal for my situation. It meant I could work enough hours to support myself whilst studying in whatever spare time I had. Furthermore, The Open University's student finance deals with grants as opposed to loans. I don't get lump sums of cash each term but I am basically getting a free degree. And there's not many people who can say that!

      This was all a very long winded way of stating that The Open University suits a wide range of people, it's not just for middle aged people who fancy a career change as perceptions would have us all believe.

      ----- About The Arts Past and Present -----
      The Arts Past and Present is a Level 1 module. It is a compulsory module for a English Literature or English Language and Literature degree. It's also an optional module for degrees in History, Humanities, Modern Language Studies, Philosophy and Psychological Studies, Childhood and Youth Studies and European Studies. The Module runs from October - June or February - September and is made up of seven assignments and an additional end of module assignment. Passing this module will give you 60 credits towards your a degree. A total of 300 credits are needed for a foundation degree, 360 for a honours degree.

      No formal entry requirements are needed for this module. As it is a level 1 introductory course plenty of support is offered to help you through the module so, even if it's been many years since you last studied, as long as you're willing to put the effort in you'll more than likely cope perfectly fine with this module. 'Making Sense of the Arts' is a level 1 openings course designed for less confident learners intending on completing The Arts Past and Present. This quick course gives you 15 credits and has no examinations - it is purely to introduce you to The Arts Past and Present.

      If you want to register to study for this module simply go to The Open University's website (open.ac.uk), find the module and click on the 'register' link. Registering takes about five minutes to do and, unless you need to apply for financial support, is pretty much instant. It really is very quick and very easy.

      ----- What Will I Study? -----
      The module is made up of a wide range of humanities subjects including Literature, History, Art, Music and Philosophy. I will admit I wasn't too keen on this idea at first and did find myself thinking 'what has any of this got to do with Literature?' My mindset soon changed however and I thoroughly enjoyed studying different topics and even developed a new found love of Philosophy - a subject I had absolutely zero experience with.

      The whole point of this course is to develop to your study skills of course and how well you do in this module won't actually count towards your final degree classification so, in a sense, the subjects studied are a little irrelevant although the skills learnt are very useful. I have found that these skills still do tend to tie into English Literature. Learning how to appropriately study a historical source, for example, proved exceptionally useful when looking into the lives of authors from the 18th century. If I hadn't studied History during this module I would have taken everything I read about these authors which was written at the time of their career as a given. Having completed this course I had a much more critical eye and was able to accurately detect possible lies and fabrications.

      It may seem a little pointless at first but I'm still finding myself constantly using the skills I picked up from this module throughout other modules I'm studying for my degree.

      The module is split into four different sections studied with the help of four different books. Book 1 looks at 'Reputations'. In this section you will study the likes of Cleopatra, Paul Cezanne, Christopher Marlow and The Dalai Lama looking at significant points in their lives and works they produced which make them famous, why they are famous or unjustifiably overlooked and how perceptions of them have changed over time. This section of the module helps you to get an understanding of how we construct ideas of the past as well as developing skills in differentiating between primary and secondary sources and understanding and interpreting different points of view. The very first assignment I did during this module was split into two parts. Part A was analysing a piece of written text on the relationship between Cleopatra and Anthony. Part B was analysing a painting by Cezanne. Given how much experience I have with analysing written documents and how little experience I have with analysing paintings I was extremely shocked to see that I actually received more marks for part B of the assignment. I think this just goes to show how comprehensive the information given to you to study from is. I answered a question on a subject I neither enjoyed very much or had any real knowledge about better than I did a subject I have a fair bit of experience in and do enjoy.

