Sunday, 2 December 2012

I joined the Dark Side...

...they had cookies.

I was bought a copy of Microsoft Office University for my birthday in December. As much as I hate large dorporations and try and use open source and small company products instead, I have to say that I'm really enjoying the software package.

I'm an ex-user of Office through previous employment and it's a pleasure using Outlook again. I love having access to sticky notes, calendar and mail all within one program without having to organise addons, themes and randomness.

Word 2010 is really quite fantastic, love the referencing ability and the new ribbon makes the whole word processing activity a lot more intuitive than before.

I still think Open Office is absolutely fantastic for free, and does all you really need. Microsoft provide some bells and whistles that I really do like though.

Thursday, 15 November 2012

Organising and Evernote

I am disorganised by nature, I flit between one thing and another and often forget what I'm supposed to be doing in the process.

I've been using this program to try and help me remember the stuff that I used to scribble down and forget forever.

So far, so good. It syncs across devices so I can send myself audio clips, I can copy paste bits of notes, I can clip web sites and lots of other bits and bobs between my computer and phone.

It's main use to me is being able to leave myself a note for what I'm doing as I switch topics or if the sproglets suddenly need my attention and I want to bookmark what my brain is in the middle of processing.

Sunday, 4 November 2012


I love cloud storage. It's free, it's a great way to backup important files and it makes sharing large files incredibly easy.

I have a dropbox account anyway, and recently noticed that they are offering students a free size upgrade if you register with your university email address (or add a uni address to an existing account) Currently the free upgrade stands at 8GB which is pretty good.

I use it to back up my uni work between my home PC and my android phone, it means I can access my files from wherever I am and keep them synced.

If you don't know where to find your Open University email address, log into StudentHome and look down the left menu, there is an option for Google Apps email, just click through and it will go through the set up for you.

If you sign up through my link we also get another 500MB free each. Tada. I love free stuff.

Online Tutorials

I am loving the online tutorials that are provided by the OU. The Elluminate software is a fantastic bit of kit and it has been really helpful being able to converse with fellow students and to have access to the tutors for an hour or so a week too.

The ability to attend a tutorial in my pyjamas, whilst having to make minimal childcare provisions is absolutely priceless to me and means I have access to tutor support that I would otherwise have to go without as there is no way I can attend the face to face tutorials.

Things I have learnt about Elluminate to make things easier;-

1. Always perform an audio check before or just as you enter your online tutorial. A working mic is useful but working speakers are necessary. If you can't hear or speak, let people know via the text window as soon as possible or people will be talking at you and wondering why you're not responding ;)

2. Don't be nervous about chatting over the mic, everyone else feels just as awkward about it as you do. I hate talking over mic, and detest talking to a group/public speaking but I figure it's something I really have to get used to and now is as good a time as any. Plus I imagine that everyone else is also sat in their homes wearing pyjamas, and that makes me feel a bit better ;)

3. You can save the whiteboards as a .pdf for offline viewing which is a great way to keep them for notes towards the TMA. Also, you can save the chat conversation as a .txt file so you can read through at your own leisure and pick up bits that you found interesting the first time through. I keep my pdfs and txt files saved on my dropbox account (more on that in another post) so I can share them easily with other students who were unable to make the session.

Monday, 29 October 2012

First deadline, Meep.

The first TMA is due in today. I was lucky enough to get my submission in a week ago as I'd had some good study time put aside and could crack on with it. I've amended it a couple of times since, as I'd forgotten to put my PI number on the front page, and then again to alphabetise my references at the end. Still not sure it's completely right, but it's not supposed to be is it? It's all a learning process and I should be able to look back and laugh at how hard I found such a relatively easy assignment.

So now it's in, and done and I just have to wait for the feedback. I've heard from a few people that it takes a little while to get used to the critical way that tutors give feedback so I'm bracing myself for an email full of red pen and a big fat F all over it.


