Discuss with reference to your own experience of studying U130.
Using a computer to learn is quick and efficient. Assignments and conference posts can be generated on the computer rather than hand-written, and this allows for drafting and editing without having to start afresh each time. A computer is invaluable for downloading a CV template, formatting and editing, and submitting job applications when searching for a new career. In making use of word processing capabilities, presentation is improved, and both spelling and grammar can easily be checked.
My e-diary contains this entry:
“I have today learnt a lot about formatting text which I hope to apply to my future assignments. I knew how to change the font and size but did not know I could also change the background and add shadows.” (24/05/2004).
TMAs and useful information are stored electronically which saves space and ensures coursework is not lost or damaged. Using a computer to store information also makes it easier to retrieve than a hard copy would be, by using the search facility.
Also, the course website offers some of the course material online:
“In this area of the website you’ll find electronic versions of the U130 Course Guide, the Assignment Guide and Blocks One to Four.“ –
I have found this useful because it means I have been able to access the course and study when I am away from home. I have also found information on the OU library through FirstClass and hope to explore this further.
The internet and conferences make it easy to send information instantaneously. Help and advice is posted as needed, which otherwise would have to come through the post – this would be slow and impractical.
For example, my tutor posted:
“I’ll be posting instructions for both activities, together with details of the partnerships, around Friday May 28th …”
This has answered queries that both I and other students had regarding the co-writing activity and online debate really quickly, without the need to send out mail in the post. However, Helen Macpherson was helpful in drawing attention to the post, and this is an example of students helping each other out.
Students can share study advice and tips, or simply make friends and share photographs (such as SarahWilson5 in U13004DCafe – Sarah’s cat!). The U130bld4Chill and U130bld4Icebreaker conferences are great for getting to know other people in the tutor group and building friendships, whereas the U13004DCafé seems to include people from all over who are doing the course.
The internet and conferencing facilities bring people together, wherever they are and no matter what their personal circumstances are.
It also means I can contact people night and day, and they can reply at their convenience. I was able to e-mail my tutor (18/05/2004) and present a personal problem clearly, in my own time, rather than telephoning her and perhaps not communicating as well over the telephone, with limited time.
It was encouraging to meet people at the tutorial face-to-face but clearly for most people this is impractical every day, hence why they have chosen distance learning. It is therefore an advantage to be able to stay in touch with those people and maintain that mutual encouragement.
My first e-diary entry on conferencing reads:
“I am a bit apprehensive about studying from home. I have tried it before and found it difficult to stay motivated”.
I since have made a post to the conference U13004Dbld4TG, which said:
“I haven’t been on here much but it’s very encouraging to read other people’s comments. Home study can be hard but this is a great idea to bring other students together, I don’t feel like I’m doing it alone. (26/05/2004)
Staying in contact with other students is not something I have had before with open learning and this has helped me. For example, one student who I met at the tutorial has sent me a couple of e-mails and I hope that we will stay friends (Shell Britcliffe).
I have also made some posts to the board (U13004DCafe 26/05/2004 and now I have caught up, I am aiming to get involved more, particularly as we have group work ahead.
There are some disadvantages to be found in the use of a computer to learn and communicate. Whilst word processing is undoubtedly efficient, it is unfortunate that it does nothing to help improve my spelling as I have come to rely on spell check and grammar check!
The computer can also be damaged by virus or accident, which means all information is lost – there may not be other forms of communication in place if people have only corresponded by email and conference.
For example, one student has posted:
“Sorry it’s taken a while, my pc decided to stop working during the last thunderstorm we had!” Nicola Geoghan, 08/05/2004
This has resulted in the student being a little behind with her study. Another student accidentally lost her work and the wonders of modern technology failed her on this occasion:
“the junk new copy ‘automatically saved’ itself over my full set of work while I was still fumbling around trying to find where all the text had gone!!“ Lorraine Buckley, 24/05/2004
So, computers bring some problems as well as advantages to open learning, but this by no means weighs out the advantages of being able to work on text over a period of time without rewriting it.
Arguably, conferencing decreases the need for meeting and social interaction which is a negative – I have found that since using e-mail, I phone people less than before. However, as said before, where it is impossible for people to meet (such as worldwide students and those with difficult circumstances) it is an advantage.
I have enjoyed the first two blocks of this course and have learnt a number of new skills which I hope to apply to my university work, and also in work I do at home such as in producing business letters and in organizing my home computer by backing up important documents. I also hope to make greater use of the conferencing and e-mail facilities to stay in touch with other students and to learn with them.