Tag Archives: EMA

The Story of S155 Scientific Investigations…

I know some people are going to disagree with what I’m going to say about this course but these are my opinions on it.

First of all S155 Scientific Investigations is an online course, I think this threw some people at the start as they were expecting a delivery with books etc but all we got was a few sheets of paper, a mug mat and some PH paper, that was it.  All the “books” were online and were called “Good experiments guide” and was in three parts.  During the course we had to do 5 experiments and an online field study. This was also the first course where I had taken part in Elluminate sessions so they were quite interesting aswell.

First of all, the reading material…

The “Good Experiments Guide” is split into 3 parts and in the region of 30 printed pages per part, its designed to be looked at onscreen but most people didn’t like this so printed it out. The reading itself isn’t too hard and each part can be polished off in a few hours.  Part 1 starts on week 1, part 2 in week 4 and part 3 around week 6, so there is plenty of time to get the reading done.

The experiments…

As this is about scientific investigation there are of course some experiments to do.  We had 5 in total, Mug mats, sound perception, reaction times, investigating soil an experiment on seeds that will determine what EMA you will do.  The first 3 are very easy to do and don’t require any equipment the last 2 are a little harder and do require some bits and pieces like plastic bottles, tin cans and other easy gotten equipment.

The hardest bit of all the experiment is working with the other students, at the start you will be assigned a group with about 12 other students and you will work within your own group forum and discuss things like how to do experiments, any problems and your results.  This may sound easy and in my group I can say we had good discussions but I have heard about many people not liking this aspect of the course. They say that due to only getting online once or twice a week they felt left out and constantly behind in the decisions about experiments.

The experiments themselves are presented online but again can be printed out, there is also some videos to watch on some of the experiments.

The online field study was the dullest part of the course, it was about lichen on a coast line and included video, photo and reading material. The subject just didn’t appeal to me to I felt very board in doing it. Also people also found it very hard to distinguish between the different lichens in the photographs.

The Elluminate sessions…

This was the first I had used these and they were fun to do, if you have never seen or heard of them chances are you will over the next few years as I think the OU will be leaning towards these more than providing face to face tutorials. It’s like a chat room but as well as just typing you can use your microphone and webcam, if you want to.  I attended 3 in total, the tutor will do most of the speaking and asking questions and you can then give thumbs up or down to agree or disagree. I didn’t talk or do the webcam but did type a few questions or responses to questions.

The EMA…

During the course you will do 3 iCMA’s but these are only practice ones and will have no bearing on your result at the end of the course. They are there to let you get used to the type of questions that will be asked on the EMA.

Now I have been used to doing iCMA’s with S104 and S151, but a lot of the questions were a little vague on what they are asking, for example you may be asked a question and some of the answers are very similar, just worded slightly different.  Asking in the forums a good few people found this and it was a little frustrating. However the questions in the EMA weren’t as vague so in the end it didn’t really make a big difference.

On the website you will see five different EMA’s listed but you will only do 1 of them and this will be determined by what decisions are made by your group in the final seeds experiment. Once you have posted your results for this experiment you will then be given access to the EMA, so make sure you leave yourself enough time to complete both before the cut off date.

Verdict on S155 Scientific Investigations…

All in I found it an easy enough 10pt course with a few niggles but nothing majorly wrong with it. I had 110pts at level 1 under my belt when starting it so have a good knowledge of how things work, but if your new it may take a little more time to find your way around the site.

Remember that this is a 10pt course over 10 weeks so this means it’s on the same power as a standard 30pt course that is over 6 – 9 months, don’t be thinking this will be an easy 10pts without having to put in much work.

I know some people will disagree with me on all this but I didn’t find the course that big a deal, a few dull tedious bits but nothing that made me feel bad about the course, I actually enjoyed most of it and would say there is nothing to dread about it.

My recommendations…

The reading material is interesting and not to intense but be prepared to print out the pages and remember this may cost a few quid in ink.

