As the impact of the pandemic on our lives goes on through full lockdowns and lesser restrictions, the OU’s teaching also continues. Today we begin a new series about how the School’s modules are responding to Covid conditions. Our first post is from DE100 Investigating Psychology 1.
DE100 is the biggest module in the whole of the UK, never mind the Open University. Its students are supported by over 300 Associate Lecturers and a module team of six academics. There is also the curriculum manager, a key contributor to the module’s smooth running, and a number of other staff, and of course there is enormous support from all the OU’s larger systems, including the Student Support Team. Students can start to study DE100 at two points in the year, in October or February.
Psychology is the study of people and this means that in DE100, like other modules, the materials sometimes touch on subjects that can be challenging for students. At the same time, because such material reflects so much of people’s experiences, it is really interesting and rewarding, and of course the module always attempts to deal with such subjects sensitively. Some DE100 content potentially links to or informs students’ experience of the pandemic and lockdown. The module is about how psychological research addresses real-life issues so there’s lot of relevant information. For instance, to pick two diverse examples there is a week on friendship, a relationship of particular concern at the moment, and there are some basic skills for understanding statistics that could help with making sense of the news.
OU modules are constantly being updated and on DE100, some planned changes were put aside as the module team diverted their attention to making changes to make sure that the module was Covid-proof! They have focussed on keeping everyone involved with the module (tutors and students) safe. The pandemic has, inevitably, affected teaching on DE100 but not all of the effects have been negative.
The most challenging part of the module is probablythe DE100 project. Here students get the opportunity to write up a real-life report. In 2020, some students had their whole final assignment cancelled (a university-wide decision), but fortunately this has not had to happen for subsequent students. There has been a change to the projects, because the originally planned data collection hasn’t been possible. Instead, the module team created novel activities and media to supplement the project and there’s now a general agreement that these work better than what was previously in place. The module team has also produced clear and detailed guidance that is specifically relevant to the current Covid context. (Current students listening to the project video on the module website might be interested to know that the voice they are hearing is our friendly School technician, Dr James Munro.)
The module team know that many students have been fighting their own battles during lockdown, including with grief, and mental health issues from the barriers that now face us in seeing our loved ones, and increased stresses with learning from home. In these circumstances, it is truly remarkable how well DE100 students are coping. It appears that many have actually found more time to study – perhaps because OU work becomes a welcome distraction when many other regular activities have been curtailed. It even appears that more people are getting the opportunity to study since DE100 student numbers are going up, as on almost all the School’s other modules.
The DE100 module team sends its best wishes to current students and looks forward to working with anyone who takes the module in future.