Ah, I love the smell of TMA due dates in the morning.  It smells like … Desperation.

This morning’s desperation is caused by the due date of TU100’s TMA05, which requires input from others to complete.  I hear there’s actual collaborative work going on in TM129, so this isn’t as bad as that, but it’s still enough to have some rocking back and forth and drooling.

So what’s going on?  What’s the big deal?  As mentioned previously, TMA05 requires us to create a video (or audio) presentation.  This is enough to get under most people’s skins, but they probably should have been prepared for it.  The more insidious part is that we have to offer feedback on two other presentations, and we have to evaluate the feedback given on our own presentation.  Which means that we’re at the mercy of other students to complete the assignment.

I love the impossible position educators are put in with this type of thing.  There’s no way out of it for them.  It’s the Circle of Strife:

Huh.  I thought that would end up being a circle.  Okay, it’s the Linear Sequence of Strife.  Yes, it’s unfair.  Yes, your performance will end up partially based on what others around you do or don’t do.  Educators can choose to set you up for failure in the real world by either not including group work, or by including it but not marking you down for other people’s suckitude.  Or they can help you get used to it early.

So what are you supposed to do?  Well, learn how to cope.  Here are some coping mechanisms I’ve seen used both in schools and work:

  • The Apprentice
    • With the Apprentice mechanism, you don’t worry so much about the overall end result.  In fact, the brighter the flames are in which it goes up, the less attention will be drawn to you.  As we’ve all learned by leaving the TV on when this show comes on, the plan here is simply to look for the nearest bus, and figure out which of the people around you is lightest, and therefore easiest to throw under it.
  • The Ostrich
    • Ostriches don’t actually stick their head in the sand.  That doesn’t fit my narrative, however, so Imma ignore it, and pretend they do.  You can likewise just stick your head in the sand, ignore the fact that everybody else is doing as much on the project as Simon Cowell’s girdles are to fool anyone, and just get your part done.
  • The Atlas
    • Time to take the entire project on your shoulders, and hope you don’t get squished
  • Save the Cheerleader, Save the Project
    • You could just try to rally everybody else into doing their part.  Good luck.  We’re all behind you.

My personal mechanism is the Facilitator.  I get my part done as early as humanly possible, and hope that makes things a bit easier for everybody else.  If they’re not waiting on me, it’s one less excuse they can kick their legs up and rest on.

In reality, you’re likely going to have to hope for the Tag Team.  This one holds out for the chance that there’s at least one other person on the project that’s in the same position.  Together, you start early, play the Cheerleader, take the whole thing on your shoulders, ignore what isn’t being done, and when all else (and the project) fails, you check your phone for bus schedules.

The Tag Team worked well for me this time.  I got the TMA in about two weeks ago after three or four of us all commented on each other’s presentations.  I’m expecting one or two points off for including a chart in landscape instead of portrait orientation, which someone has said got them marked down in a previous TMA, and probably two points off because my presentation expanded from the maximum allowed 90 seconds to 91 seconds when it was processed through the module’s transcoder.  So hopefully between 94 and 97 this time.  I’ll know in one or two weeks, and then I’ll post the presentation with my personal details scrubbed.

2017/3/31 Edit: I thought I’d have at least a week to redo my title page before posting up the presentation.  Nope!  I got my TMA back in just three days.  Clearly my tutor has gone a bit loopy from trying to get it all done so quickly, so I ended up with another generous full 100 marks.  I’ll take it!  As usual, it came with some great feedback for future reference.  I’ll discuss what the numbers look like now when I’m ready to move onto the de facto EMA.

This was my presentation.  As with the Shakespeare video linked above, that’s just my voice on the video, and not a speech synthesiser as was suggested in my feedback.  Heh.

Creative Commons Licence
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

Please see acknowledgment credits for details of components used here with permission through various Creative Commons licenses.

After five days of websites, phone calls, and emails, I’m finally enrolled on my next modules for Q62.  I’m finishing out Stage 1 with TM129 (Technologies in practice) and MST124 (Essential mathematics 1).  Enrolment for October 2017 opened on the 9th, and it finally got completely sorted this morning.  The website wouldn’t let me register on the first day, because it thought I was trying to take the modules in America from a UK address.  I don’t even know what that means, but I had to call the next day to sort it out.  Once they corrected that issue, they said I hadn’t sent in proof of residence in the UK.  Finding it pointless to argue what had or hadn’t been done, versus what had or hadn’t been lost by their IT systems, I sent in more proof.  The next hurtle was that they registered me on the phone for the modules, but didn’t tie those modules to my degree, so they wouldn’t count toward it.  (In the long run, this isn’t an issue, but it would have required more fuss next year, since my Stage 1 wouldn’t be cleared, even though I’d taken all the required modules.)  Student Finance England should start taking applications for part-time studies in the 2017/2018 academic year in around mid-May, but putting my SFE CR number in now switched me from just reserving the spot in the module until 20 April to being fully registered in it.

As with TU100, I will be on one of TM129’s final presentations.  The module’s final run is October 2018, but I think it has a February 2018 run before that.  It covers three main areas: Networking, Linux, and Robotics.  I’m glad that the degree is rounding out the ICT experience of its programme with these areas.  I’m extremely familiar with the first two, and a very poor hobbyist in the third.  My six year old son helped me build little toy robots last year, and this year he’s been working with a brilliant snap-together circuitry kit his auntie in America got him for Christmas.  Even though the practical portions of the robotics section is entirely virtual, I’m certain he’ll enjoy sharing those parts together.  It also comes with a copy of Isaac Asimov’s I, Robot, which was one of my favourite books in seventh grade.

MST124, I’m not ashamed to say, is a bit outside my abilities.  I will not be receiving a distinction on this module.  As only a bare pass is required and the specific outcome does not impact my degree classification in the slightest, I’m using this to full advantage and studying something I know I’ll only do about average on.  The trade-off is that I should learn and grow the most with this module.

I’ve finally found the block descriptions for MU123 and MST124, so here’s what you learn:


  • Basic maths review
  • Vocabulary and notation
  • Types of numbers
  • Statistical summaries (types of averages, significant figures, etc.)
  • Algebra
  • Graphs
  • Inequalities
  • Geometry
  • Advanced algebra
  • Quadratics
  • Statistical pictures
  • Trigonometry
  • Exponentials
  • “Maths everywhere” (which I’m guessing is making it practical, which means story problems)


  • Algebra review
  • Graphs and equations review
  • Functions
  • Trigonometry review
  • Coordinate geometry and vectors
  • Differentiation
  • Differentiation methods and integration
  • Integration methods
  • Matrices
  • Sequences and series
  • Taylor polynomials
  • Complex numbers

Now, why the OU can’t just put this list side-by-side someplace and let people choose is beyond me.  Looking at this, I can see that I had cleared MU123 by the ninth grade, including the level of trigonometry taught there.  I’m about halfway up the MST124 list, having done some differential calculus, but in dire need of a refresher.  I would be bored to tears on MU123.  So even though I’m quite certain I’ll get toward the lower end of between 40% and 84% on my end-of-module exam, MST124’s my route.  (I’ve heard the exam is multiple choice, though, so anything’s possible.)

It also has a revise & review site that opens up next week for early registrants to prepare them in case we’ve forgotten as much maths as we’ve learned.