TM254 shoved out an airlock

I’ve withdrawn from TM254. That is the most horrible, atrocious module I can imagine. It’s beyond me how anybody was proud enough to submit it, let alone getting it past an academic review. It’s more long-winded than I am, it contradicts itself (a lot), parts of it are wrong, it’s repetitive where it isn’t contradictory or downright redundant, and it’s so boring that I was doing anything I could do not to sit in front of it.

Don’t underestimate my ability to take boring. I sat through to the end of Battlefield Earth. This module is worse than Battlefield Earth.

This is going to end up adding an entire extra year to my degree course, but it also gives me a chance to reevaluate and decide if I want to switch tracks to Maths. Maths was crushingly difficult for me, but it was imparting real knowledge, not bureaucracy dressed up like facts and knowledge.

The only thing TM254 will prepare anybody for is how to be a blindingly ineffective manager who can really tick those boxes and prove why he or she isn’t responsible for the fire they’re standing in.

Meanwhile, M250 is going swimmingly. I submitted all my work for January halfway through December, and am happily working through the rest of the module.


  1. Hi Mark,

    I have been following your blog for a while now and couldn’t agree more with your comments on TM254. I am one of the students that was in your group (saw a couple of your posts) this year and can honestly say that, likewise, I have no idea how they even conceived this module…

    I was thinking of withdrawing as well a while back, but figured I would stick it out and hope to just scrape a pass with it and make up for the result with my other modules. I just cannot believe they replaced the other level 2 modules with this pile of crud…; and think they should have at least giving us a choice considering it is the module’s first presentation…

    I think the only aspect to this module I am looking forward to is the poor review I’m going to give it after it’s done…

    1. Good luck (and to the rest of the team) with the rest of the module. It’s probably worth it just to have one less module to deal with. But I don’t know that the module will last very long if it continues to get the kind of buzz it’s getting. I’ll have to remind the FB group to very carefully consider saying _anything_ positive about the module in their official feedback reviews, as the module teams like to concentrate on this and say what a success an insignificant portion of the module is when they defend it to the OU.

  2. One possibility is doing the combined degree of Computing & IT and Mathematics. If you take the computer science route, at level 2 for computing you only need to study M250 & M269 (a very good module), and so would be able to skip a lot of the more dreadful modules.

    1. Hi Kalia!

      Yes, switching to the joint-honours Q67 Computing & IT and Mathematics is exactly what I’ve been mulling over. On one hand, I’d have to drop back and take MST125 at Stage 1. On the other … I’m basically no worse off if I can convince the OU to let me take MST125 and M269 at the same time, which I think should be fine with a few phone calls.

      Thanks for the comment, though, it is nudging me more in that direction, as it makes me remember how much I enjoyed MST124.

      1. I am sure that would be fine, as it’s not like M269 requires any knowledge from MST125.
        They’re both quite hard/content-heavy modules though, so definitely make sure that you have enough time for both!

        I chose to do a joint Computing & Statistics degree over a pure Computing & IT degree, in large part because I was so unimpressed by the selection of computing modules available. Maths is great fun, so I’m sure you won’t regret it. 🙂

  3. Hi Mark,
    I would throw Computing and Statistics into the ring as an option against the Maths.
    A lot of M248 (I’m doing that now) is part of M140, M140 does not have an exam – its an EMA, was much simpler than MST124, a lot of the TMA questions are formulaic – adapt the examples to word your answer, so subject to approval by the OU you should have no trouble doing M140 at the same time as M248 + whatever other level 2 module you plan to do next year. (M269 would be a good choice for this too). There is also the new Data Science degree starting 2019 – first year is same as Computing and stats.

    1. Hi Ian,

      I think I’d be happy with that solution, too. I’ve done a few Data Science MOOCs, and I do some big data stuff for both my hobbies and work. If it were my main job, though, I think I’d lose my mind. If I were to go down the route of big data, I’d probably choose Computing and Statistics over the Data Science degree, because TM254 has completely put me off first run OU modules. A first run degree course positively frightens me!

  4. Hi. Just like to say I enjoy reading your blog. I too are doing m250 and tm254 along with tm129 and tt284 this year. Whilst I agree with some of your comments on tm254, block 2 of the module on databases was extremely enjoyable and rewarding in my opinion. The small team working aspect has added an addition dimension which develops your soft skills and how they relate the projects etc. Maybe you left the course too early?

    1. It’s definitely a thought. But the writing on the databases was, again, quite terrible. Surely there’s a better way to define a foreign key than “… a primary key value of a relation that is used in another relation to represent a relationship between the two relations.” Sure, it makes literal sense, but using “relation” in a sentence four times isn’t the clearest way to introduce a novice to the concept.

      I have not been encouraged by what I’ve heard about the third block, either, as it appears there’s an epidemic of students falling into comas after a few pages of reading. It wasn’t available for me to read before I quit, but I wasn’t going to keep throwing good money after unacceptably bad.

      Part of my problem with block 2 is that it doesn’t belong with the rest of the module. You’ve got database design wedged in between two modules on, essentially, management. Who thought this was appropriate?

  5. Good points.. and well done for taking action. I agree with block not belonging with the rest of the module but I did feel as if the requirements engineering lead quite nicely into it. I would have like to seen a dedicated module on databases for sure. The problem with the OU I.T degree for me seems to be that year 1 is so easy (I know the degree is aimed at all abilities, that’s another discussion), so after 4 modules of no meaningful challenge, studying TM254 I quite enjoyed having to wrap my head around new concepts (Badly worded or not).

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