      The second section of the module looks at 'Tradition and Dissent'. This section looks at what is meant by the word 'tradition', what it means exactly to dissent away from tradition, how reliable is tradition as a source of knowledge and why a knowledge of tradition is important to understand the arts. You look at works by Plato, poetry, religious dissent in England and music. I personally found this section of the module to be the most interesting, enjoyable and thought provoking. I particularly enjoyed looking at tradition in religious and cultural contexts and this particular part of the module actually ended up changing my outlook on such subjects. This part looks how it is, in some cases, right to treat different people differently in order to be fair to everyone and let everyone be equal. It explores how treating everyone exactly the same would lead to prejudices. I certainly found it to be an extremely captivating subject. Another part of this section I really enjoyed was looking at the musical works of Dmitri Shostakovich. I actually ended up answering an essay question his work rather than poetry in the end (another surprise for me - whilst I do enjoy music before doing this module I would have never of dreamed of picking musical study over poetry). Looking at his work described how music tradition works as a form of political dissent. Not exactly something which sprung to my mind when faced with a string quartet! This section involves digging deeper into what seem like simple subjects and discovering an entire new meaning to things that I personally always took for granted.

      Section three looks at 'Cultural Encounters'. In this section the questions are raised and answers are formed on to what extent objects and texts can be translated from one culture to another. The section begins by looking at the art of Benin, sculptors created in West Africa which were taken by Britain and other European cultures during the late nineteenth century. I particularly enjoyed looking into how these sculptures lost their meaning because they were basically stolen. As we don't know where these sculptures were actually 'found', or anything else much about them really, can we ever fully understand their true meaning? This section progresses further into looking at the late nineteenth century encounters between Europe and Africa from historical and art historical perspectives which then leads into dealing with the issue of exemptions for minorities in society. This part links in closely with some of the issues raised in the second section of the module and I found it to be just as fascinating. The assignment I did on this topic was actually the one I received most marks for which I've always felt to be because I just enjoyed studying it so much. It's a lot easier to maintain concentration and a grasp on general ideas if you do find the subject at hand interesting. I also found reading short stories from around the world to be an interesting task. After reading such stories you look at how cultural encounters shape a person's idea of their identity and it actually made me start to question my own idea of my cultural identity. Being half Irish and half Dutch but born and raised in England my entire life I've always struggled a little with such ideas on a personal level and never really identified as anything other than what I am on paper - English. This part of the module really made me divulge deeper into my own cultural identity and probably helped develop me as a person more than it did develop my study skills!

      The fourth and last section of the module looks at 'place and leisure'. This section starts by considering what is meant by 'leisure' and is there such a thing as leisurely activity? One persons leisure is another persons chore afterall. The section then goes on to look at sacred places and Roman villas and the interpretation of both of these things. The point of this section is to draw a conclusion to your studies and put all of the study habits you've developed into practice by completing the end of module assignment. The rest of this section is made of a multidisciplinary study of the seaside which is looked at as a place of leisure. Here you study the history of the seaside and the seaside in terms of music, film and visual art. At first glance I will admit I found this subject to be a little dry although, as with the rest of this module, the deeper I got into studying it the more I got hooked on the ideas presented to me. The end of module assessment I completed was arguing for or against the theory that the seaside has never been a place of leisure due to its own strict rules of behaviour. The answer to which had a whole heap of ideas and evidence to be presented to draw a conclusion. The idea is that by the time you've completed this section of the module you'll have a firm grasp on what you want to study next. You'll have studied many different humanities subjects in some detail and so here is the chance to bring it all together and decide which of these subjects you'd like to continue. I will be honest, I very nearly opted for a degree in Philosophy despite wanting to achieve an English Literature degree since I was fourteen after this module!

      ----- How Will I Study? -----
      As mentioned above, most of your studies take place using the four text books provided by The Open University. Each text book, however, has a number of different CD's and DVD's which link into the topics discussed in the books. The books will advise you when it's best to take a look at these. The books also contain activities throughout each chapter which help you develop a grasp on the ideas discussed. Although your tutor will never actually look at these or mark them, 'discussions' take place in the books after the activity questions which basically give you the correct answer so you can compare your own ideas and answers to these to see how good your knowledge is.

