8 Jan 2017

Saving Money

These are a few tips when it comes to students saving money:

  1. Try to sign up with your student email at software vendors for free or cheap software. For example, Microsoft gives a one-year free subscription to Microsoft Office (365 online version) free when you register with your student email. RoboForm gives you a one-year license.
  2. Printing can be cheap if you have an HP printer and use the Instant ink® plan, where you pay as little as £3.49 per month for 100 pages of printing per month, with a rollover service available if you have not used all your pages. There are different plans available of course. HP sends out the inks in the mail, along with a recycling plastic envelope to safely dispose of the cartridges. https://instantink.hpconnected.com/subscriptions/4704429585

16 Nov 2016

How to reference your essays for law

A common problem for law students – as indeed, all students – is how to reference your work to avoid plagiarism. I’ll attempt to answer that here using appropriate examples. You can download the Open University’s Law School Undergraduate Assessment Guide here. Section 6 deals with referencing.
As an OU Law student, you will need to refer to two categories of material:
  • general academic sources, such as:
    • module materials (printed or online)
    • books (printed or online)
    • encyclopaedias and dictionaries (printed or online)
    • databases
    • journal articles (printed or online)
    • websites
    • newspaper articles (printed or online)
    • audio-visual materials (original source or online)
  • primary sources of law:
    • UK cases
    • UK statutes
    • UK secondary legislation
    • EU cases and legislation
    • the European Convention on Human Rights
    • cases from the European Court of Human Rights
    • international sources of law.
A reference to either category of material consists of two components: a citation and a full reference. A citation appears in the main body of your work, and a full reference appears in the reference list at the end of your work.
© The Open University

Online Sources:
For an online source, such as the OU module, the citation would be the author’s name, year of publication and the section or subsection you found the information you are using. So, for this example, the citation would be (The Open University, 2015a, s6.2.1). You can use a lower-case  ‘s’ for ‘section(s)' and a lowercase ‘ss’ for subsection(s). 

In my example, you will see the lowercase ‘a’ after the year – this refers to the first unit you are taking your information from. So, for example your first unit is Unit 4, then every time you refer to Unit 4 (and ONLY Unit 4), you will ALWAYS use the suffix ‘a’ after the year (which is the year you start your course). So, if I refer to Unit 4 nine times, it will always be ‘2015a’. Another unit, for example, Unit 6 in the same assignment, will be ‘2015b’ in every instance you refer to Unit 6… and so forth. Got it?
The full online reference at the end of your assignment/TMA/essay will be composed of the authors' names, the year begun, the Module’s name, where found and when accessed:
The Open University (2015a) Open University Law School Undergraduate Assessment Guide  [Online]. Available at www.learn2.open.ac.uk/mod/oucontent/view.php?id=884473 (Accessed 16 November 2016).
Text Books:
The format for text books follow a similar ‘code’. The authors’ names first (surname, first initial), the publication date, the name of the text, edition number, where published and the publisher’s name:
Furmston, M., (2012) ‘Cheshire, Fifoot and Furmson’s Law of Contract’, 16th Edn., Oxford, Oxford University Press.
The in-text citation will be the authors’ name, initial, year published and page number(s) – ‘p’ if one page, ‘pp’ for multiple pages:
(Furmston, M., 2012, pp123-130)
If you are using a quote from a secondary source that is used in the online material or a text book, then you must reference it in-text:
(Furmston, 2012, p. 206 cited in Open University, 2015a)
For a journal article, you follow the same format:
Gibson, K (2014) ‘What lies ahead?’, New Law Journal, vol. 164, no. 7623, p. 12. Available at http://www.newlawjournal.co.uk/nlj/content/what-lies-ahead-0 Accessed on 26.03.2016
The in-text citation would be:
(Gibson, K., 2014)
Case law:
For case law, you MUST give the full reference in the FIRST instance (London and North Eastern Railway v Berriman [1946] AC 278), thereafter you may refer to it by a short name (Berriman). The full case name also must be in your end of assignment reference list.
Full reference list:
At the end of your assignment, you need to give a full reference list in alphabetical order. You may use the words ‘References’ or ‘Reference List’ to head these. You may also list your statutes, and cases in separate but appropriately named lists eg, ‘Cases’, ‘Statutes’.
All the above except for the references at the end of your essay/assignment/TMA are included in the word count.

How to write a law essay:

You can find out more on how to write a law essay from the link.

12 Oct 2016

Changes at the OU (Law)

Some readers who follow this blog, and who have been enrolled in the LLB at Open University, may already know that this year has been replete with problems at the Open University getting its online system going. The following is a small description of past and ongoing problems – keep in mind that this applies to the law degree, and I cannot speak for other courses.

