Rachy Ramone's picture

OU Ecology online course:

Anyone thinking of doing it?

Anyone know any more about it? Will there be an exam? What happens if you fall behind, do you get left behind or can you continue at your own pace? Do you get any sort of certificate at the end of it?

And does anyone know how it is funded?

Update: OK, I've read a bit more: so there are quizzes all the way through, tests at "key moments" which are scored, and "a sharable page as evidence of what you’ve learnt."

It sounds kinda fun, but I'm a bit cynical about anything which uses phrases like "a powerful new way to learn"...

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landgirl's picture

Course

I've signed up, just to see what it's all about. Sounds like an interesting venture, we should support it. I'm hoping there will be some kind of discussion feature so that interaction with other students will be possible.

marksteer's picture

Help please - link to this

Help please - link to this 'course'.
Tried OU website but I find it difficult to navigate - technophobe!!!

The more I know the more I realise I don't know

Rachy Ramone's picture

It's on the iSpot Home page...

... just below the two carousels.

Rachy Ramone

How to take close-ups with cheap phone and hand-lens:
http://tree-and-shrub-id.blogspot.co.uk/p/how-to-close-ups.html
Field Guides for Budding Botanists:
http://www.amazon.co.uk/-/e/B01A8YB0WY

marksteer's picture

Sorry Rachy - what

Sorry Rachy - what 'carousels'?
I'm a technophobe!
Please link!!!!
Mark

The more I know the more I realise I don't know

Thistle's picture

On the iSpot Home Page

... just below the two rows of photos (aka "carousels"): "New Open University course on ecosystems - and it's free!"

Ian

Rachy Ramone's picture

Thanks, Ian.

And sorry, Mark, I didn't make that sufficiently clear. It took me weeks to learn what iSpot meant by "carousels", sorry!

Here's the direct link:

https://www.futurelearn.com/courses/ecosystems

Signing up is very easy, even for a technophobe: but I found signing out very hard at first! Open the link below in another tab (if it's clickable [ie a different colour] then right-click on it, and select the top option, "open Link in new tab" - if it's not clickable, open a new tab, cut and paste the link) and have it handy in case you get stuck.

https://futurelearn.uservoice.com/forums/212410-general/suggestions/4731...

See you there...

Rachy Ramone

How to take close-ups with cheap phone and hand-lens:
http://tree-and-shrub-id.blogspot.co.uk/p/how-to-close-ups.html
Field Guides for Budding Botanists:
http://www.amazon.co.uk/-/e/B01A8YB0WY

Thistle's picture

On the iSpot Home Page

Sorry - duplicate post deleted.

Rachy Ramone's picture

Oh, there will be interaction all right!

If you follow the link on out Home Page to the course, then follow the link to the Future Learn website: there are three "tabs" at the top, Courses, About and Partners.

Click on About, then choose How It Works.

From reading this, it seems that we are going to be beta-testing the course (which is a good thing, as we can then influence the final version) and that each article, video or audio piece will include a "margin" for comments.

If I read it right, they are also going to put us into discussion groups - presumably something like the Forums here, with recorded threads, rather than the ephemeral "chat" format - to discuss each module/topic. This will allow the students to check if they have understood the module correctly, by peer review as it were, and will allow Future Learn to check that they are presenting the info in a clear, concise manner. I guess if there are agitated arguments every day, it will indicate that things need tweaking!

On the one hand it seems like a great opportunity to participate in the set-up of this new learning format - if you think of all the grumbles each time iSpot change something, and how many of us have asked if we could test things before they go live, then it seems like a perfect idea to get us all to test it.

On the other hand, we are being used as unpaid beta testers and we might invest huge amounts of time in something that leaves us not much better off, educationally, than we were before. I am fairly confident that most iSpotters will already be well aware of most of the issues and concerns of this proposed course, as most of us are already familiar with the "web of life" (a rather 2D phrase, don't you think? ha ha!)and the general interconnectedness of things. But there is always something to learn, I find, although whether we will learn more from 6 weeks at 3 hours per week (bet it will be more than that, once the margin discussions start!) than from just doing a little research of our own, remains to be seen.

Rachy Ramone

How to take close-ups with cheap phone and hand-lens:
http://tree-and-shrub-id.blogspot.co.uk/p/how-to-close-ups.html
Field Guides for Budding Botanists:
http://www.amazon.co.uk/-/e/B01A8YB0WY

Ray Turner's picture

Looking Forward To It

I’m signed up too.