      You are allocated a tutor who lives within your region and other students within the same region will also be in your tutor group. The reason tutor groups are formed this way is because this course offers fortnightly tutorials. Mine took place at Wolverhampton University on a Thursday evening. Unfortunately I never got the chance to attend any of them due to my working hours but I've been informed they were very helpful and in a relaxed environment. My tutor would always e-mail students the general conclusion made from the tutorial in order to either recap with students who had attended or to not leave our the students who couldn't make it. My tutor was completely reliable and helpful. She would always promptly return e-mails and phone calls if I were ever in need of help and sometimes she'd even contact me out of the blue just to make sure my studies were going well. She always gave clear and helpful advice on my assignments which helped me to improve further.

      You will also have a tutor forum and a subject forum. Here you're encouraged to take part in discussions with your own tutor groups and other tutor groups studying this module. Having everyone else's opinions on subjects really helped me develop a better understanding on the different subjects. It was nice to get some reassurance that I wasn't the only one thinking along certain lines. Of course other students will raise other questions which you yourself might have overlooked and so this also helps to develop your studies. I also really enjoyed these forums as it wasn't just academic conversation taking place. At times where I was struggling it was really helpful to hear from other students how they were also struggling and how they had found ways to overcome the problems I was facing which I could adapt to my own situation.

      The occasional day trips are also planned to aid your studies. When studying the art of Benin a trip to the London Museum was arranged as Benin art was on display there. If I remember correctly the cost of this trip was £11 which was basically for the return journey from Birmingham to the museum so you can't moan at that! As long as places were booked (which were on a first come first served basis) it was also possible for family members or friends to come with you on this trip. I think this was allowed as it was an all day trip on a Saturday and obviously people with family commitments may have found it difficult to attend if their children were not allowed to come also which I thought was reasonable enough.

      ----- How Am I Assessed? -----
      As I have mentioned this module is made up of seven assignments with an additional end of module assignment. As this is a level 1 course you're not expected to write ten page essays in any of these assignments and the work you're asked to produce ranges from 500 to 2000 words. I personally found the longer essays much easier to write. When you're presented with as much information as you are in this module it's much harder to say everything you want to in a mere 500 words.

      The seven assignments you're asked to write are marked by your tutor who will then send you back the assignment with comments written on it as well as another document featuring your tutors overall feedback and the mark you got on that piece of work. Your end of module assignment is marked in the same way but by a different Open University tutor.

      You are awarded a mark out of 100 for each assignment and you get a little assignment booklet which not only contains all the assignments and cut off dates but also tells you about the grading criteria. Still in my A-Level mindset, I found it easier to think of each mark bracket as a grade. Above 85 being an A, 70-84 a B, 55-69 a C and so on. Although this was just what I did, the university doesn't actually say this is what the marks mean.

      Submitting the assignments takes about two minutes to do. You just need to log into your student account of The Open University's website, click on the assignment link found on the home page and select 'submit assignment' next to the relevant assignment details. Once you've done this is a simple case of uploading your word document and ticking a box which confirms the work you have uploaded is your own. You're then e-mailed a confirmation of your assignment being received and you can relax for a little while!

      Collecting your results is done in the same way. Log into your student account, click through to the assignments link and that button that once said 'submit assignment' will now say 'collect results'. You will receive an e-mail when you're assignment has been marked and is ready to collect. I always found my tutor was very prompt in marking and I always got my results back within a couple of weeks.

      ----- How Do I Pass? -----
      For this module you either be awarded a distinction, a pass or a fail. Obviously everybody wants to pass and the ambitious among us will want a distinction. What you are awarded is determined by your overall continuous assignment score and the grade you are awarded for your end of module assignment.

