The modules I’m studying this year, MST124 and TM129, are certainly not balanced.  TM129 is a casual Stage 1 module, and is in the vicinity of an appropriate amount of work for Stage 1.  (It’s definitely a bit more light than I’d have expected, but not outrageously so.)  MST124, on the other hand, does seem lighter than I’d expect from a 60 credit Stage 1 module … but not by much.

My brain isn’t extremely multi-track.  If I can think about one thing at a time, I’m much happier than having to switch back and forth.  For some reason, I’m finding this true with studying over the span of a week.  I’d rather study an entire section of one thing, then an entire section of another, than read a bit from one section one night, then a bit from another the next, then switch back.  It doesn’t get absorbed as well if I’m re-compartmentalising as I go.

For now, I’m going to stick with my initial solution, which is to spend one week on MST124, then the next on TM129.  But this did cause some trouble.  In MST124, Unit 3 took me the full three weeks allotted to it in the study guide for me to get through it.  Actually, three weeks and two nights.  It’s just rough reading.  And I can’t just bail halfway through a unit, or I forget everything.  Reading from a book is just not a good way for me to learn maths, and it’s killing me to try.

Anyhow, now I’ve got to catch up as much as I can in five days in TM129 before switching back, because if I take longer than that, I’m going to fall behind in MST124.  I should hopefully be able to pick up an entire three weeks worth of study guide time in that five days, but it’s not going to be easy.

Studying two 30 credit modules is way more work than studying one 60 credit module.

Whilst many of my TM129 peers received their module materials yesterday, I’m still (sort of) waiting for mine.  I’m only sort of waiting, because A) the James May show on the DVD is on YouTube, B) I already have an e-copy of the Microsoft Networking Essentials book, and C) the I, Robot book was a favourite of mine in junior high school.  As these are the only three things in the box, I can probably stop worrying.

I’ve looked a bit at the TM129 online materials, which starts on the Robotics block, but I’m not really bothered by it.  My studying will be very similar in style to TU100 (active reading through bullet-point notes, combined with activities stored in a OneNote notebook on the cloud), so while I probably will start the study a bit early, it’s not really necessary.

MST124, on the other hand … I can’t really figure out how to study this.  The first half of the module or so is going to be revision.  (That’s “review” to any other Yanks in the audience.)  I’ve spent a few hours this weekend trying to “study” it, but all I’m really doing is glancing over the descriptions, then working on the activities.  As it’s all review, I haven’t come across anything that I can’t do, yet, so I don’t know what to do when that happens.

I’ve got two weeks to study each unit, more or less, and there are twelve units.  In that time, I need to get through around 100 pages of text, a few hundred exercises (or at least several dozen), possibly sit through a tutorial, and get through either half of a TMA or an iCMA.  There’s probably more than a few exercises in Maxima thrown in, as well.  It’s not bad at all, it’s just not obvious where to put my time, especially when I’ll have to split it with TM129.  (Thank goodness there isn’t much actual learning to do in TM129.)

I think the first thing I’ll do is hope for recorded online TMAs.  If I can watch a recorded online TMA, I skip the roughly 30% of the time that the tutors give over to sitting around waiting for people to work on examples.  I watched two revision boot-camp tutorials this week, and easily saved 40 minutes on each of them by skipping over empty sections, and more time skipping parts not relevant to me.  The only questions I ever ask during tutorials anyway are those to do with policy.  I mostly sit in because I know the tutors will drop TMA-specific hints.

Next, until I get to differentiation, I’m going to work backwards when necessary.  I’d like to do all the activities in the books to make sure there are no blindspots, and because practice is the best way to retain maths skills.  If there is a blind spot, I’ll back up and run through it, encorporating external resources as necessary.

Finally, once I get to and past differentiation, I think I’m just going to wing it.  Read without notes, try exercises, and practice, practice, practice.  Taking notes just doesn’t make sense to me with maths.  The closest I’ll come is following along the examples with a pen in hand.  I may alternate weeks between MST124 and TM129, as splitting days may throw off my rhythm.