Two things reassure me; first this is part of an international learning initiative, the aim is to have many courses available from training establishments all over the world catering to students anywhere. Secondly this particular establishment is the OU and from past experience (BSc Maths(OU) and Neighbourhood Nature (a standalone 10 pointer)) nothing the OU does is Mickey Mouse.

Should be good, can’t wait to start.

Ray

Ray

Thistle's picture

I'm in!

Like Ray I'm another OU graduate and admire (most of) their materials and methods. They are very open here that this is beta testing: see https://www.futurelearn.com/about. I have no problem with this and look forward to helping as well as learning.

Has anyone else considered any of the other FutureLearn courses on offer? Quite a lot of them look interesting (though I think I'll give "Dental Photography" a miss!!) I'll see how the Ecology one goes before signing up to anything else.

Ian

PS Is the OU infectious? That's 3 out of a family of 4 currently signed up to courses; the 4th is excused as a full-tie mature student at another institution.

landgirl's picture

OU

I did an OU degree as well, and went on teach at science summer schools. I would love to do more courses, but sadly they are now too expensive for me. Doing the degree was a life-changing experience, can't praise the OU too highly!

Thistle's picture

I know the feeling

Prices have gone through the roof. I was fortunate enough to get fee exemption for my last course.

BUT the FutureLearn courses are FREE!

Ian

Rachy Ramone's picture

Prices!

Oof, can't agree more about the prices - I love to study, but cost is the main obstacle, these days.

The (fairly basic) RHS Level 2 course now costs £580!! For an evening class!! So glad I did mine 12 or so years ago, when it was "merely" £200. (Wow, wish my wages had risen in that proportion..)

The Field Studies Council (FSC) run some good courses at reasonable cost - I'm considering a one-day Field Guide to Fern ID for £33 in August next year.

And if you are a member of the BSBI, they run a surprising number of free courses: I did a fantastic 2-day Conifer ID course, which was free apart from accommodation - and I could have taken a tent, had I wished to. (My days of camping in Wales in February are over, lol!)

Rachy Ramone

How to take close-ups with cheap phone and hand-lens:
http://tree-and-shrub-id.blogspot.co.uk/p/how-to-close-ups.html
Field Guides for Budding Botanists:
http://www.amazon.co.uk/-/e/B01A8YB0WY

John Bratton's picture

Can anyone explain a little

Can anyone explain a little about how it will be taught, please? It says 3 hrs per week. Does that mean 3 hrs online, or will things be downloadable? I couldn't even view the trailer on the Bangor library computer.

Thanks
John Bratton

marksteer's picture

Yes some more info fro OU

Yes some more info fro OU about the course would be useful

The more I know the more I realise I don't know

John Bratton's picture

I have had more luck in Menai

I have had more luck in Menai Bridge library, in that the trailer video does run here. But I can't listen to it in a libary, and I can't see the downloadable transcript that is supposed to be under all the videos.

John

landgirl's picture

Technology

It does sound as if the course will rely on students having access to a computer. This is from an email I received today:

"Using case studies, videos, audio tracks and articles, as well as interesting practical activities that will take you into your own ecosystems, you will come to learn how knowledge of ecosystems leads to understanding of their individual importance, and how they can be preserved."

The email also suggests that students might want to interact through Twitter - which I for one will not be doing!

Rachy Ramone's picture

You can keep Twitter!

Pff, me neither. I stay well away from anti-social meedja, and the aspect of the constant student interaction does concern me - will we be wasting time on interminable arguments?

Rachy Ramone

How to take close-ups with cheap phone and hand-lens:
http://tree-and-shrub-id.blogspot.co.uk/p/how-to-close-ups.html
Field Guides for Budding Botanists:
http://www.amazon.co.uk/-/e/B01A8YB0WY

Thistle's picture

Likewise

For some of us participation in other activities means that we are strongly discouraged from using "social media". I wonder if the course team is aware that such restrictions may exist?

Ian

landgirl's picture

See my reply below

This thread is getting very tangled, my reply is near the bottom of the page. I don't think the Twitter thing is part of the course.

lavateraguy's picture

Did anyone find a syllabus for the course?

I don't know that much about ecology so there's a fair chance it would be teaching me things I don't know (on the other hand 18 hours isn't going to get you very far into the subject), but I'd like to know that in advance.

Thistle's picture

Something about it ...

... here https://www.futurelearn.com/courses/ecosystems.

I wonder if, in a short, unexamined and student-group-centred course like this, there is any sort of formal syllabus beyond these broad aims?

Ian

Rachy Ramone's picture

I wondered about that...