The experiments will need so equipment so look at this list when the site opens and be prepared to find and buy some stuff, again it may cost a few quid but nothing too bad.

Over the course I probably spent £10-£15 on different things for the course including printing.

The forums may be a bit hit or miss but make sure you go in a few times a week and spend half an hour looking and responding to other peoples comments. This is a part of the course you will need to pass, if you don’t participate in these conversations you will fail. Now when it says participate I don’t know if it means 2 or 3 posts over the course or 2 or 3 posts per week so I will leave it up to you to decide. I was posting a few times per week or even a few times per day on some discussions, so be prepared for this. On the other side of this if no one else is taking part in discussions but you are at least trying to I doubt you will be marked down for this.

The EMA is easy enough, just make sure you do the practice ones and double check every question a few times before entering your answer. You will be surprised at how many silly mistakes you pick up doing this.  You can roughly calculate your score as you go along for example mine had 21 questions so 100 / 21 = 4.7% so for every question correct on 1st attempt will be 4.75%. 2nd attempt is about 2/3 the marks and 3rd attempt 1/3 the marks, So..

1st = 4.7%, 2nd = 3.1%, 3rd = 1.6%

These are all ball park figures and my opinions of how they are marked so don’t take this a gospel.  Using this way a got a figure close to what appeared in my grade book just after the course finished.

And remember you need to get over 40% in the EMA but also show that you participated and made a contribution in the forums.

I hope this helps people out there who are thinking about taking the course and if you have already taken it please feel free to comment on how you felt it was.

Other reviews on this course can be found here in the S155 reviews section


Filed under BSc (Honours) Natural Sciences B64, Course Reviews, S155: Scientific investigations

Results are in for S104 Exploring Science

We all got an E-mail last night saying that the results would be available in the next 24 hours, so of course everyone started to get excited. This morning I seen a few posts on the Facebook page on my phone all talking about there results. So I logged on and it was there …….. EMA 78% . So this means that I didn’t get my distinction but in all honesty im still happy with the result :)

My overall result was then OCAS 85% and OES 78%, but more importantly this now brings me up to 80 pts for my degree, so slowly but surely getting there.

Looking on the Facebook page there is a good few getting the distinctions but still more people getting the Pass mark so im in good company with my high pass mark.

Also with this mark I will be needing to get my ass in gear to try to get the best possible results from the level 2 and 3’s. This result didn’t matter for my degree as all I needed was a pass but the others modules will count towards the classification and they all have exams. Going by my 78% this would be a Pass 2 and this would have been a good result, but with the exams I think it will be tougher to get the high results. So S155, S283 and S282 here we come, this could be hard, but if it was easy then everyone would be doing it :)


Filed under BSc (Honours) Natural Sciences B64, S104: Exploring Science

The Story of S104 Exploring Science…

S104 Exploring Science BooksS104 Exploring Science the story

S104 Exploring Science, it all started long ago – there was stress, sore fingers, thoughts of ‘can I do this?’ and ‘is it worth it?’. But finally I managed to get my box of materials for the Open University’s S104 Exploring Science course onto a desk and opened it…. It was bloody huge. 8 Books, a few DVD’s, rock samples and a few other bits and bobs.  So even though I have talked about the first few TMA’s etc before, I’m going to give a rundown of the full course in this post, and then tell you a little bit about what I thought of it.

S104 Exploring Science: Book 1 “Global Warming”

Weeks 1 – 3

This book was a good book – it eases you into things slowly. The workload feels easy and it starts to introduce you to the scientific terms and maths needed for the course. I had started S151 “Maths for Science” a few months before starting this course so it really helped with the maths side of things. The Book covered things like the Earths temperature, carbon and water cycles, the atmosphere and climate prediction.

