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Student and tutor module reviews

World archaeology

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  • Points: 30
  • Code: A251
  • Level: 2

Student reviews

I was very pleased to have done this course. While I'm sorry that it will soon be discontinued, I hope that a revised version will take its place in the not-too-distant future.

Other OU courses are rich in detail on specific times and places or cultures; this is the only one at present which gives the long-term perspective on how humans and human culture developed from the millennia or two preceding the end of the Ice Age - which brought huge changes.

As such, it fills a niche no other OU course does - and is invaluable in understanding our history.

As another review says, the emphasis is largely on the process of change: from hunting-gathering to agriculture and from nomadism to settled populations; from small settlements to cities and states; and development of empires - these covered in the three TMAs. The final assessment is an End-of-Module assessment, which personally I prefer to an examination.

There are down-sides, which may have contributed to its relatively low student approval ratings.

The knowledge base of the subject is increasing very quickly indeed - such that, to fully appreciate it, internet usage is essential. A lot of helpful posts, pointing to info found on websites, were placed on the course discussion forums - do read the posts when you do the course. Unfortunately, it also meant that some of the internet links provided by the course were out-of-date or defunct: something I'd expect the course team to check on for the next presentation.

Get used quickly to searching the texts highlighted in the course internet links - they are invaluable.

Work load!! It is advertised as a 30-credit course, presented over half the time allowed 60-credit courses, so the advertised weekly work load is equivalent to that of a 60-credit course. Like many others, I did not find this.

To me, the work load was around one-and-a-half times this. I really do think the course team vastly underestimated the amount of work required to simply understand concepts which are very new to the average student. IMHO, it would have been very much better to have kept the 30-credits, but presented the course over twice the time, if only to allow time to internalise the concepts. I did do very well; but felt exhausted by the effort.

Tutor forums were a week long, at different times of the course; and the timing was such that they invariably covered material we hadn't yet read. Unfortunately, very few students took part - at times in our tutor forum, I was the only student participating. This was a pity, because the tutor was extremely helpful and enthusiastic. I found the questions she asked in the forums to be extremely helpful in pointing out the way to think about a topic - and even if I hadn't read up on what the question was about, just guessing an answer led to very helpful prompts and discussions. So - please do participate in the tutorial forums, even if you are guessing the answers (or admitting you have no idea, so the questions can be rephrased)

Course starting: November 2013

Review posted: August 2014

This was an optional course for me towards my history degree, and to be honest I wish I had chosen something different

I understand many students have enjoyed this course, but it wasn't for me. I found the set text easy to navigate, yet tedious. The TMAs were uninspiring and I found both researching and writing them a chore that had to be done rather then a rewarding learning experience.

The online forums were full of negativity from frustrated students and the course website contained many broken links which made navigating it to find research material quite difficult.

Many of us were relying on each other to trawl through the site and the rest of the internet to find information that we needed. The online tutorials just didn't work... hardly anyone participated therefore nobody really gained anything from them.

I dont really feel like I have gained any knowledge or understanding of archaeology, which is a shame as I picked it in order to learn something new in a field I have never studied before.

Alison Stubbington

Course starting: November 2013

Review posted: June 2014

This module is the best yet, especially if you 'dig' archaeology. What makes it so exceptionally great is the level of depth and detail it covers regarding the analysis of archæological remains, the processes by which understand archaeology, and charting the trajectory of human pre-history from hunter-gatherers to civic society, on a global scale. One cannot emphasise just how enjoyable this module is, and if you dig archæology, then this is the course for you.

Archaeology is inter-disciplinary. A scientific background in biology, geology or forensics would be an advantage when taking this module; yet, equally, I had only previously taken arts courses, which served me in excellent stead. Being a historian is certainly a great advantage when studying pre-history.

This course contains numerous subtle nuances which weave a complex but comprehensible pattern that unravel to reveal a fine art form, clothed in scientific garments. A251 is very profound, and has many layers which unwrap throughout the course of the module.

To begin with it covers the emergence of agriculture and the transition from semi-settled wandering bands of hunters to more settled farmers and shepherds. This section also covers a brief contextualisation of archæology as a discipline, highlighting some prominent archaeologists and anthropologists who have had a lasting influence upon the way in which we study archæology today, as a discipline.