... and I still have reservations about the validity of a peer-reviewed, unexamined, course.

I guess it is what you might call a "lifestyle" course rather than an academic course?

One of my original questions was, will the student gain more from following this course than from spending 18 hours on the internet studying the subject.

I suppose it could be said that few of us would actually dedicate that much time to study, or would be able to stay focused on the internet for that long (when Sticky Linkies is just one click away...).

But I am concerned that all this student interaction will bump up the number of hours spent at the computer, without a net gain of knowledge or perspective. Although - a ray of hope - as participants have to sign in under a real name, there should be a lot less trolling and so on.

Rachy Ramone

How to take close-ups with cheap phone and hand-lens:
http://tree-and-shrub-id.blogspot.co.uk/p/how-to-close-ups.html
Field Guides for Budding Botanists:
http://www.amazon.co.uk/-/e/B01A8YB0WY

marksteer's picture

With all the above comments

With all the above comments and lack of further accessable info on this course I'm going to give it a miss!

The more I know the more I realise I don't know

lavateraguy's picture

I wouldn't reject it for a focus on student interaction.

Sitting in a lecture and listening is generally reckoned to be a relatively ineffective means of learning. In the absence of interaction with the lecturers (which has to be limited in a MOOC - Massive Open On-line Course) interaction with your fellow students has take up the slack.

On the other hand, filtering that interaction through the 140 character limit of Twitter doesn't strike me as a good idea - and Twitter usage is nowhere near universal. Do they have a web forum as well?

landgirl's picture

Forum

I believe there will be a web forum, I think the Twitter suggestion was just an interim thing until the course gets going.
One of the best courses I ever did was an online course about training, and the forum was by far the best bit - the participants shared information and ideas and some of the contacts I made proved to be very useful. I'm hoping the online discussions, especially with international participants, will be equally rewarding.

landgirl's picture

Shame!

It's free, you only have to put into it what you want to put in, and it's bound to have something of interest to everyone on here. Go on, take a chance on it!

Martin Harvey's picture

Further information

Good to see that this new course is attracting interest. I'm afraid we don't have any more detail about the course within the iSpot team, but there is an FAQ page (plus a contact form) on the FutureLearn site:
http://about.futurelearn.com/about/faq/

----
Entomologist and biological recorder

landgirl's picture

Thanks

The information on the link should answer some of the questions that people have been asking.

hrb73's picture

Welcome to Introduction to Ecosystems

Hi Everyone!

I'm Hannah and I'm a Senior Producer at The Open University and part of the team that created 'Introduction to Ecosystems' for FutureLearn, happy to help you in any way I can with questions that you have, and would love to here about your thoughts of the course

Hannah

Rosegardener's picture

ecosystems

Not sure about commensals mentioned in week 1. In a woodland, would Mistletoe be a commensal or a parasite?

Amadan's picture

Bit of both!

Strictly it is a "hemi-parasite" (like lousewort and hay-rattle). It has chlorophyll, so makes its own sugars (an autotroph). But it not only gains altitude (more sunlight, safety from ground-based herbivores) from the tree, but taps into the vascular system via haustoria (like roots), and robs it of some sugars and nutrients. Being up in the tree, it can't obtain minerals like phosphates directly from the soil, of course.

Amadan's picture

I completed the first week's session and enjoyed it -

Although the navigation was fubarred at first, and I ended up jumping into week 3 (I think!).
That's been fixed now.
I already knew a lot of what was covered, but it is always good to have it presented systematically, and I'd say I've already learnt quite a bit from it. Since my official learning is mostly 30-odd years old, it's good to read about new ideas and approaches too.
I'm learning, and it's free. "What's not to like" as She Who Must Be Obeyed would say?
I do have doubts about the need to post on iSpot later on - I suspect this may lead to some grumbles if there are a lot of us all posting similar things - the site is busy enough as it is! Maybe we will be allowed to refer to previous submissions?

landgirl's picture

That was quick!

I've just finished Week 1 - pleased to say I got full marks on the self-assessment test! The sheer number of comments on each of the sections is rather overwhelming and I stopped trying to read them all for the last couple of sections. They tend to be rather repetitive anyway, but I don't want to miss some little gem of wisdom! I have enjoyed it and it's kind of pulled my knowledge together so that now I feel I could explain the concepts clearly if required. Looking forward to Week 2!

landgirl's picture

Videos

The last two videos I have watched featured David Streeter - botanists will know who I am talking about! Great to be taught by such a well-known naturalist.