At the end you have the first TMA and iCMA. Now, if you have never done an iCMA before, make sure you do the practice ones. I didn’t and went on to make a good few silly mistakes by just thinking that this is simple multiple choice etc. The best advice I can give after doing 9 of the things is this – Print the questions out, then work out your answer, check it over, then wait until the next day (if you have time), then just before inputing your answer check it all again. Also make sure you have the correct measurements ( Kg, m, mm, J etc) and have things to the correct significant figures. The first few iCMA’s cost me marks learning these things.

Results for S104 Exploring Science Book 1

TMA1 79%  Weighting 5% (see notes at end for what this is)

iCMA41 63%  Weighting 1.25% (Joint worst iCMA score)

S104 Exploring Science: Book 2 “Earth and Space”

Weeks 4 – 7

This book was also an enjoyable one that helped build on the maths and scientific methods for the course. Split into 2 parts, the first part dealt with the Earth. It covered earthquakes, volcanos, how rocks are formed, whats inside the Earth and plate tectonics. I enjoyed the maths parts of working out plate separation but didn’t like the rocks section as much. Part 2 was Space and gave a rundown of our solar system, the Sun, a bit about the wider universe and then newtons laws of motion. Again as this is maths based and where my interest lies I enjoyed this part.

Results for S104 Exploring Science Book 2

TMA2 74%  Weighting 10% (Worst TMA result)

iCMA42 93%  Weighting 2.5%

S104 Exploring Science: Book 3 “Energy and Light”

Weeks 8 – 10

This book was yet again a fun one for me but some people in the forums didn’t like it at all. It was very maths based and working with a lot of formulas. Topics in this one included kinetic energy, power, motion, electrical energy then onto light and how it behaves. The best part of the energy section was working out the equations. In one of them, i think it was for the TMA, you had to work out if a ball is thrown up at a speed of 2.2 meters per second how high would it go. Sounds easy enough, but quite hard to work out the calculations. The hardest bit was light and how it behaves like a wave but also particles. It takes a bit of getting your head around it but I got there in the end.

By this time the iCMAs were getting a little out of sync with the books so they might start to include questions from 2 different books.

Results for S104 Exploring Science Book 3

TMA3 94%  Weighting 10% (Best TMA result)

iCMA43 63%  Weighting 2.5% (Joint worst iCMA score)

S104 Exploring Science: Book 4 “The Right Chemistry”

Weeks 11 – 16 (Also 1 break week for Xmas)

I wasnt looking forward to this book as I have never done chemistry and have no interest in it. But in the end it wasnt too bad. This is the second longest book in the course and is a lot of work. It covered how atoms are made up, the elements, chemical equations, metals and reactive metals, chemical reactions, acids and bases, carbon compounds, functional groups and a few other bits and pieces. This was a hard and very time-consuming book, the break week helped me to keep up to date and in the end I got a good result in the TMA.

Results for S104 Exploring Science Book 4

TMA4 93%  Weighting 15% (This result with the high weighting really helped push my OCAS up)

iCMA44 93%  Weighting 2.5%

S104 Exploring Science: Book 5 “Life”

Weeks 17 – 22

For me this was the worst book of them all. I had thought I would enjoy it, but just couldn’t get into it. I probably didn’t help that it was around this stage that I was starting to feel the pressure of doing S282 as well but most people in the course didn’t like this one. This is the longest book and the main parts were species of life, the cell, chemistry of life, energy for life, ecosystems, meiosis, variations in genes and what genes are made off, gene structure, genomes and evolution. The worst parts for me were the sections on cells and how genes work – there was a lot of information that just didn’t interest me at all. Going by the forums I wasnt the only one, so that made me feel a little better.

Results for S104 Exploring Science Book 5

TMA5 79%  Weighting 15%

iCMA45 100%  Weighting 2.5% (Best iCMA result)

S104 Exploring Science: Book 6 “Exploring Earth’s History”

Weeks 23 – 25

This book was a bit of a so-so one. It covered environmental change, records of life on Earth, more on rocks and geology of the British Isles. Not much of this book interested me and from reading on the forums that the geology of the British Isles wasnt needed for the TMA I decided to skip this whole section. This helped with the schedule and with my sanity. In the end a good few people skipped this section. One good thing was that the books from this one onwards were getting shorter.