We’ll see how it goes.  My intent is to stay one unit ahead throughout the module.  I’ve fallen afoul of getting too far ahead before, and the motivational issues that causes.  It can also make it a headache for revision.

Several students on the TU100 module right now are doing their best to work to the study planner.  Some are right on track, some are slightly behind, a few have fallen a fair bit behind.  They all might be headed for something of a wall.

In the early weeks of the module, each part of each block gets a nice, clearly defined week on which to work, then there’s a lengthy, roomy week on which to work on the TMA that covers that block, and then the next part starts the same week the TMA is due.

Then things accelerate a bit, and there’s a bit of a compression to this timing, where the TMA is due just four days after the end of the study week for the relevant parts.  This is mitigated, however, by having two weeks of Christmas Break in the middle to sort things through if you’re particularly under it.

But this TMA, I think, is going to leave some people gasping for air.  TMA04 is due four days before block 3 is finished.

If they pay a lot of attention to the Learning Outcomes, students should notice that nothing in TMA04 is based on part 5, it’s all based on parts 1-4 of block 3.  That means that they should put off starting on part 5 until after their TMA is submitted.

In fairness to the study planner, that is the order in which it shows the module progressing, but I think it’s going to catch out more than a handful.  Additionally, that still only gives a few days to sort out the TMA, and around half of the points of the assignment are covered in part 4.

If you can at all help it, get a few weeks out ahead of the study planner, stay ahead, and don’t trust the study planner.  (I say this having only barely gotten ahead again, and looking forward to the next block which says, basically, under no circumstances attempt to start this block early, due to collaborative project purposes.  Good luck on your time management!)

Hoo-boy.  Working ahead of the module schedule.  That’s great, isn’t it?

On one hand, it’s awesome.  I submitted TMA03 on 12 December, and couldn’t begin any other study, because block 3 didn’t open until I was on an extended trip in America.  There was snow on Christmas morning, and enough food to reassert my waistline as an American.  I had over a month off with no studying to do, and I didn’t have a single worry in the back of my mind on holiday.  And then I was able to pick it back up right on schedule with the other students doing TU100.

On the other hand … Wow.  I’m finding it so hard to get traction on my studies that I think I might still be snow driving.

First, my tutor dropped a hint that she thought that one of the TMA questions was asking for basically paragraphs of information, when I had interpreted it as a short-form answer, as it had no word count and could easily be answered in a single sentence.  So it took me until the last day to find the motivation to change my answer and re-submit.  The entire section is only worth 6 marks out of 100, so having a correct answer be too short wouldn’t have impacted my score a great deal, but that’s exactly the kind of thinking that has been killing my motivation.

Aside from motivation, the other big problem is sleep.  I’m still dealing with jet lag, and my youngest hit toddlerhood the very day we got back, and he’s decided that bedtimes are utter BS.  He hates them more than I hate ticky-box evaluation.  The bedtime is a parenting issue, which is the subject of another blog entirely, and one I’ve handled well before.  But for this week …

It means that just four days in, I’ve fallen behind two days.  It’s going to be an uphill struggle.  Going to be hard to get it in gear.  Gotta put the br– Okay, sorry about the car analogies.  My car also gave up the ghost and I had to get a new one.  Like I said, rough week.

But next Tuesday I’ll have TMA03 back, I should be through at least one and a half parts of block 3, and should even be halfway done with TMA04.  Here’s to wishful thinking, and hoping my study prep has grounded me well for time management when it counts.


Edit 2017/1/27: TMA03 results in.  Very happy with my 93 on this one, but I really don’t know where the marks came off, as my tutor didn’t really state it.  There was a definition missing from one question which I can agree with, and a formatting issue in another location which I do agree with, but was made because the tutor warned against using fancy formatting.  Still, can’t argue much with the score.  My OCAS for the module so far is 46, and I need a 40 to pass, so I could quit handing in TMAs and doing iCMAs and still pass the OCAS portion of the module.