      Your overall continuous assignment score is the weighted average of the marks your receive for assignments 1-7. Assignments 1, 2 and 7 count as 10% of this average, assignments 3 and 5 count as 15% and assignments 4 and 6 count as 20%. Once all seven of these assignments have been marked you can find what your overall continuous assignment score is via the student home page on the University's website although, in rare cases, this score can be changed if a problem has arisen in regards to your tutors marking. Although the majority of the time what you see on the student home page is correct, there is a small chance it may not be so don't take it as a certain until you have received your final result in the post.

      To pass this module you need to have an overall continuous assignment score of at least 40%, be awarded a grade of at least 40% for your end of module assignment and have submitted assignment 7.

      This above isn't actually that difficult to do. In fact, unless you really don't put any real effort into the assignments (or don't submit assignment 7) I genuinely do feel as though everyone is capable of a pass. As long as you put the work and effort in and are not afraid to ask for help when you need it, you will get the results.

      Achieving a distinction is a little harder although still possible for a lot of people! In order to do this you need to have submitted assignment 7 along with having an overall continuous assignment score of 85% and achieving 85% on your end of the module assignment. This criteria isn't actually set in stone though! If you are close to achieving a distinction but don't quite meet all of these requirements you can still be awarded with one. This is down the choice made by the Examination and Assessment Board and their decision is final.

      The University advises that most people do not do as well on their end of module of assignment as they do on the other 7 assignments and so, if your overall continuous assignment score is, say 70%, you shouldn't automatically assume that you will get 70%, or there abouts, on your end of module assignment.

      Your results are sent out to you in the post and cannot be given out over the telephone or via e-mail so there's no point in asking anyone for them really, you simply have to suffer in silence during the wait! Once they have been posted to you they will also be available on your student home page so you can view your result straight away without having to wait for the letter to reach you.

      ----- Would you recommend The Arts Past and Present? -----
      In a word, yes! I think I've probably written far too much in this review already so I'll try and bring it an end now. This module is perfect for anyone who is thinking about a degree in any humanities subject be it for personal or career development. The module is the perfect first stepping stone to getting you on the right track to achieving your educational goal. It introduces you to topics you will study, gives you new study skills as well as develops the ones you already have and, if you enjoy humanities subjects, it's a really interesting and fun module to complete! I never once found myself thinking 'I really don't want to study today' or thoughts along that line. I always really enjoyed the experience and in some cases even looked forward to it. The work load isn't massive so it's easy to fit around even the most hectic of life styles. There's ample help available to you if you need it, plenty of support and motivation and it's just a thoroughly enjoyable and relatively stress free experience.

      When I first signed up to study with The Open University I couldn't help but feel like I wasn't a 'proper' student and I wouldn't be getting a 'proper' degree. This really couldn't be further from the truth and a degree from The Open University is just as valued as one from any other University. I'm actually really thankful the circumstances which happened stopped me from just going to Wolverhampton University like I had planned. I have a fair few friends who have gone there and none of them seem to be enjoying the study experience as much as I am. If this module isn't for you, I'd still recommend The Open University without a doubt.

      If you have managed to sit through all of this without falling asleep, thanks for reading!


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        18.02.2011 11:30
        Very helpful



        A great start to an Arts degree!

        I quit studying my degree back in 1990 to bring up my daughter, but have recently began studying again (now my kids are older) and am currently doing a degree with the Open University. I have done a couple of short courses before, but am now going for my six-year BA (Hons) degree in English Literature.

        This won't be a review on the Open University itself or how to start, as you can find out all that information on their website at www.open.ac.uk but I will instead concentrate on this particular course - AA100 The Arts Past and Present. Essentially, it is the Arts Foundation Course, a one-year 60-point course which you need to pass to do a degree in an Arts subject, as I want to do.

        Courses start in October and finish in May, but you have to pre-book, especially if you want to apply for financial help. I was given a grant which paid for my fees and gave me enough money to buy the set books for the course, plus pens and paper.

