This week I’ve been saying a final goodbye to an old friend: A330.
Those of you who’ve studied with the OU will probably know what I mean – we all talk in codes and acronyms here! For everyone else… A330 (also known as ‘Myth in the Greek and Roman Worlds‘) is a 60-credit Level 3 Open University module – which means it’s worth half of the final year credits of an undergraduate degree. Students study at a distance, with printed course books and DVD content as well as online resources, and the module runs from October to June.
At least it did, for more than a decade.
Open University modules have a limited life-cycle – usually no more than 12 years, sometimes less. Then they’re replaced by a newly written module which is more up-to-date. Sometimes the module is completely different. The module that came before A330 was a Roman History module (AA309 – some of you will have fond memories of that!), and when it was replaced by a Myth module, it was several years before we got another Roman History module.
In this case, A330 is being replaced in October by a new Myth module which will cover much the same areas, but in different ways and with a slightly shifted focus. Euripides’ Hippolytus (with which I’ve developed a complicated love-hate relationship over the years) is being swapped out for Medea; there’ll be more content on Classical Athens; and there’s a new focus on project work, including the chance to curate an ‘exhibition’, which sounds exciting. Take a look: it’s A350 ‘Greek and Roman myth: stories and histories’.
I’m really looking forward to the change, in lots of ways: I haven’t seen any of the materials and don’t know what I’ll be teaching, but it’ll come with a new box of shiny books in the post, and that’s good enough for me!
But I’m going to miss A330 – and not just because all of my resources, built up over a decade, will be obsolete!
The first year of A330, back in 2010/11, was ridiculous. The module was so popular that I was asked to take an expanded student group – expanded from the usual number of around 20 to a ludicrous 92 students! My line manager used to ring me every week to check that I was still alive. But the beauty of it was that, with so many enthusiastic students, the group took off in a way that I haven’t seen since. Bowing to popular demand, I organised an in-person day school in Newcastle, with speakers from local universities as well as a session from Paula James, one of the module authors, who came up from Milton Keynes for the occasion (something that certainly hasn’t happened since – OU folks rarely venture this far North!).
As I recall, students flew in from all round Europe to be there – I think we had nine different countries represented. They all brought snacks, so we had an amazing international buffet. And they wanted to make a weekend of it, so I organised accommodation for all of them in the B&Bs in South Shields, and we took over an Indian restaurant for the evening. It was great fun.
After that year things settled down a bit: but A330 has remained the most popular module I’ve seen in my OU career, and the one that does most to fire people’s imaginations. From the Pre-Socratics to Buffy the Vampire Slayer, there’s something in it for everyone, and I’ve encountered plenty of people who’ve gone on to work on myth-related topics for their MA dissertations or even at PhD level.
Hopefully the new module will be just as popular and even more successful in inspiring people. But change is never easy for me, and I’m going to miss my old friend.
Around the internet this week
(Just a few links this week – I’ve been swamped with end-of-term stuff!)
Hellene Travel Newsletter (in which my status as Occasional Tour Guide is confirmed) – The Classics Library
New Minimus Mouse Trumps to download and print (you know you want to…) – Minimus Latin
Eating Rome: the start of a new series of ancient recipes for modern kitchens – Working Classicists
Classics Abides: a long view from the Rogue Classicist
Mary Beard’s farewell to lecturing – A Don’s Life
If you’re in the North East, don’t miss the chance to sign up for the July writing workshops by poet Jake Morris-Campbell (you can listen to his lovely sound essay ‘The Spirit of Antenociticus’ on BBC Sounds).
Finally… here’s a link to my dad’s album of myth-inspired music, if you’d like to check it out! – Twist the Myths