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Sarah's experience of Open University to date (September 2003)

I started with the Technology Foundation course T102 in 1997. I could have got away without this on credit from my Physics degree but it was 14 years since I last dipped a toe in academia so I thought a refresher in the learning process might be in order. I found it well worth while, being a good broad grounding in modern technology and interesting throughout. The summer school was an experience not to be missed - a week at Bath University building model bridges, wading in streams, karaoke and copper extraction.

Year two (1998) I took M206, Programming, an Object Oriented Approach. The material itself was interesting enough but I found the sheer volume more than a little off-putting. I couldn't help feeling it could have been boiled down into about 1/3 the verbage for the same content. Also, besides the assignment deadlines there were a number of interactive exercises that had to be completed by or even on a certain date which I felt rather contradicted the OU philosophy of flexibility. I certainly found it difficult to schedule my time that closely and I know a number of the other students did too. This was the first year that the course had run so perhaps things will improve from the experience.

Year 3 (1999) I took two 30 point courses - Relational Databases (M358) and Microprocessor Based Computers (T223). These made up the requisite balance for the OU diploma in Computing.

I took a break in 2000 but resumed studies this year (2001) with S103, the object being to convert the Diploma into a BSc in Computer Science. Being the serial academic I am though, the geology on the summer school reawakened an interest in Earth Sciences so I will be taking several 30pt courses in parallel with the CS units that will hopefully lead to a qualification in that field. Be warned, btw - the SXR103 summer school is a killer! Timetabled 9am to 9pm for six days so the social events laid on in the evening were, shall we say, rather muted. Well worth it though.

In 2002 I made a start on the Earth Sciences, running S260 (Geology) in parallel with MT262 (Putting Computer Systems to Work). The Geology was great and I managed a grade 2 pass but I totally screwed up on the MT262 exam, only scraping a grade 3 after averaging 91% on my coursework. I put this abject, miserable failure down to not practicing enough at composing code on paper. Yes, that's right, after giving you exercises to complete in a development platform on your computer all year, with online help and auto completion, in the exam you have to do it all from memory with pen and paper. Not something your average software developer is ever, EVER likely to have to do. FFS at work I hardly pick up a pen from one end of the day to the next, maybe even the week! Nevertheless, this is the way they see fit to arrange things so you have to be prepared for it.

Now it's 2003 and I'm taking the 3rd level course M301 (Software Systems and their Development). I hate saying it but a lot of people are feeling let down by OU this year over this course. The materials arrived late for the start of the course and I've never seen so many issued errata and "clarifications". It's not as if it's the first year and they're just ironing out the bugs either. Still, as an exercise in how the real world of software development is full of incomplete and ambiguous documentation then I suppose it's teaching us something. The E-TMA system is definitely a good idea.

In the summer (July in fact) I went on the Geology summer school in Durham SXR260. Even harder work than SXR103 if that's possible but enormous fun and really helped pull the theoretical side together. Actually handling and working on rocks in the field has no substitute. Very highly recommended. Oh and if travelling to Durham by train it's worth camping on the Virgin Trains website for the 14-day advanced booking: I got my return ticket for £32 instead of £104!!

 


Last modified Tuesday, 09-Sep-2014 13:51:24 MST