Secondly, it takes a look at the rise of cogent city-states, and studies the first literate societies. This section is where the course gathers momentum and students would be well advised to take copious neat notes throughout the module, to help with the End-of-Module Assessment (there is no formal examination, only an examinable component). The Information Computing Technological resources are second to none. Complete with maps, an incredibly extensive chronology, and a myriad web-site links with all manner of archæological treasures to be unearthed, A251 sits at the cutting edge of todays technology. All my tutorials were online, and I did not need to attend a single lecture. My tutor was excellent at providing helpful feedback.

Thirdly, the module takes a look at ancient empires. This part particularly interested me, a great deal. I am fascinated by the subject, and had I not studied A251 I can safely say that I would only have a very vague understanding of ancient empires and societies in general.It also covers symbols and cognition - this is where the course gets really deep.

Students are expected to not only read large sections of a hefty set-book (nicknamed 'The Door-Step'), but also conduct detailed on-line research, using proper scholarly web-sites, relevant to archaeological investigation. The amount of resources it gives you access to is staggering. One may consider taking this course on

its own, as it is worthy of full-focus and will command your attention. What's more, I feel this module consolidated parts of AA100 and A151 for me; and I consider that I was comparitively uneducated before studying World Archaeology. On a practical level, as soon as I'd completed this module I was able to apply the learning and successfully exhume a man-made artefact several thousands of years old, which now belongs in a museum.

One only gets out of A251 what one puts in: if you dig archaeology, you will love A251.

Course starting: November 2013

Review posted: June 2014

Very interesting module, I learnt a lot of things I did not know before. It was difficult at times, especially if you have little knowledge of Archaeology. I found the TMAs and EMA challenging but that's what we expect from a level 2 module. I was working 5 days a week and with other commitments I still found the time to fit all the reading and essay writing in, which is a credit to how interesting it was.

I was very pleased with my grade 2 pass and felt I had earned it.

Course starting: November 2012

Review posted: February 2014

This was one of my favourite courses although for 30 credits at Level 2, I found it to be more difficult than 60 credit Level 3 courses. Although it has only 4 essays, the research through the thick set book and online research is very time consuming. I would strongly recommend not to take another course at the same time as this, otherwise you might end up struggling to cope.

Mohammed Mohsin

Course starting: November 2012

Review posted: July 2013

I studied for this course as I needed 30 credits at level 2 and the choice is rather limited (the alternative for me was Latin!). In its favour, compressing the course into 4 months was definitely an advantage for me personally and helped to keep my interest.

The negative side to the course, was, in my opinion, the use of a huge book as the course book (which we only studied about half of); rather than a course book written within the OU (which all my other courses have); I do wonder if this is the OU trying to produce a course "on the cheap".

Despite this, I did enjoy the course and managed to achieve a Level 2 pass.

David James Atkins

Course starting: November 2012

Review posted: July 2013

I had high expectations of this course but to my surprise found the TMAs to be rather turgid. I quickly realised too that the online tuition/tutorials were often lacking focus and therefore seemed to be time wasting.

The course book was, however, very good but students need to be aware much of the work is done via online research.

The Level 3 courses I have completed have been far more dynamic.

Course starting: November 2011

Review posted: May 2013

I chose this course after a friend recommended it. The course book was huge, but easy to navigate and the index was brilliantly constructed. The online resources were a bit hit and miss, but we were encouraged to find our own internet resources as part of the course. Very enjoyable and warmly recommended.

Janet Edith Godden

Course starting: November 2011

Review posted: April 2013

I thought this was a brilliant course, and probably my favourite so far. There was a lot of reading involved (particularly as I did this alongside A200 and A151), although this was always interesting and engaging.

Despite being initially apprehensive about there being no face-to-face contact, this subsequently didn't matter. Indeed, in this instance, I found that I preferred the additional independance.

I noticed on the forums that many people struggled with the TMA questions, although I myself encountered no such problems. I found the TMA questions stimulating and engaging, and enjoyed writing and researching them moreso than on any other course thus far.

However, those expecting a course solely on the study of material culture and archaeology may be disappointed. There is a large amount of anthropology involved (although I found this a welcome addition, and particularly pertinent to the course).

In conclusion, I would definitely recommend this course!

James Wilson

Course starting: November 2011

Review posted: March 2013

Blimey, there was a lot of reading on this course. Very interesting and being such a compact course it was over and done rather quickly which is great if you are run off your feet like me. No tutorials but the tutor forum online was excellent and kept you thinking. An excellent course.

