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Student and tutor module reviews

Vivace: intermediate Italian

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  • Points: 30
  • Code: L150
  • Level: 1

Student reviews

This was one of the most enjoyable modules I have completed with the OU. The books are really well set out with the material in manageable chunks. I found the work was definitely a step up from Andante, but was not too intense. I would have preferred to have received a DVD rather than having to log on to access the module activities (mainly because I get distracted by the internet!).

The Italian tutors that I had contact with are great and very dedicated. Posting on the forum was actively encouraged by the module team and I found this a great source of support throughout the year. I'd definitely recommend getting some extra speaking practice, perhaps meeting some of the other students online. It really does help.

I was really worried about the speaking EMA as I get extremely nervous but it's over in a few minutes and I was pleasantly surprised at my marks. It really is nothing to worry about if you prepare well. If I had the chance to do it again the one thing I would do differently is that I would start working on the possible EMA presentations much earlier in the year.

Course starting: February 2013

Review posted: September 2014

I had waited many years for an OU intermediate Italian course and although it is more in line with the other OU intermediate language courses, I was rather disappointed in L150. It did, of course, have its good points so I'll deal with these first.

As the course is brand new it is up to date. Although it is not an original course, having been developed from another commercially available one, it is in the standard OU format so should appeal to those who didn't like the non-OU feel of L195 Andante. The books are bright and colourful and there are many practice activities to reinforce learning. The accompanying DVD also offers the opportunity to practise listening to and speaking the language.

However, I think it is time for the OU to rethink their approach to language learning. The constant 'open-ended' questions used in the materials, those requiring a mini essay rather than shorter questions with a definite right or wrong answer, are impossible for students to correct on their own. A model answer is provided but students really need to see whether what they have written is correct.

L150 would have been the ideal opportunity to include more traditional methods of language learning such as translations to and from the target language and comprehensions, both of which seem to have gone out of favour in recent years. Even though they are considered old-fashioned these are, in my opinion, an excellent way of testing a student's knowledge and understanding.

With regard to the DVD I enjoyed using it immensely. The video/audio element was well produced and as the speakers speak mostly at normal speed it is an opportunity to attune one's ear to the natural flow of Italian. Unfortunately, the way it has been devised means that some answers are marked as incorrect, even when they are not, if the student has not put the answers in a certain order, which sometimes seems rather random. Additionally, some answers are just marked as wrong even though they exactly match the model answer.

Another disappointment was the tutor. Unlike tutors on previous language courses mine seemed to want to do as little as possible. The tutorials held were rather dull and uninspiring and, in the face-to-face tutorials, far too much time was taken up discussing in English problems students had had with the TMAs or with the course in general so the time available for practising the language was greatly diminished.

The Elluminate tutorials were no better. There were technical problems galore and at one point I thought that I should not be able to take the oral exam. If the OU is going to continue using a virtual environment for tutorials and oral exams - which, in theory, is an excellent idea - it must ensure that the technology used is up to speed. Additionally, there were too few tutorials, either on Elluminate or face-to-face, and this is something which must be addressed if the OU wants its language courses to be comparable to those offered at traditional universities.

Finally, I must comment on the course forum. Usually such forums are a place in which to ask questions, seek reassurance and generally interact in a friendly way with fellow students and the majority of people were using it for just that. However, there was a small vociferous group of seemingly older women who appeared to take pleasure in belittling the concerns of others, with one woman in particular seeming to delight in being rude. This was a somewhat nasty element to the forum and said more about the people posting these comments than about those they were trying to criticise. Perhaps in future the forums should have properly appointed moderators to prevent such a reoccurrence.

In summary, it is my opinion that L150, in common with all the OU language courses, is probably best suited to those wishing to revise and consolidate their knowledge of the language whilst attending a local conversation class. Learning a language on one's own is difficult and much more emphasis needs to be placed both on the oral aspect and on the more traditional methods of testing written work such as translations.

Although this was not the best Italian course I have ever studied I am glad to have successfully completed it, not least because I now have the Certificate in Italian, which, along with all the other language certificates, is being withdrawn from the end of 2013 for some unknown reason. It is a great shame that there are no level 2 or 3 courses planned and with the present Conservative-led government's determination to cut university funding it is unlikely that any such courses will ever be forthcoming. However, I live in hope.

Course starting: February 2011

Review posted: December 2012

Faculty response

The module team was pleased at the positive response to the L150 Vivace books and DVD. Comments on the design of activities help to inform future course development. The Italian team, however, works in collaboration with other language teams to ensure a consistent approach to language learning and assessment.