Results for S104 Exploring Science Book 6

TMA6 78%  Weighting 10%

iCMA46 93%  Weighting 2.5%

S104 Exploring Science: Book 7 “Quarks to Quasars”

Weeks 26 – 28 (With a break week at the end)

This book started to make me feel better after a few hard books. It starts off with the smallest things we know of and goes to the biggest. Its split into 4 parts Universe on a small-scale, in this you cover Quantum energy and uncertainty, atomic structure, nuclear processes and fundamental particles. The second part is about the expanding and cooling universe. Part 3 covers the rules of interactions and part 4 the history of the universe.

The best parts for me were about the universe and how it was created, the atomic parts were hard but also enjoyable.

Results for S104 Exploring Science Book 7

TMA7 86%  Weighting 10%

iCMA47 97%  Weighting 2.5%

S104 Exploring Science: Book 8 “Life and the Universe”

Weeks 29 – 30

Time for the final book and the shortest of the course. This one was around 100 pages long compared to 350 pages for the biggest books. It covered the origin of life on earth and the possibility of life elsewhere in the universe. This book also had an online tutorial question about water on Mars that counted towards the EMA, so be careful not to miss it. As this was the last book there was no TMA for it since the EMA was due a few weeks after.

Results for S104 Exploring Science Book 8

No TMA at the end of this one

iCMA48 97%  Weighting 2.5%

S104 Exploring Science iCMA 49

Weeks 31 – 34

This iCMA was a larger one, 25 questions instead of the standard 10. It covered the whole course so it takes time to relearn the bits needed. As it was due 4 days after the EMA, I only started it on the 2nd June thinking it would take me the 5 days to do it. In the end I got it done in 2 nights and managed to get a good score, I think, as the results are not out yet. Going by my calculations I got 84%. This keeps me in the distinction mark for the OCAS section of the course. The questions on this iCMA wouldn’t be any harder than the ones done during the course. The biggest pain was having to look back in the books trying to remember where you learnt the material needed.

S104 Exploring Science Results

iCMA49 84% (Estimated)  Weighting 6.25%

After all the OCAS parts ( Described below) of the course I should be sitting on 85% – this would be enough for a distinction. However, since I also need 85% or more on the final assignment I wont be holding my breath in getting a distinction.

S104 Exploring Science EMA (End of Module assignment)

Weeks 31 -34

So this was the biggie, it was released about 10 weeks before the due date but I never really looked at it until week 30. At first it looked ok, a little on the long side but nothing too daunting. People had been saying on the forums about how bad it looked and how on earth are they going to get it all done. Some people, who were ahead of the schedule were saying you really need all the time to complete it.  So at about week 32 I started it, looking at it I started to think this is going to be tight. I had 14 days to do 5 questions, so 2 nights per question with a few days off. Each question may have covered 2 or 3 different books, so a question wasn’t as easy as first thought, and with a few 400 word essays thrown in, it started to look hard.

So a week in and I was nearly half way through it. I was planning to just jot down notes for some of the essay questions as they really are my weakest areas, I then looked at the calendar and realised I had calculated the cut off date wrong. Instead on having 6 days I actually had 9 – I had thought Monday was the due date but it turned out to be Thursday. Dont ask me how I worked it out wrong but it started to make me think “I can get this all done now”.

So EMA was submitted on the Wednesday night – all questions were answered and only 1 question was cut short due to not knowing what else to write. I didn’t want to risk waiting until Thursday just incase something was wrong with the system. If this wasn’t submitted by 12 noon on Thursday it would have been a straight fail.

So now there is nothing to do but wait – the iCMA result should be available in a few days but the EMA result is due mid August from what I hear. So for now it’s just a waiting game.

To Pass I need a minimum of 40% – I think I should easily get this score. The best result would be a distinction but for this I need 85% and upwards. This is a much bigger task and to be honest I don’t think I will get near it.

