We asked some A843 students towards the end of their first year to reflect on their experiences and any advice they would give to future A843 students:
As someone who was a professional engineer for 30+ years, and had only a deep amateur interest in art and history, I am really grateful to the OU for accepting me into the MA, and opening my eyes to new ways of looking and thinking about the world. I didn't enter into the MA with any expectations of starting a new 'career', but merely as a way to indulge a passion that I could not devote energies to whilst working and bringing up children. However, it really has given me avenues and opportunities to follow that I never expected - and hopefully leverage my new-found skills into progressing the discipline and uncovering new learnings that will benefit or at least bring fresh insight into the community.
I would say my understanding of recent and current debates has definitely developed during the course. I also feel I have gained a rudimentary understanding of the origins of some of these debates, and their relation to social and political contexts. This is what I wanted to gain from the course. I have in the past been puzzled by much contemporary art and its associated discourse, and I am now finding that I recognise the language and conventions that are being used.
I have found that my whole approach to art history has changed. I have found myself questioning everything I took for fact. I have also really developed skills in referencing, research and reading scholarly articles. I started the course questioning my own abilities to do so and felt completely overwhelmed when I started to read the course material wondering if I had really stepped out of my depth. Now I am more excited than ever to go on to the 2nd part … I was not prepared initially for the breadth of socio-political, philosophical and religious debates that have framed the course but feel that I can at least discuss these issues now.
when I read the course material there seems to be so many connections to the wider world and the way we live.
I found Block 1 really tough going but felt that after completing the TMA, I started to 'get it'! The research for the assignments has really helped me understand the materials and I think although it was difficult to get to grips with initially, the structure of the course has really helped me develop my understanding of the materials and beyond.
Advice is to "get a grip" right from the "getgo"! with key concepts - such as those covered by the course e.g. themes like artists' intentions, style, interpretation - a good grounding in these basics would serve well.
I suppose I found the transition from undergraduate to MA level rather difficult, partly because I did feel suddenly being confronted with an influx of profound ideas, and often, scholarly articles were difficult to read let alone understand, and partly owing to uncertainties about what was expected at MA level, when it came to assessments... It was always good to be able to find my feet by going back to the well-structured course material, and use that as a clear pathway to achieving understanding of the discipline.
Last year was a bit like Everest North West face without oxygen, but the view from the top( the end!!?) was great, the climb was really enjoyable, stimulating, well paced, an intellectual work out and the tutors helpful. Improvements... continuing to find my own voice and having confidence in that, reading more critically, trying not to be overwhelmed by the amount of material " out there" eg endless exhibitions/ books/ reviews etc.
The MA really has been quite life changing for me. I wouldn't have had the confidence to even dream of a PhD without the OU, says Tara McKinney Marinus (21/22)