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Student and tutor module reviews

Exploring the classical world

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  • Points: 60
  • Code: A219
  • Level: 2
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Student reviews

I really enjoyed this course. It encompasses the Homeric World, Classical Athens, the rise and fall of the Roman Republic, and Roman society in the first century AD. Clearly a lot is missed out from a historical perspective, notably Alexander the Great; and I felt that parts for example the competition between Julius Caesar and Pompey was a little sketchy. However as an introduction to Classical Studies at University level it is pretty good.

Additionally we had an extremely diligent and hard working tutor, which meant that tutorials were not to be missed. There has been a suggestion that the course might be passed by simply concentrating on the Greek part. This is not a good idea: certainly the block on the Roman Republic is dense, but it is not inpenetrable.

I used block 4 to write the final TMA, while for the exam revised the first three blocks throughly but keeping in mind the writers that appear in block 4. The exam more or less supported this approach: the essays divided into one 'plumb' and one 'stinker' for the Greeks and Romans respectively; and the textual analyses followed suite.

The letter of Pliny's was a gift, but don't do what I did by concentrating too much on its circumstances and not what it says about Roman society. I wasn't disappointed by my result though.

Stephen James Bell

Course starting: October 2013

Review posted: August 2014

I loved this course! The material is incredibly interesting and my tutor was fantastic. There is a lot to study for this module and in particular the exam, so with hindsight, I would recommend making study/revision cards as you go along. The exam comes upon you very quickly.

My tutor was very knowledgeable and extremely helpful. She not only knew this subject area in great detail, but was able to impart this information - not always the case with lecturers!

I recommend this course, but would recommend keeping on top of the material as you go along as there is a lot to revise for the exam.

Course starting: October 2013

Review posted: December 2013

I really enjoyed this course. Where else can you really enjoy political incorrectness plus a bit of murder thrown in to the equation but in Classic's. This is probably the only OU course I have ever spoken about down the pub, the course helped me appreciate the link and interest we all have in the classical world. The course covers art, history, poetry and literature so a very large coverage. I have never read poetry before, and this course was a life changer for me in trying and really enjoying something I have never done before.

A note of caution in my tutor group there was a number who got very upset that they had done very well in other humanity courses and were now getting very bad marks in their A219 TMA. I did very well but I do think there remains a small bit of elitism within the OU Classical team and they set harder exams and harder TMAs than other similar subjects. So prepare to work hard for each mark.

In summary if you want to try something new and not have the guys fall asleep in the pub when you tell them about your last TMA take A219 plus poetry is not just for girls!

Course starting: September 2012

Review posted: September 2013

Faculty response

The course team is delighted that you enjoyed A219 and we agree that Classical Studies provides a wealth of opportunities for enlivening discussions in the pub or indeed anywhere else!

We wouldn't describe this module as 'elitist', although we intend it to be 'challenging'; acquiring the combination of literary, historical, visual and archaeological skills needed to succeed in the assessment should stretch students in a satisfying way.

You'll be interested to learn that, when we compare the marks achieved by students with other OU level 2 modules, there isn't any evidence that our TMAs are more difficult. We hope you have as much fun with your next module.

I really loved this course. I think I was annoying to be around when reading the materials as I started every sentence to my husband with 'Wow! Did you know that....?'

If you've always wanted some time to dip into the Classics but didn't know where to begin, this course is for you. I was inspired to go to the British Museum and see for myself a lot of the fascinating objects pictured in the course materials.

The course may have ended, but my interest in the subject matter has only just begun.

In a lot of the other reviews you may read that you really should ensure you study more than 2 blocks for the exam. BELIEVE THIS!! You are backing yourself into an unnecessary corner by doing minimal revision. If you take decent notes throughout the course (i.e. a page of bullet points for each chapter in a block) then revising a third block is not a big deal and will pay off in the exam!

Faith Studd

Course starting: September 2012

Review posted: August 2013

I am in two minds concerning this course. I found the contents very good, and thought that I understood the material quite well. However, my TMA scores were unsatisfactory, and my attempts to take note of the tutor's comments did not lead to any improvement, and I just scraped a pass in the examination. There was clearly a gulf between my understanding and what was expected, but I was not able to bridge this gap. Judging by the statistics of the examination results, it is very difficult to gain grades 1 and 2, which suggests to me that there is something wrong with the course.