S104 Exploring Science EMA

Result ??% ( Fingers Crossed)

The S104 Exploring Science Tutorials

Another thing this this course had was tutorials. These are classes that you can go to and were held every couple of months by our tutor. Now I only went to the first one, I think we had 4 in total but it was worth it. I wasn’t able to get to the others due to working etc. The class I went to covered books 1 and 2. It lasted about 5-6 hours all in with a lunch break in the middle.  We actually had two tutors taking our class as they merged us with others from Northern Ireland, so we had about 25 in our class. We were split into groups and went over course material and did a few different experiments with rocks and gravity etc.

A lot of people were asking in our forums if they should go to them or not bother, my advice would be to go to them if you can. A few times that day things clicked that might not have if I was just reading from a book. However on the other side if you can’t make the classes I wouldn’t lose any sleep over it, as if you are really stuck you can easily contact your tutor via E-mail or phone. So if it was up to me I would go, but only if it wasnt too much hassle.

Assignments, Results and Weighting for S104 Exploring Science

The course has 2 parts, the OCAS (Overall Continuous assessment Score) and OES (Overall Examination Score). To pass you need 40% or over on both parts, to get a distinction you need 85% or over on both parts

OCAS and Weighting

This part has 7 TMA’s and 9 iCMA’s, each assignment is weighted and the OCAS is calculated from the overall results. Weighting works like this – if an assignment had a weighting of 10% and you got a score of 76% then overall it would result in 7.6% for your OCAS ( 76% of 10%) , or with a weighting of 2.5% (Most iCMA’s) and you got 93% this would count 2.325% towards OCAS (93% of 2.5%).

You don’t have to worry about doing all these calculations though as there is a handy tool on the course website that will do it all for you. It’s called “Predict your module results”, it will contain your scores and let you enter predicted scores for assignments you havent completed yet. It will then give you an expected result. This is a handy tool for keeping track of your score and letting you know what results you need. It was this tool that let me know roughly what I needed in the last TMA and iCMA to stay within the distinction level.

One thing some people complained about was the length of time to get assignment results. iCMA’s are usually automatically put up a few days after the due date. You can sometimes get this a day earlier if you look in your gradebook rather than assessment scores. Dont worry if you don’t understand this – you will when you see the course website.  TMA’s are where some people had problems. Mine were usually returned 1 to 2 weeks after the due date and I was happy with this as we were told they get marked in the order they were received. As I usually submitted mine just before cut off I always assumed I would be one of the last marked. However, some people were waiting up to 4 to 6 weeks on their results. These people were few and far between but I’m sure it was a pain having to complete your next TMA without having the result and comments from your previous one. Overall I was very happy with my tutor, he gave me detailed comments and areas to improve in and always said if I needed help just to contact him.

The OES is straight forward, this the End of Module assignment, so only 1 result. You need to pass this with a result of 40% or above.

Final Thoughts about S104 Exploring Science

From the start I knew it was going to be hard, I had seen the reviews on the Open University website and this was my first 60 pointer. With hindsight, I took on too much with S282 starting midway through it, however, at least I was able to pull out without too much hassle. So for anyone thinking about it, make sure you have enough time. I’m self-employed, so can work around things and am a bit more flexible on when I can study. I also have a 3 year old son, so most study was done after 7pm each night.  The Open University website stated 16 hours per week would be needed – I think on average mine would have been 10 – 12 hours per week. However dont under-estimate the course, for most of it I was behind so ended up rushing through most of the TMA’s, so if you get a chance, start early and try to get ahead. With the high workload it’s hard to get caught up if you’re too far behind. Some tutor group assignments have due dates but if you’re behind you may not find out about them until its too late. So in general I wouldn’t like to get any more than 2 weeks behind.

