Making a new OU module

by Catriona Havard (DD310 Module Team Co-Chair)

After being a Psychology lecturer at the Open University (OU) for nearly 4 years I am being given the opportunity to chair a module in production. For those of you not familiar with OU speak, that means I am going to be in charge of making a brand new module, along with my co-chair Andreas Vossler and the rest of the people on the module team. The module we are creating is DD310 Counselling and Forensic Psychology: Investigating Crime and Therapy. It is a level 3 module which will be compulsory for students studying the Forensic Psychology, Psychology with Counselling, Psychology & Law, and Criminology & Psychology degrees, and an optional module for students studying the Psychology degree. My expertise comes from the Forensic Psychology side, and Andreas Vossler is the Counselling academic expert. We are also very lucky to have a fantastic group of other academics such as Graham Pike, Meg John Barker, Bianca Raabe and Zoe Walkington on the module team, as well as a number of other support staff.

We had our first meeting yesterday with representatives from the Faculty of Social Science, and a briefing of some of the things we need to keep in mind whilst creating the module. There were so many different issues that we need to be aware of before can jump into making the module. It’s really exciting to be involved in creating something from scratch, that is not just new to the Open University, but new to the field of Psychology more generally, as most courses do not combine forensic and counselling psychology, although there does appear to be a growing need to study both of these topics. In making DD310 we want our students to be as excited and fascinated by the materials they study, as we were making them. As the module combines both forensic and counselling psychology we need to consider what will be interesting for students studying either subject (e.g. Forensic Psychology, or Psychology with Counselling degrees) so they will enjoy the whole module and not just the parts that are specific to their degrees.

The content is just one of many issues we need to consider, and up until the meeting yesterday I hadn’t been aware of all the other things that we need to think about when planning our new module. There are issues such as accessibility, which is ensuring everyone can access the materials in some format regardless of whether they have any visual or auditory impairment. There is student workload to consider, that is planning how much time students should spend on activities and reading each week, and also including time for assessments and any revision. We also have to think about what types of resources we need to find or create, such as a textbook, films, podcasts or even using animations, to make the module exciting and interesting to study. We need to decide how many and what types of assessments should be included, whether to have an end of module exam or project. Some of the issues we need to think about also involve taking into consideration what students might be doing on other modules around the same time. For example, if students are also doing DE300 which is the level 3 core Psychology module, then they will have a large independent research project they need to complete, so is it really sensible to ask them to do another one DD310, maybe an exam might be better?

Perhaps you, like me are starting to realise that creating an OU module includes an awful lot more than you initially thought that it would. Creating DD310 includes a vast amount of planning, and looking at many different factors, rather than simply deciding what topics the module will cover. One of the purposes of this blog is to get some feedback from you as Open University students, about what you might like to see in the new module we are creating. Do you have any comments or queries about the new DD310 module? Are there topics you were expecting to see, or wanted to learn about? How do you think you learn best about a new topic (reading, seeing, doing)? Is there any aspect of a previous module you studied that you really enjoyed, or helped you learn, that you would like to see on a new module? Hopefully by taking on students’ comments we can further improve of modules right from the start.