You know how teenagers seem to know absolutely everything?  That’s how I feel today!  I just submitted my iCMA43 (MST124’s quiz for the calculus modules) and got full marks.  I’m absolutely insufferable right now.

There was a tutorial last night for calculus, which I was late for.  (My phone is … Well, it’s hard to describe without swearing.  But I’m blaming the phone because the alternative is to accept responsibility for my own choices, and forget that.)  The tutorial really built my confidence.  I made all the same arithmetic and algebraic errors I always do (so no chance of doing well at the exam), but my understanding was where it needed to be the whole way through.

I still have one or two days worth of calculus to get through, and I need to finish up the calculus parts of TMA03, but I can get back to a normal study schedule.  (I put TM129 to the side to concentrate on calculus.)  So sometime next week I’ll start handling two modules simultaneously again.  Since I only have the Linux block to do there, and I already run dozens of headless Linux virtuals (and one physical Raspbian box), I should be able to complete TM129 long before revision for MST124 starts in May.

My TMA02 results are overdue by a day, now, so I’m doing my best not to be impatient about it.  I get that my tutor is busy, and I’ve been in that situation.  On the other hand, it’s entirely possible that there really was a problem with my submission and there’s nothing to mark.  I’ll probably edit this entry once it’s back.  I’ve spotted a few unimportant mistakes in it, so it probably won’t be as good a result as my last one, but I’m not expecting it to be too much worse.

I mentioned last year that trigonometry had been my mathematical Achilles heel until I finally got it smoothed out by Khan Academy in preparation for MST-124.  It wasn’t that I couldn’t do it, it was that I’d have to re-invent it every time I saw a triangle.  And it turns out there are a lot of triangles.

I’m now officially on the far side of Unit 4, which is trigonometry.  By the time I opened up TMA02 and saw the trigonometry stuff, I caught myself saying, “Well this is easy!”  And I wasn’t even punished by the maths gods for my hubris!  It felt really great to be so at ease with the concepts in it.  I can no longer blame not properly learning trig for my failures, and will have to admit to not being that bright, instead.

I also finished the iCMA42 for MST-124 (which covers units 2 through 4) with full marks.  I managed to avoid making the silly, silly mistake I did on the last one, by forcing myself to triple check my answers with a calculator if I got confused by anything.  On the other hand, it took me 9 days and 10 hours to complete, so I can’t necessarily use the same techniques when it comes time for the exam.  A two-week exam would be just about right, though.

Even though I’ve put TM129 away for the time being, I had a chance to attend a last-minute online tutorial with my tutor last week.  He’d had a face-to-face scheduled about forty miles away (and about sixty miles from where he lives), and literally nobody signed up for it, so he sent out an email and did it online.

In the end, there were only three of us on it, but it was just him and me chatting by voice for the first fifteen minutes or so.  Obviously, we didn’t cover much of the actual module material, but we talked a lot about TMA strategies and general study skills.  It was good motivation, as well.  I haven’t yet attended any face-to-face tutorials, but am starting to think it could be quite advantageous.  It’d mean an entire evening away from my children, though, and that’s something I want to avoid after my father’s part-time associate degree left us practically feral for four years.

Between this week and last, the final two assessments have been opened for us to view and get started on.

The first is TMA05.  On the surface, this is about online communications, particularly Web 2.0 methods.  In reality, the first section is about creating multimedia presentations and a structured plan to any presentation, and the second section is about giving and getting constructive criticism.  I couldn’t even tell you what the third part was about.  It’s the Sense section, and when I went to set up my folders for TMA05, I found that I’d already set them up and completed the Sense program.  I didn’t remember doing it, but the comments which were in it were clearly my comments, everything worked correctly, and the written portions of the answer even seemed correct.  I haven’t had any alcohol for the last six months or so, so it wasn’t my drunk self chipping in.  I must have done it after a long study session when I was half asleep.  (My drunk self commonly chips in with projects, but it’s typically not so helpful.)

