Why do OU undergraduate students not do dissertations?

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jsp_1983
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I've asked this on one of the (many) OUSA forums, but I think I might get more replies here...

I've never been able to find an answer to this question. I was thinking about it again when I was talking to graduates of other universities discussing what their dissertations were about. I feel somewhat disadvantaged by not doing one because I won't have undertaken a substantive piece of work as part of my degree.

Anybody know why The OU doesn't do dissertations?
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(Original post by jsp_1983)
I've asked this on one of the (many) OUSA forums, but I think I might get more replies here...

I've never been able to find an answer to this question. I was thinking about it again when I was talking to graduates of other universities discussing what their dissertations were about. I feel somewhat disadvantaged by not doing one because I won't have undertaken a substantive piece of work as part of my degree.

Anybody know why The OU doesn't do dissertations?
It might be because supervising them is difficult on the OU model.
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Persipan
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I don't know for certain, but I suspect the structure of OU degrees would make it problematic to include one.

For starters, dissertation modules at brick unis are generally on the small side. I've just fished out my transcript from my brick uni degree and my thesis module was 20 credits - a quick scout round t'interweb shows up quite a lot of 15-credit dissertations, some 20s, a few 30s, I think I spotted one 40. While I'm not a huge fan of the OU's drift towards fewer, larger modules, I can see the practical reasons for them doing that; and lobbing in a small level 3 module would throw an enormous spanner in the works - they'd have to create a suite of other small Level 3 modules to fill in the gaps, and you'd end up with modules everywhere. For part time students (i.e.most OU students) this would also get complicated as it would almost inevitably mean doubling up - so if, say, they instigated 30 credit dissertations, you'd need to do another 30 credit module at the same time. In some subjects it's normal to double up and people are used to it; in others it isn't and they aren't.

And, although that might be just about doable for named degrees, a massive number of OU students are doing Open Degrees, which is where it would get incredibly complicated. They'd need to make changes to the programme structure/requirements (since presumably they'd want people only to do one dissertation - otherwise you could end up with someone doing, say, four dissertations in different subjects as the whole of their Level 3). They'd need then to think about what effect it had on the overall degree, too - for example, my Open Degree is a pretty even split between an arts subject and a technology one, but it would be pretty odd if I could, for example, write an arts-based dissertation but end up with a BSc.

I think it would also affect what subjects could be offered, in a fairly significant way. So, again, coming back to my degree by way of an example, I'm basically an even split between Creative Writing and Design & Innovation. (In a perfect world, I'd have liked to do a whole Creative Writing degree, but they don't offer that, and I felt Design & Innovation was more interesting and relevant to fill in the gap than English, which would have been the more obvious combination). Each of those subjects is offered as a single, 60-credit module at Level 3. If they were to introduce, say, a 30 credit dissertation option, they'd need to also create 30 credit modules to sit alongside them and fill in the gap. But, maybe they'd decide that one of those subjects didn't suit a dissertation (i.e.I'm not convinced Creative Writing does) - in which case, someone other than me would be making the decision about what should form the focus of my degree, because if a dissertation were required I'd only be able to do it in what's actually my second subject. Or, maybe they'd offer dissertations across the board, but not maintain the 60 credit level 3 modules (because 30 credits + a 30 credit dissertation make up 60 credits of that subject at that level), which again would affect people like me by creating odd gaps. I guess you could have a system where dissertation modules exist for some popular subjects where there's already a lot of choice of modules anyway, and have it as an option, but to me it looks like a slippery slope towards my degree not existing.

I'm also not sure how they would be able to handle the tutor and marking setup. The way they handle this for ordinary modules relies on an army of Associate Lecturers and I suspect that maintaining consistency of marking relies on really detailed guidelines - that would be much harder to achieve for dissertations. Coming back to my brick uni, there were maybe half a dozen staff members who acted as thesis tutors for my course - all of whom knew one another and worked in the same place - and the external examiner could read a selection of the work marked by each of them to ensure consistent marking from both an internal and external perspective. For the OU, there are modules with thousands of students and it would be far harder to manage.

Personally, I'm not bothered about not doing a dissertation - partly because both of my Level 3 modules will include a significant, sustained project element; and partly because in the real world no-one has ever shown the slightest interest in my (awesome, btw) thesis from my brick uni degree. I can see how it would be more of an issue if you wanted to go on to postgrad study, though; or if you were doing a subject that leans more towards 4x30 credits at Level 3 (although aren't there project modules for some subjects?)
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Lambert87
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Science students do dissertations


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hmm_what?
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(Original post by kjglen24)
Science students do dissertations


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Indeed they do, in the SX*390 strand.
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Lambert87
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(Original post by hmm_what?)
Indeed they do, in the SX*390 strand.
Yeah SXHL390 I did


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