Monday, 15 October 2012

Note Taking

During my first Elluminate tutorial, my tutor mentioned the Cornell note taking system. I had a google about and it seems like something that will really help me focus my notes. My handwriting is atrocious due to lack of use and a lazy scrawl so anything that helps me condense them into something readable and usable is good.

So it begins

Well, in the end I didn't start early. I think I made the right choice too, the online tutorials that we're having are definitely helping sort out my mind a bit and help me see what kind of work the tutors are expecting. Some other people I've seen in online communities started early and are now having to redo the work, I am very glad I didn't put myself in that position.

We're now in study week 2. The module site opened on the 6th October and I'm finding it very easy to use and it has made me feel very relieved. It has a great weekly breakdown of work with access to online activities that fit in with the Learning Companions. Access to transcripts for all the audio-visual material is great, however it's very awkward to try to download mp3's from the site and seemingly impossible to download the videos.

The Elluminate sessions are a little chaotic at the moment whilst we all get to grips with the software, and specifically the audio aspect, but it's still very very useful to share some ideas and see what the tutors have to say.

I am keeping a separate word document as a reflective diary, the template was provided on the module website, which seems to be a useful way for me to keep specific assignment related reflections. I have a fab new planner too - which is helping organise my brain and my time.  I'm going to keep this blog going though as I find it useful to have a space to put my thoughts down that don't fit into an academic diary.

Saturday, 6 October 2012

Study Space

My fantastic husband built me a whiteboard that fits on top of the filing cabinet next to me. I've turned the filing cabinet round so I can utilise the magnetic side of it to stick my module map and notes on to as well.

It makes me feel more organised just having it there next to me :) I'm planning on using it for important dates, a to-do list and a space for mindmapping.

Monday, 17 September 2012

Happy Monday

Less than two weeks before the DD101 module website opens. I'm still see-sawing between not wanting to do any 'proper' work and cracking on a bit to get some work 'in the bank'. I think I'm going to make a compromise and do as much of the background reading as I can, listen to the audio CD's, watch the DVD's and keep up with the organisation and prep work.

I have 2 x 2 hour chunks of time set aside for study today with a quick school run in the middle to collect my 3yr old.

 To Do List.

  • Organise my OU Google Calendar with a study plan of my available study time. I'm going to input the data from the module map once the DD1010 website is live. 
  • After last week's dire attempt at note taking, today I'm going to work on that a bit. I have the Good Study Guide and I'm going to read through and do the exercises on note taking. I don't think there's much that can be done with my handwriting other than practise, I'll just have to re-write any scribbled notes into something legible for now
  • Continue with Learning Companion 1

Will come back to this later.

Thursday, 13 September 2012


Hello! I'm Dawn, 30-something married mother of two. I've got a couple of other blogs around for cooking and gardening but now I've got a new study addiction and I'm going to use this blog to focus on that. I'm going to use this for general blog posts and maybe as a bit of a reflection diary too.

I am studying an Open BA Hons degree with the Open University. My first module starts in October and is DD101 - Introduction to Social Sciences, I have another module starting in February which will overlap a little. A bit of pressure is good for my work ethic ;)

Since registering on DD101 I've been brushing up some dusty skills with The Good Study Guide and working my way through the study skills section on Student Home. I am just hoping that my brain gets the hang of this learning thing.

I was intending to wait till the module website opens on the 27th to make a start on the material, but I made the decision yesterday to up my points to 120 this academic year by taking W100 - Rules, rights and justice: an introduction to law in February so wanted to try and make a bit of a head-start on at least understanding what I need to do for TMA01.

So todays To Do list
  • Start reading the Learning Companion 1 Week 1 section and following the activities.
  • Try and find a productive way to organise my time and surroundings in order to study.
  • Practise taking effective (and readable!) notes and filing them efficiently so I can find them again.
  • Set up this blog - ta da ;)

Progress and reflections so far
Have read pages 5-26, watched the DVD where requested and made notes. Have completed activity 1 and will work on activity 2 this evening after taking a break.

My note taking seems to be a bit over the top, I need to work on making more efficient notes. Also my handwriting is struggling to stay legible due to disuse, hopefully this will change in time.