Karen McArthur

Course starting: November 2011

Review posted: January 2013

I took this course as I thought it would give an interesting extra dimension to my history degree but I was very disappointed. It was the worst OU course I have completed. The Study 'Guide' was very unhelpful, it seemed to mostly tell you to read an enormous swathe of the set text and then followed it up with little to no discussion on the material under consideration. I did not feel there were many exercises to help with one's understanding and as there were no face-to-face tutorials to help ensure you are on the right track this was very frustrating. I also felt that the course reading and Study guide were not terribly helpful in preparing one for the TMAs and felt I floundered somewhat before each one.

This was reflected in my results, on previous courses my results had been within an 8 point margin of each other but I got my highest ever result and my worst ever result on a TMA during this course. The online tutorials were not helpful at all as the tutor posted up so many questions at the beginning of the week before I had a chance to read the mass of material that I felt swamped before even beginning. The feedback on the TMAs was very limited too with little in the way of suggesting where improvements could be made.

As a personal preference I would have liked to have concentrated on fewer areas to be able to really focus on them and learn about the various themes within the context of each area as the course did seem to take a whirlwind trip through the centuries.

All in all a disappointing experience, I am glad this was not my first OU course or I think it would have put me off doing any more, very frustrating as I feel this is an area I would like to learn much more about.

Course starting: November 2011

Review posted: July 2012

I really enjoyed this module! The material was interesting and I now have a passion for archaeology that I didn't have when I registed. If I had the chance I wouldn't hesitate to do it again.

Having said that to get the most out of the course you need to dedicate a lot of your time to it (I did this alongside another module which, in hindsight wasn't the best thing to do due to the amount of reading this course requires - and that's without any outside references!).

If anyone is considering taking this course I would say that if you find archaeological aspects of any interest do it... but definitely don't take another module at the same time unless you don't have a full-time job, family commitments, etc.

Victoria Louise Spindler

Course starting: November 2011

Review posted: June 2012

I found this course highly beneficial. It has provided much interesting information on the ancient world and the development of societies which is highly relevant to the modern world. It has developed my skills in essay construction, library use and information sourcing via the internet. The workload was reasonable given the very short duration of the course, the same amount of time needed as a 60-credit module but for a much shorter time.

The course description is accurate and should be read very carefully before the course is chosen in case people infer a different content from the title. I particularly enjoyed writing essays that needed me to do independent information sourcing, rather than relying wholly on course materials. I would be pleased to see a further 30-credit module rom this team.

Annette Facer

Course starting: November 2011

Review posted: June 2012

I absolutely loved this module! By far the most interesting module I have done with the OU.

It is a condensed module and because of this there is a very heavy workload, especially when you think that it is a 30-credit module, be warned! Having said that, the tutor was fantastic, very supportive and she knew her subject area inside out. I've always been fascinated by ancient history and archaeology and partly due to this module, I'm currently researching anthropological linguistics.

Any criticisms? Yes, there should be a follow on module at Level 3!

Nykola Joanne Lee

Course starting: November 2010

Review posted: June 2012

Interesting course but very much a 60-credit course in the guise of a 30-credit. Too much reading given the length of time you study for.

Course starting: November 2010

Review posted: March 2012

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 November 2011 presentation of A251. The survey was carried out in 2012. 41% of our students responded to the survey covering what they thought of 10 aspects of the module. See this page for the full text of questions and more information about the survey.

Overall, I am satisfied with the quality of this module 74.3 %
Overall, I am satisfied with my study experience 70.7 %
The module provided good value for money 66.4 %
I was satisfied with the support provided by my tutor/study adviser on this module 69.8 %
Overall, I was satisfied with the teaching materials provided on this module 70.7 %
The module met its stated learning outcomes 75.4 %
I would recommend this module to other students 57.6 %
The module met my expectations 61.2 %
I enjoyed studying this module 64.7 %
Overall, I was able to keep up with the workload on this module 72.9 %
Faculty comment: We are disappointed that the survey results are below the Faculty averages. The survey feedback and individual student comments suggest this is largely due to the fact that the module is more intensive than others and requires studying at the pace of 60-credit module but for only half the time and some students found this a big challenge. The module also makes more extensive use of a set book unlike other modules that use more extensive study guides. The module is being comprehensively reviewed in Autumn 2012 and the results of the review will inform the future presentations of the module and when looking at future curriculum.
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