        The course may change from time to time, but I will review the one I am currently doing, which will probably stay the same for the next couple of years at least. AA100 comprises of various subjects - English Literature, History, Philosophy, Art History, History of Science, Religious Studies and Music. It is designed to give you a taste of each subject, to give you a broad grounding to help you make informed choices about which subjects you may wish to pursue further.

        I initially planned to study for a BA (Hons) in English Language and English Literature, but studying this year has demonstrated that Literature is my first love. I have also been enjoying the History components of the course, but have found some of the subjects rather hard work and uninspiring. Anyone studying AA100 will find sections of the course they love and others they hate, but it teaches you to persevere and I have been sometimes surprised by how much I end up enjoying subjects I expected to hate.

        When you start the course, the Open University send you four course books, a Course Guide, Assessment Booklet, the DVD-ROMs and CDs you need for the course and a Course map you can put on your wall. You are also assigned a tutor in your local area who will mark your essays (TMAs as they are called - Tutor Marked Assessments) and is your point of contact for any queries or problems. Mine has been brilliant, really helpful.

        These days, the way the course is run means you need computer access, as you submit your TMAs through the website. There are tutorials in your local area though, but these are not compulsory. I went to one and found it helpful, but then I moved and haven't been able to get to any more.

        AA100 is a part-time course, which is supposed to take about twelve hours of studying a week, but this can vary. I have been able to get a whole week's studying done in one day when it has been something interesting and inspiring, while at other times it has taken me two or three weeks to finish a week's work. Real life intervenes from time to time, so sometimes you have to prioritise other things and the studying has to take a back seat. When this has happened to me, I have skipped a couple of weeks completely, if they have not had a TMA, so you can pick and choose wisely if need be.

        The four course books each cover a quarter of the course. Book 1 is Reputations and includes Cleopatra, Cezanne, Doctor Faustus by Marlowe, Faraday, Stalin and the Dalai Lama. Book 2 is Tradition and Dissent and includes work on Plato, poetry, Pugin, Shostakovich and Irish History. Book 3 is Cultural Encounters and includes the Art of Benin, short stories, Medical History and Seamus Heaney. Book 4 is Place and Leisure and includes Roman History and a large section on the Seaside over time.

        I really enjoyed Cleopatra, Doctor Faustus and found the Art of Benin much more interesting than I expected. Cezanne was hard work, but I ended up getting good marks for it. Faraday was also more interesting than I thought it would be, while I ended up completely skipping the sections on Plato and Shostakovich due to personal issues and lack of studying time.

        You are tested throughout the course by submitting seven TMAs and one EMA (End of Module Assessment). These are written in a specific way and you need to include references and a bibliography. The first assessment consists of two 500-word essays then by the EMA, you have to write 2000 words. These have to be submitted via the website by a certain date and are then returned the same way, marked by your tutor who grades them with a percentage and adds comments.

        This is very helpful, as you can assess your progress and the tutor's comments in my experience are fair and encouraging. I have discovered that it is hard to judge your own work though. My first three TMAs received marks in the 80-85% range, then I spent even more time on the fourth TMA (on Irish History), yet only received 68% for it. The tutor's comments explained why though and it was mainly due to being 150 words short of the maximum word length and therefore, my essay lacked a bit of depth in the latter section.

        AA100 is a Level 1 course, which means it is suitable for people like me who have been out of education for a long time. The tutors will be a bit lenient with you at first, but it is in your own interests to get the work done and to a good standard. You will be expected to get on with the work at home and meet your deadlines; you will not be nagged or cajoled to get it done. If you have the right motivation though, the Open University is a great way to study and to fit in the work around your other commitments.

        I definitely recommend the Open University and although some elements of AA100 have been a bit of a chore, I understand they are necessary for me to then go on and study other subjects. (I have already pre-booked my next course, Reading and Understanding Literature, a Level 2 course to start in October.)My tutor has been great, the course materials are well thought out and inspiring and there are good terms for financial help. If you have ever thought of studying part-time, check out their website. For those who don't want to do a six-year degree, there are some wonderful short courses too.


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