The first TMA done and dusted

As the due date of my first ever Open University TMA passed last night, I feel nearly comfortable talking about it in very broad, generic terms.  Even typing that out loud makes me nervous of somehow being stamped as colluding, perhaps the very worst thing I can be.  Or that’s how I feel after actually doing the TMA.

I can’t actually find a single university policy telling me not to post every question and every answer from the TMA.  Rumour has it that his is a no-no, as the questions might be recycled, so it’s odd that they don’t tell people not to do it.

Anyway, I’m not going to do that.  But I am going to shed some light on the content, regardless.  So if the OU police come knocking at my door, you’ll know what happened.  Remember me fondly as you accept your degree.  Or probably not.  Remember me with a “What happened to that guy?” when someone mentions annoying bloggers.

If you haven’t sussed it out, yet, what you’re supposed to learn on a module isn’t necessarily what you think you’re getting into from the module title, or possibly even the description.  What you’re supposed to learn are the items in the Learning Objectives.  So as annoying as their template is, make some kind of peace with the Learning Objectives themselves.

As the TMAs … actually all the assessments … are testing how well you’ve grasped the content you’re supposed to, that means that the TMA questions will fundamentally be tied to the Learning Objectives.  In TU100, the first half of Block 1, that means various study skills (such as taking notes and active reading), netiquette, good academic practice (re: plagiarism), remote collaboration, number bases, binary, computer history, exponential notation and growth, and basic web design concepts.  You can make a few guesses as to what might show up on the first TMA.

Additionally, there’s a bit with the SenseBoard telling you what buttons to push and recording the response.  Which may or may not be testing your ability to copy and paste spreadsheets.

As you can probably tell from the length of most of my blog entries, my biggest difficulty with the TMA is getting the word-count down.  Most sections have a maximum word-count.  There may or may not be a 10% leeway on the upper bound of the word-count, depending on your tutor.  I certainly wouldn’t count on it for an EMA, which will be marked by someone other than your tutor.  Word count tallies, at least on this module, should accompany each section with such a limit.

I finished my first draft about a week before the beginning of the module presentation.  I later decided that my entire third question had to go, and I tweaked question one several dozen times, as well.  Even so, I still put it up on a proverbial shelf to sit for several weeks before submission.  I wanted confirmation on a referencing question, and so waited until our tutorial on the TMA less than a week before the submission due date.

The response to my question was that she didn’t really care.  She didn’t really care if I even attempted a reference, so cheers for trying.  So I changed one word (no hints) and submitted it that night.  And then wrote half of TMA02 for kicks.

The tutorial was great, by the way.  Less than a handful of us showed up for it, and all three of us were done with our TMAs, and one had even already submitted it.  (A fourth showed up half an hour later, which was either late or bang on time, depending on which message from our tutor one decided to read.)  Okay, so my tutor isn’t extremely aggressive with communication, or organisation details like when tutorials are, and she insists that purple Comic Sans is a professional font due to its legibility, but she’s actually very experienced in her role, and it shows.  What she lacks in protocol she more than makes up for in being able to describe complex concepts directly, simply, and quickly.  And, I imagine, is probably good at easing nerves of those less confident with the processes.

Indeed, I found her tutorial much more useful than my previous experience.  Even though I’d be able to stumble through TMA01 and TMA02 without the tutorial, I was made much more confident of the process, as well.

I’ll update this post later with my TMA results, but I’m expecting just below the 90-mark point.  We’ll see how closely calibrated my expectations are.


2016/11/07 Edit: I got my TMA01 results back: 94 !  I lost two marks (of fifty possible) for something cheeky that I did intentionally: I left off the full title and author of an article, and just saved them for my references.  I was pretty much at the very limit of my word count, and the title was some ridiculous twelve words!  That’s six percent of my total allotted word count!

I don’t really know what the last mark was off for.  It was part of the “Relevent skills from the unit” which aren’t specified.  Frankly (as I hinted) I would have taken off another two or three marks if I were to mark it, so I’m hardly going to worry over it.

As I’ll probably detail the reasons for shortly, this is likely the only place I’ll share my results.  It is, however, nice to know that my dedication over the summer has paid off.

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