Course starting: October 2011

Review posted: June 2013

A good course which provides a broad introduction to the classics. I did feel that some areas assumed a level of background knowledge e.g. Block 3 didn't really provide a context - you were just launched into the Roman Republic - but like lots of other people I read Tom Holland's Rubicon to fill in the gaps! I was fortunate enough to have a really good tutor which made up for any inadequacies in the course.

Course starting: October 2011

Review posted: March 2013

The subject matter is engaging for anyone with an interest in the classics and you really come away feeling that you have learned something or expanded your current knowledge. There is enough variety in the items studied to keep you engaged; from art to theatre, history to religion and of course the dreaded politics.

The thing I would flag to any new student would be the sudden shift in content and matter between Greek culture covered in the first two modules and Rome. There is far too much you suddenly have to absorb in a very short space of time. The earlier modules of Greece gave enough time for you to gather your thoughts and revision notes in a logical and timely matter. But right from the start of the Roman modules I did feel thoroughly overwhelmed; even though I kept up with the suggested planner. I was quite surprised by this as I had started the course dreading the Greek modules and eagerly awaiting the Rome ones.

The Roman baths were fantastic to study and whilst watching a film the other week I was able to bore my husband with some 'interesting' facts!

Perhaps separating some of the larger items of Rome into a Level 3 course would be a more considered approach by the OU however? Especially as a large portion of the Roman sections are solely on the political aspects and influences and not on much else.

Overall a lovely course but planning your time before you hit Rome is a must!

Hayley Tucker

Course starting: October 2011

Review posted: December 2012

I loved it even though I did not do brilliantly.

I knew nothing of the classical world before A219 (except from what I saw on the tv). It did not take long to get addicted. have to say that I spent far too much time chasing around subjects outside of the course. I could have probably done better if I stayed with the materials provided! So beware of this fact, it was so easy to get sidetracked with all the books and journals available out there. Other students suggestions are all tempting and good, but unless you have got loads of time to spend on other stuff, numerous lectures, and books from lots of people, just try and stay with what you have, as this is what you need to know for the exam. Although this is easier said than done, I could not help myself and had to buy everything suggested as i did not want to miss out(YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED) keep it all for reading through the summer after the exam!

I enjoyed all of the course, but found the greek blocks easier to digest and revise for the exam. The hardest part to revise was the politics in block 3, so I gave up when I realised it wasn't sticking.

Studying only the greek blocks in depth for the exam I found out was not such a good idea. sadly I had to guess 1 part of the first question in my answer, so do at least 3 blocks in depth.

If you have never studied classics before just follow the course materials then you cannot go wrong. Even though I felt at times I was behind and others knew so much more.
All you need is in the box, and this is what I will remember for my next course exam so that I do not waste valuable time studying things not needed (WARNED AGAIN)!

I will continue on with some more level 2 and await the new classics module at Level 3 in 2015.

a really enjoyable (addictive) course, with an enthusiastic tutor and I was also lucky enough to have great students alongside me for support via FB.

Course starting: October 2011

Review posted: August 2012

This is a far-ranging course, both geographically and temporally, but I found it enjoyable though tough. I felt that it gave me a good grounding in various aspects of the Classical World.

I found it difficult to come to terms with what was required in answering the TMAs and the examination. Looking back, I think my problem was that my emphasis was on the facts rather than on their interpretation. Hence my tutor repeatedly criticized me for being merely descriptive.

In consequence my enjoyment if the course was marred by my inability to satisfy others in my answers. Since only 20% of candidates received A and B grades, I wonder if more credit should be given to accurate knowledge of the facts rather than on opinions.

Course starting: October 2011

Review posted: August 2012

I really loved this course and feel it has given me a sound understanding of some of the key people and events in ancient Greece and Rome. The materials are excellent and they give you the foundations for wider reading on the subject.

The exam was challenging but fair. Beware of revising only two areas though; there is just one essay question for each section, so it is safer to prepare at least one spare.

Thoroughly recommended.

Sarah Ozanne

Course starting: October 2011

Review posted: August 2012

I realy enjoyed this course and would recommend it to others that have an interest in classics.

I was worried about the section on Rome but have got into the minds of those ancient fellows and ended up enjoying this part.

The only down side was the exam. My TMAs scored very well through out the course but my exam result brought my grade down from a 2 to a 4 which took me by surprise.

There is also alot of reading to do in this course. I am looking forward to my next course and hope to take A330.