In a distance learning context, Elluminate provides an opportunity for students to practise speaking skills both in and outside tutorials. Technical problems are usually speedily resolved by the OU Help Desk.

Generally students rate tutor support as a very positive part of their learning experience.

I did not find this module as easy to accomplish as the beginners course which I enjoyed a lot. The course books were just about right for this level but the DVD clips were far too advanced and contained too much workload for a 30-credit module.

There was very little opportunity to speak Italian, only 2 x two hour face to face sessions (held 40 miles away) and 4 x one hour 30 mins online tutorials on Eluminate (on which it's very difficult to have a conversation).

It was also quite difficult to get the level of tutor support I would have liked.

The overall result was that I didn't feel I made much progress with improving my proficiency in Italian.

Course starting: February 2011

Review posted: March 2012

Faculty response

Vivace is obviously at a higher level than the beginner course, and includes longer audio materials, as well as video recorded on location.
Although tutorials, whether face to face or online are one of the ways to develop your speaking and listening skills, this is also done through the DVD-Rom activities. We are sorry you didn’t feel your had made as much progress as you would have wanted.

The course materials are two slim A4 books and a DVD at a lower-intermediate level of which I have no complaints. They will not overwork you.

My caution relates to the issue of contact time and learner feedback so necessary when expressing yourself in a foreign language. Over seven months you get two face-to-face sessions and half a dozen virtual voice sessions over the internet on that thing called Elluminate which can be problematic.

The only feedback you will get of your writing will be on the 4 very small course work assessments, which are so prescriptively structured you will really feel you are ticking someone else's boxes, if not your own. The one thing you can say is that you know where you are with them and there is little room for arbitrary marking.
But do you believe that is really enough feedback to hone you?

Psychology courses at the same Level 1 have more frequent classes and all face-to-face, yet need them less. But then Italian is not a flagship OU subject and for the foreseeable future it stops here at B1 level.
If you are looking for a refresher course you are less likely to be satisfied than someone new to this level.

In view of the price rises I do have to add a caution regarding value for money. Only you can decide on that.

Course starting: February 2011

Review posted: January 2012

Faculty response

The way that tutorials are organised is decided at the level of your region/nation, and based on what has worked well in the past. We are sorry you did not appreciate the mix of face-to-face and virtual sessions. As far as feedback goes, whilst some of it takes place via the feedback on your assessment, a lot also takes place through the module materials, including the DVD-Rom. Again, we are sorry you didn’t feel this was enough for you. It is true that there are no plans for Italian at higher level, but our external examiner has given good feedback on the module and the level attained by students, which, as you say, is B1.

Please note

Each of the views expressed above is an individual's very particular response, largely unedited, and should be viewed with that in mind. Since modules are subject to regular updating, some of the issues identified may have already been addressed. In some instances the faculty may have provided a response to a comment. If you have a query about a particular module, please contact your Regional Centre.


Module satisfaction survey

The figures below are taken from a survey of students who sat the exam/completed the end-of-module assessment for the October 2016 presentation of L150. The survey was carried out in 2017.

21 students (a response rate of 23.1%) responded to the survey covering what they thought of 10 aspects of the module.

Please note that if the percentage of students who responded to this module survey is below 30% and/or the number of responses is below 23 it means that only a small proportion of students provided feedback and their views as shown here may not be fully representative of all students who studied the module.

See this page for the full text of questions and more information about the survey.

% Count
Overall, I am satisfied with the quality of this module 85.7 18
Overall, I am satisfied with my study experience 81 17
The module provided good value for money 73.7 14
I was satisfied with the support provided by my tutor/study adviser on this module 85.7 18
Overall, I was satisfied with the teaching materials provided on this module 90.5 19
The learning outcomes of the module were clearly stated 95.2 20
I would recommend this module to other students 90.5 19
The module met my expectations 81 17
I enjoyed studying this module 90.5 19
Overall, I was able to keep up with the workload on this module 90.5 19
Faculty comment: "We're pleased to find that this module was highly rated with a high level of satisfaction overall and learning experience. Particularly welcome is the satisfaction in relation to workload, which was a concern in the previous year. We note that value for money remains a concern for some respondents. We continue to address this issue and work to find a variety of strategies that contribute to enhance satisfaction: for example, we're offering an induction programme to enhance the learning experience and student support."
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