The course content overall was very enjoyable and I feel I have learnt a little about a lot. My highlights were the space and physics parts but this was to be expected. The bits I didn’t like were chemistry and the life parts, particularly cells and how they convert energy etc. There were a few different experiments during the course like collecting rain water and growing mold in tomato soup. These were enjoyable and it was nice to do some practical stuff instead of just looking at a book. They are mainly in the first half of the course and give you practice in doing and writing up experiments.

Another recommendation would be to find the Facebook site for your S104 Exploring Science course – ours had over 400 members with about 30 – 40 regular posters. It was a great place for help and advice and general thoughts about the course. This group was much more useful than the tutor groups forum on the S104 Exploring Science course website. So if you can find one for any of your courses I would join it, it’s really good to talk with other people in the same position as you. One word of warning though, don’t get put off when people are way ahead. Sometimes it can feel that you’re not doing as good when they are 4 weeks in front but don’t worry about it. I would say a vast majority of people were either on schedule or a little behind.

So would I recommend S104 Exploring Science? …….. YES !! It’s very hard work, and sometimes you may ask yourself whether it’s all worth it. But the satisfaction you get when you have submitted the EMA is well worth it. From thinking at the start “how am I going to get through this?” to finally having completed it, is a good feeling and I even feel a little proud of myself. I plan to do B64 Natural Science Degree so needed to do S104 Exploring Science, however if you are just looking for a course in science I would still recommend it.  I have done 2 short courses S151 “Maths for Science” and S196 “Planets” but S104 was far better than these and I got a much bigger sense of achievement in completing it.

Just a little side note

Just for an idea of the length of the EMA, my final word count was around 3150. This blog post is around 3050, so that’s a good indication of what would be the longest assignment of S104 Exploring Science.

If your starting to study or intend to study S104 Exploring Science then I hope this has helped you out.


Filed under BSc (Honours) Natural Sciences B64, DB123: You and Your Money, S104: Exploring Science

S151 Finished

I have submitted the EMA for S151 Maths for Science. In the end I didn’t compleat chapter 9 as it says you can do either chapter 9 or 10 and still pass. I was going to wait until the end of the month to see if I get time to do it, but its clear now that wont happen. So instead of waiting and possible missing the cut off date I just decided to submit it. In the end I got, 26 correct on first attempt, 4 correct on second attempt and 5 not answered (Chapter 9). With those results im happy enough that I will get a pass however I have to wait untill mid March to find out.


Filed under BSc (Honours) Natural Sciences B64, DB123: You and Your Money, S151: Maths for Science

S151 All Done …. Well Nearly

I have finished what I wanted to get done for S151 Maths for Science. I have finished all the questions for chapters 1 – 8 and chapter 10. It says in the material that the course can be passed with just doing sections 9 or 10, so I decided as I was pushed for time to just do section 10. So overall i did 30 out of 35 questions and got 26 correct first go and 4 on the 2nd, I would assume that this is plenty to get the 40% pass mark.

As it stands at the minute I haven’t submitted it as I have untill the 30th January to get it in, so if over the next few week I get a spare day or so I can do section 9. However I can’t see this happening as im still a little behind with S104 and S282 starts shortly. Cos of this im saying that I have finished with S151 :)


Filed under BSc (Honours) Natural Sciences B64, S151: Maths for Science

Working on S151 this week

I have been neglecting S151: Maths for Science for the last 2 months, so I have decided to spend the next week or 2 working on it. The EMA is due on the 31st Jan but I want to get it submitted by the new year. I went onto the EMA yesterday and found it was a test like the iMCA’s and broken into the 10 chapters. So far I have answered all questions for chapter 1 – 3 and out of 10 questions I got 9 correct first go and 1 on the second so a good start. However I expect the questions to get harder as it goes on.

One thing that is helping, well with chapters 2 – 4 at least, is that the maths that I have learnt in S104 means I know most of what they’re saying. The downside to that is I expect the book to get harder as I get to the chapters that havent been covered in S104.


Filed under BSc (Honours) Natural Sciences B64, S151: Maths for Science