Having already had to do a multimedia presentation for a previous MOOC, I was prepared for this one, and got it down with a minimum of fuss.  (I did cheat, however, by deciding that the module’s outdated and unsupported tool of choice, Picasa, sucked rotten eggs, and used PowerPoint, instead, which still sucks rotten eggs, but for entirely different reasons not relating to it being generally unusable.  The cheating was clearly documented in my TMA, for those worried about it.)  There’s a lot of complaining going on over this task.  Like, a lot a lot. A lot.  Bunch of whiners.  Close your eyes and think of Student Finance England, guys.

Multimedia presentations are the modern world’s version of oral reports: Nobody likes doing them, nobody likes watching them, and nobody likes marking them, but there’s a limited amount of creativity in the world of education, and while it’s a half-arsed attempt at something different, at least it is a little different.

I don’t have the ability to get on with the feedback bit yet.  I’ve had my presentation up for a week, now, and am still the only person in my tutor group with it done.  I have to wait until after two others finish theirs, then catch up to the point where they can critique mine.  Here’s hoping there’s enough criticism to go around come the due date.

The EMA is also TMA06 for this presentation of TU100.  Instead of a 40% passing mark, it’s actually just a 30% pass, so long as my total average for the module is 40%.  If I didn’t submit iCMA57 or TMA05 and got a 30% on TMA06, I’d still finish the module with 73%.  Since TMA06 has 250 marks (with 40 of them being “at large” skills points), I only need to scrape together 75 marks to pass, and a distinction is a bit less than three times that.  The Sense and maths/spreadsheet portions combine for 90 marks, so I could pack the module away if I wanted at this point.

The other 120 marks are spread out over summarising and report writing, study reflection in the context of comparing learning outcomes to employment, and two questions which are really nothing more than regular TMA questions on Block 5 (about database storage and arguing academic points).  I’ve got somewhere in the neighbourhood of 40 marks to blow and still get a distinction, so I may as well give it a shot.  But it’s frankly a bit like what my dad called weeing in a dark suit.  I’ll get a warm feeling, but nobody will really notice.

My first OU (… and TU100) tutorial was last night.  I had intended to go to a face-to-face tutorial for my first one.  The trouble is that my tutor group’s introduction to the module isn’t until about two weeks after the beginning of the module, and I’m about nine weeks ahead at this point.  So online it is!

Now, I’m not going to characterise the tutorial as worthless.  I will, however, say that it held no worth to me.  Or, really, anybody who can read.  Because basically, they just read to us a very few select snippets from the TU100 guide.

And it took. two. hours.  Weeeell … Okay, it took like one hour, and a whooooole lot of dead air between tutors asking, “Any questions?”  It may have gone on longer than two hours, but by then my options were to log off or stab my hand to alleviate boredom.

The tutors were able to add value by making pie charts that added visual data to the written data, so again, great for those who can’t read … Except it was inaccurate.  iCMA 57 is the only Interactive Computer-Marked Assessment which will impact our final score.  It counts for a grand-whopping total of 4%, but the pie-chart listed it at 3%.  I asked for clarification on this and whether or not iCMA 57 must be passed at 40%, even though it only accounts for 3% or 4% of the final score, and they went off to seek clarification.  (They later returned to re-read what I had read them, and clarification was not achieved.)  I’ll talk about the iCMAs a bit later, but the student reaction to them has been kind of disheartening.

There were 36 participants.  I can’t remember if that was 34 students and 2 tutors, or 36 students and 2 tutors.  But the point is, it wasn’t a whole lot.  Or at least it doesn’t seem like a whole lot for the only online introduction tutorial for a module with 2500 students.

There were no tea breaks, which I found unacceptable.  Indeed, it’s entirely possible that my question about iCMA 57 was answered, but I was heating up the kettle at the time.  So apologies if that’s the case.  You know what?  No.  This is tea.  No apologies!

So will I be back? You betcha!  At least to the TMA01 tutorial.  If that’s equally devoid of new content, I’ll be giving the rest of them a miss.  Indeed, I’ve already decided there’s no amount of content worth me hopping on a train or searching for parking, so f2f’s are right out.  Actually, if it involved searching for parking, the entire degree might just be right out.  The OU’s motto shouldn’t be “Learn and Live”, it should be, “No parking required.”