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

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6 Comments

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

6 Responses to The Story of S155 Scientific Investigations…

  1. Hi Chris,
    Another helpful review – cheers. I start S155 in a few weeks time so looking forward to finishing my level 1′s.

  2. Bob

    Good information Chris. I start s155 in a couple of weeks, i started reading the information today regarding the experiments. It seems ok from what i have read and your review above. A quick question how many hours did you dedicate to this course per week ? I am taking this course alongside another.

  3. I start S155 soon. I have to admit when the delivery came with only a mug mat and some litmus paper in I was mildly confused lol. I am not liking the idea of being put in groups but I guess group work is one of those things that I will have to get used to

    • Its fine Hazel, just make sure you make some posts about what you think and should or should not be done. Also something you may find useful when making decisions is this site http://www.doodle.com , Its handy for making polls so that everyone can vote on a method or some sort of decision that need to be made about an experiment. We used it a few times in our group :)

  4. Fernanda

    Hi Cris, good afternoon
    I found your blog while searching for information on the courses of the Open University UK. I’m already fomada in chemistry, I live in Brazil and I am doing a paper on distance learning. More specifically on the practical classes, experiments conducted by students in their home. I wonder if you could enlighten me some questions? Thanks for your help and sorry for the English. Fernanda

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