Course starting: October 2011

Review posted: August 2012

I was quite disappointed by this course. I came into it with a very basic background knowledge of the classics and leave it feeling I haven't really added much to that. My results were good throughout, but I felt that they reflected use of sources and historiography rather than subject knowledge.

I found the structure of the course rather awkward with an unmanageable number of different books to refer to (no chance for studying on the train!) and I often needed to re-read materials at the end of each block due to the strange order in which things were introduced. I also felt much of the content (particularly in the Roman section) was uninspiring, despite the obvious potential for a great course based on the subject matter.

Course starting: October 2011

Review posted: July 2012

This course is a fantastic introduction to the classical world. The first half of the course studies Ancient Greece, and the latter two blocks focus on ancient Rome. There seemed to be, at times, a lot of reading, especially in the Homeric block one. Don't let this put you off though, as the course is balanced by such gems as the study of the Parthenon and (the sometimes colourfully risque) Roman poetry. I'm not sure which block I enjoyed the most, I think it would have to be classical Athens in the 5th century BCE. Block 4, Rome - City and People would be a very close second.

As for the exam, three hours seemed a bit daunting, but the time flew! I would really advise revising very thoroughly at least three of the four blocks, as the questions thrown at you can be on anything studied in the course, and it's an awful lot!

My tutor was brilliant, and I really developed a long-standing passion for the classical world because of his enthusiasm for the subject. Couple this to the course team's choice of topics for A219, and it becomes an extremely enjoyable way to gain both a qualification and an insight into life in ancient times. But please, please, please OU, can we have a full honours degree in Classical studies?

Course starting: October 2010

Review posted: December 2011

I loved this course, and learned to love classical literature and Homer in particular. Though I took this as part of a History degree, the period which mostly focussed on history was the one I liked least - the politics of the Roman Republic.

Though the literature and archaeology throughout is used to study the history of the classical world, its strong focus on literary technique means, I think, this course would also suit anyone studying literature and humanities in general.

For me, this meant I was introduced to classical literature which otherwise I would probably never have encountered, and been the poorer for it.

The course itself was well structured, and well presented. I have to say that I also got the best grades I have ever achieved in my life!

Course starting: October 2010

Review posted: December 2011

I thoroughly enjoyed the content of this course, and feel it gave an excellent introduction to the classical world.

The blocks were generally well set out and engaging in their approach. My only criticism on this front would be that I found Block 1 quite hard to get into at first, as it introduced Homer without first studying any historical context.

All of the other blocks, though, interspersed literary, architectural and archaeological evidence with good historical background reading and I found Blocks 3 and 4 especially interesting - a challenge though to pull together all of the sources.

Reading for the course became more time-consuming as I worked through the blocks, with 4 sources in Block 1, up to over 20 in Block 4, but in general I found it possible to read all the course materials plus some extra to add to the work for the TMAs.

TMAs were challenging, but taught me a lot about how to prepare an argument and properly organise sources to support it, especially in the Roman blocks.

My main criticism of the course would be that it did not prepare me fully for the exam at the end. All of the emphasis throughout the course was on careful and detailed analysis, but this did not seem possible to me when trying to write an essay in 50 minutes in exam conditions. There seems to be a general acknowledgement that students are expected to drop a grade or two between the TMAs and the exams, and I feel that if this is the experience of the course team then they should address the problems with the course that mean that students are not prepared properly for the exam.

I did not fall into the trap of revising only 2 blocks, so could avoid the 'nasty' question in the exam. However, the events that followed the exam day really spoiled my enjoyment of the course - reams of messages on the forums, blanket statements from the course team etc. This could have been very easily avoided if the course materials had stated at any point that 'exam questions might be on a theme which you have not studied in the course'. A simple statement that would have meant that students felt adequately prepared for the exam.

In summary, a great course, fabulous content and left me wanting to study more Classics, though somewhat spoiled by the failure to give enough support to prepare for the exam.

Samantha Roff

Course starting: October 2010

Review posted: October 2011

Faculty response

The module team recommends that students revise widely for the exam and certainly revise more than two blocks. In 2011 a small number of students complained about one exam question, and the OU responded to all these complaints individually. Students should note that the exam paper is vetted and approved by an external examiner, and the OU employs robust procedures to ensure fairness in all aspects of assessment.

Some students may perform less well in exams than in continuous assessment, others perform better in exams than in continuous assessment, and this is true of all modules. In this module there is no general acknowledgement or expectation that students will drop grades in the exam; and the final result for the module combines the overall continuous assessment score with the overall examination score.

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.

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