I’m now at the end of my psychogeography course with the Open College of the Arts, so I thought it would be useful to talk about my experience of the course.
I think the strength of something like this it is that it gives you a framework for studying and producing work, along with a peer group to discuss and interact with. The idea of the course is a dialogue between students and teacher rather than a tutor telling you if what you’re doing is right or wrong and then telling you how to improve. However, that dialogue didn’t seem to happen on my group very much. The tutor did interact, but often things he’d left on my Padlet weren’t there, and comments would go missing. I felt like I was still working on my own, and trying to touch base with what my course mates were up to so that I could take part in a dialogue was difficult because I didn’t know if my comments were useful or if they were even being seen, as more often than not they were not responded to. I don’t know if some students left part way through the course or just didn’t use Padlet to present work, but there were Padlets that had 3 weeks work in and then nothing? I do have to take some responsibility for a lack of interaction because I didn’t take part in the scheduled video chats and so probably missed out on a lot there. But still, I didn’t feel there was much going on in my group, just one student was obviously making an effort to reach out to course mates and left some useful comments for me which were appreciated, as did one person from the second group. But that was it.
The course is very loose so there’s no requirement to ‘finish’ a piece of work by the end, just to have got started on a way through and have some ideas to work with that you can present in a Padlet. Overall I thought the course was over too quickly, and as I was ill for several weeks I felt I’d missed half of it. It also didn’t provide me with what I’d personally hoped for, which was a short course where I could finish a piece of work and get feedback on it. I have got a ‘certificate of completion’ along with some useful tutor feedback, but I had wanted more academic feedback during study time, and that wasn’t how the course was set up.
I found the way the course was presented confusing – there’s the virtual learning environment (VLE) where everything is presented online, and that has associated activities for each week, but those were often different from the Padlet course structure we were being encouraged to view and use by the tutor, and sometimes those different platforms clashed in terms of what they expected. So one week the VLE asked for a pdf of work to be uploaded to the university. I was surprised by that and totally changed my work because of it so that I’d have time to get something finished sooner than I had expected to. But when I mentioned it my tutor told me there wasn’t a requirement to do that and seem surprised – but the requirement was clearly there on the VLE! So I began to feel confused about what was expected of me and I know other students felt the same.
On previous OCA courses there’d been a requirement to reflect on your own work and to complete exercises, but after wasting a lot of time on exercises that didn’t match how I’d wanted to work on this course that ate up much of the little time I had, to then be told we didn’t need to do the exercises after the fact was frustrating to say the least.
However, overall I think it’s been useful, although most useful was my own writing, research and reading before the course started. I liked the aspects of psychogeography I chose to work with, I have a plan to take forward which is multidisciplinary, I feel I’m in a better place with some work I’d already begun, and have learnt some useful ideas from my tutor about typology. Would I recommend the course though? Honestly, I’m not sure. If you want to be led through psychogeography then I imagine you’re better off reading ‘Psychogeography’ by Merlin Coverley, perhaps one of Will Self’s psychogeographical books, or Rebecca Solnit’s ‘A Field Guide to Getting Lost’, and doing some online research. If you did do the course, those would all be useful starting points anyway.
These Polaroids aren’t images I used for the course in my final work, but they are some images I’d taken when I first started and was thinking about using Badbury Rings as my site. I ended up going in a different direction with the work, but I still like these and will probably add to this set over time.