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Human, Community and Environmental
OU Courses I Have Taken
How does one successfully manage activities and initiatives meant to improve people's lives and their environment, and address critical situations such as HIV/AIDS, violence and discrimination against women, child labor, illiteracy, environmental destruction, hunger, and so forth, in sustainable ways? That's the focus of these courses with Open University, a British University dating from the 1970s and consistently ranked one of the top five in the United Kingdom (yes, up there with Oxford and Cambridge -- and sometimes over the latter).
I finished the degree in late October 2005 when I turned in my final paper, just three months shy of my 40th birthday.
What's wonderful about studying development management is that its applicable to so many, many professional and personal settings, in any country. And I'm happy to say that I've used the materials from courses again and again in various work since then, including in Afghanistan, and that I've seen the lessons from these courses affirmed again and again.
It is very helpful in going for the OU MSc in Development Management if you already have experience, as a volunteer or as a professional, in helping a community anywhere address a particular issue, educating a particular group of people about a specific issue, etc. In fact, I relied much more on my volunteer and activism experience in the USA, rather than my UNDP-related development work, for past experiences that related to what I learned in these courses. For instance, I've worked with American Indians in California who were relocated off their reservations through the 1970s, worked with a nonprofit organization promoting access to technology and tech education for people with disabilities, and undertaken a lot of advocacy work for various reproductive rights groups -- all of these experiences were most helpful in relating to what I studied.
According to OU materials, nearly all OU students are part-time and about 70% of students remain in full-time employment throughout their studies. OU courses are considered to be among the world's best distance education materials. Several people at UNDP's UNV headquarters, where I worked until February 2005, have gotten or are pursuing Master's Degrees through OU.
Courses I took for the degree:
TU870 Capacities for Managing Development
Completed in Fall 2003
For me, this was the most practical of the OU courses regarding development management -- and the hardest, in terms of successfully completing assignments (I flunked one, in fact). And, yet, I did very, very well on the final exam, better than people who had done well on the assignments (I think part of that is that they had much better tutors than me, who graded very differently). Good tutor support and interaction with other OU students via the online community on First Class is, IMO, absolutely essential to getting a good grade in this course, so you should login to the OU intranet via First Class regularly . It has four assignments (TMAs), all of equal value, though you can substitute your second lowest grade for your lowest.
TU872 Institutional Development: Conflicts, Values and Meanings
Completed in Spring 2004
Although not reflected in my grades (which were much better than TU870), I found this course VERY difficult. Thank goodness it has only two major TMAs, and, for the first time in my OU experience, I had a really supportive, helpful tutor. Like TU870, this course provides very practical information regarding development management. When I took it, this course included a residential school, where you go onsite for a weekend to apply mapping and modeling to mock negotiation and brokering exercises. The residential school has now been made optional, and its own course. I cannot imagine getting what you should out of TU872 without going to the residential school -- it's a must, as it makes mapping and modeling come to life (I wouldn't have understood them without the rezzy school). There are other good reasons to go as well: the Development Management professors will do extra workshops, such as an orientation about preparing for TU874 (see below); you get to meet many of the tutors and course authors, which will help you in later courses; and you get to meet other students face-to-face, which is marvelous and even therapeutic. Interaction with other OU students via the online community was *very* helpful, if not essential, for this course, so you should login to the OU intranet via First Class regularly .
D830 Ecology, Justice and Citizenship
Completed in October 2004
If you are concerned about the environment, regardless of your professional or volunteer experience (or lack there of), you will love this course. I found the readings much easier than my previous two courses, and in taking this course, I realized that I very much want to work for an organization focused on the environment -- something I had never realized before. Like TU871, this is a perfect start if you are new to OU -- if you don't have a great tutor, you can still do okay in this course (although I was lucky and, for the second time, I had a really good tutor). It's also a good course to take after a particularly-difficult one -- it will feel like a break! I followed my own advice regarding writing TMAs for this course (advice that I didn't really solidify until after I had already taken three courses), and my grades went up 10 - 18 points! D830 is in a different department than my previous courses, which are all a part of the Global Programme in Development Management. There is no official online forum for this course, which is shameful on the part of whomever decided such; there's NO excuse not to have one. For those of us outside the United Kingdom, an online forum is ESSENTIAL. I talked to some alumni of this course before I started, which was very helpful, and I was lucky to connect with a few students via the Internet who were also taking the course (thanks to our tutor sharing our email addresses with each other). An OU student created an unofficial online forum for all students in D83x courses; it is external to the OU system, and worth a visit if you enroll in a D83x course.
T89 Technology Policy and Innovation Research
Completed in April 2005
Based on the official OU description of T89, I thought this course would be quite relevant my work with civil society/mission-based organizations, particularly regarding the development of online services, capacity-building, and community technology centers. Turns out that it is a misleading description. My many problems with this course:
TU874 The Development Management Project
Completed in October 2005
This course involves designing and carrying out a research project on a development subject of my choice. This was my LAST OU course, ending three years of post-graduate study. If you are going to take TU874, here is my advice: (1) If you are working or volunteering for a mission-based organization (non-profit, non-governmental organization/NGO, civil society, public sector/government agency, school, etc.), I strongly suggest you tie your TU874 topic to that organization, or to organizations with which you collaborate, so that your work on TU874 can be part of your work for your organization. Why? Because you will not have time to do something completely exterior to your job or volunteering. Your development topic will require you to talk to organizations and individuals engaged in a particular type of work or collaborations, and the most convenient people to talk to are, ofcourse, at your organization, or at those organizations with which you collaborate. If I had had a job while taking this course, I could never have undertaken the research that I did, because I would not have had time to make all of the connections and do the research I needed on this subject matter, which is completely exterior to my professional and volunteer life of the last 15 years. (2)Start brainstorming development organizations or aspects of their work that you want to research a year or more before you start TU874, and start collecting a few publications, articles or previous research on the topic as early as possible, before you even enroll in TU874, to get a "feel" for the topic(s). This will give you a HUGE advantage when you actually start the course. But remember to report on all this work in your first TMA, even though it happened before you started the course. You can see a list of OU TU874 Final Reports for six years, through 2004
Also see How I Studied and my Advice for TMAs and Exams
In November 2007, I started taking a free course through Open University's open content initiative, OpenLearn. The 43 units of study offered through OpenLearn are spread across nine subject areas: Arts & History, Business & Management, Education, IT & Computing, Mathematics & Statistics, Science & Nature, Society and Study Skills & Language Learning. In short: it's free university courses online, except you don't pay... and you aren't graded. I'm currently taking Achieving public dialogue (S802_1), which looks at active forms of involvement by the public in policy relating to science: how is the public voice heard and understood? What is public involvement of this type for and is the outcome in some way betterš than traditional methods of policy making? What do phrases like "public consultation," "public engagement" and "scientific literacy" really mean? How do non-experts weigh the risks and benefits that science offers?
Why am I taking this OpenLearn course? Several reasons:
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