This academic year, the Open University is attempting to put everything completely online, including the textbooks. The theory behind this is that digital literacy is an essential skill in today's world, and therefore it is essential that students learn to work online and with computers. Aside from the entire course and textbooks being available digitally, there is a new tutorial system: the Open University is attempting to put tutorials in "clusters" – students within particular geographic areas will be assigned to tutors and will be able to book the tutorials according to their geographic location. For those students who do not have access to physical locations for the day school (face-to-face tutorial), there will be two alternative online sessions to make up for each day school. This sounds like an admirable plan. The problem was/is that all of the arrangements have not yet been made and students are unable to access tutorials via their Studenthome page. Therefore many students cannot book their tutorials due to the tutorials not being available online at all and has resulted in some of them missing the initial tutorials over the past week.

The other problem that I see being vented is that some someone in Ireland might say that the tutorial they have access to book is located in Wales, and not locally. Additionally, some of the tutors are not even offering face-to-face/day school tutorials, being only available for the online ones. All in all, the new system is not ready, and has been described as "shambolic".

I hope that this situation is soon sorted and that students and study groups will be able to settle down and get to the business of studying.

Technical tip: the Open University IT helpdesk is saying that there is a problem with Windows 10 and the Blackboard Collaborate software. This is simply not true. I am using Windows 10 and the latest version of Collaborate without any problems; I think the HelpDesk is just too lazy to troubleshoot.

5 Sep 2016

Academic English - A little discovery

I know that students who are new to higher education struggle with writing ‘academic’ English. It can be difficult to get used to writing in this new style which requires you to acknowledge sources and reference your material appropriately. Not to mention writing introductions, conclusions and linking paragraphs back to the questions and to preceding and successive paragraphs.

The OU has a very nice 8-weeks-long course to help with this. It is called “English: Skills for learning” and it is a FREE course that I’ve found to be excellent at starting you on the skills you need to cope with an undergraduate degree, in law as well as any other.

The course has built in exercises and quizzes to aid in developing the writing skills you will need. At the end, you can download a certificate. Take a look at it.

2 Sep 2016

Equity – What is it?

Given what we know about equity so far, how difficult would it be to get a definition? The answer may be surprising, especially if you were to consider the dictionary meaning: "the quality of being fair and impartial". It may surprise you to know that equity does not mean equality (as I had previously mentioned). In law, the real meaning of equity would be something like: "providing for individual needs in such a manner that the individual can live on equal terms with everyone else" (my words). To give you an idea of what I mean take a look at the following picture:


In the above picture, on the left, we can see that even though each person was treated equally, there is still an imbalance. On the right, each person as been treated according to his individual needs, but the result is that each person has equal opportunity (to view the game). To put it another way, equality is giving each person the same resources; equity is giving each person the resources that he or she needs to achieve equality – equity is the road and equality is the destination.

This is how the legal academic Gary Watt introduces ‘equity’:

The word ‘equity’ is used by the ‘haves’ and the ‘have nots’ in quite different ways, but always to denote something they hope to attain or retain. Whether approached from a religious or secular perspective, whether approached from a starting point of poverty or privilege, equity is universally considered to be something desirable, something to aspire to … Equity therefore has the potential to provide a language capable of traversing or filling some fundamental fissures in modern society.

(Watt, 2012, pp. 37–8)

Equality is a very important idea, and one that should be taken seriously. Since the late 1990s the importance of equality has been cemented in law by a number of high-profile pieces of UK government legislation, including the Human Rights Act 1998 and the Equality Act 2010. Yet equality alone cannot provide all the answers. Perhaps, as the image above suggests, when confronted with the novelty of individual needs an alternative method – one that does not rely upon treating everyone as identical – is required to ensure a reasonable chance of justice or fairness being achieved.

Thus, as this brief section has aimed to demonstrate, it is important to be aware of the problems that can and will arise if close attention is not paid to language and the context in which it is used. Where talking about justice, for example, it is not automatically about equality and vice versa. Likewise, equality cannot be automatically exchanged for equity.

© The Open University

In trying to understand equity, we must understand that there are advantages or privileges that exist alongside disadvantages. To achieve equality we must address the imbalances. Consider this: would affirmative action fall under equity, or would it, in its own right, be considered discrimination?

It is worth paying attention to the subjective nature of emotions/feelings, as these play a very important role in whether a person feels he is treated fairly or not. While law has certain objective mechanisms within its structure to help achieve fairness, equity plays a key part in "ensuring a degree of humanity remains within the law". It helps to maintain a degree of balance within the legal system, but there is always that subjective aspect of emotions.

To be continued…