Breaking Christmas

Wait, no, I mean Christmas break. As of this weekend, I’m caught up on the module planners through to the Christmas break, and I’m trying to decide if I should work up to it and then break, or just take the break now.

What I don’t want is to have zero motivation to start studying again whenever I pick it back up. I’d rather work straight through Christmas and Easter and finish a month early. But doing this causes problems with tutorials, and module teams very often notice errors in their TMAs only closer to the deadline and change them, requiring faster students to redo some questions. (I’ve already been the cause of this multiple times.) Also, there’s a slightly worrying trend in module teams not to make module materials available until very shortly before the module planner gets to that part. This is frustrating for students trying to properly manage their time knowing when their scheduling problems will occur.

I’ve accidentally gotten a week ahead in TM257, anyway. I didn’t notice that it gave a week to complete the first TMA, and I sailed right past it. And that’s a module which, for unfathomable reasons, they’re not opening the second half until the module planner is ready. Other module teams have the excuse of writing/updating curriculum right up until they make it available, but the TM257 team are just making the Cisco materials available. Maybe it’s a licensing issue, and Cisco’s pretty strict about how long the materials may be available to students. It just makes “Get ahead early and stay ahead” difficult, which makes dealing with emergencies difficult, and generally makes time management difficult. Oh! But I just realised that the OU team caches a copy of the Cisco materials. I can jump into that.

Anyway, I’ve already decided to fill the time to the start of the second block with revising using external sources. Unfortunately, I’ve chosen some Udemy courses which, upon opening them and looking, aren’t well written, make pedagogically questionable choices, and have information in them directly contrary to Cisco teachings (and therefore won’t be in line with Cisco exams). It’s like studying at Oxford with a Merriam-Webster on your desk.

But for the other two modules, I’m not really sure yet. Somebody suggested that I try my hand at a Christmas coding challenge, but that type of thing can quickly make me obsessive. That’s no good for anybody. This break is what caused TM254 to really kill the last dregs of motivation last year, so I need to find a good solution, and definitely can’t let myself be idle.


  1. I’ve enjoyed reading your blog this year. I’m currently deciding on my first year 2 module for next year. I WAS seriously considering TM254, but you’ve put a stop to that!

    1. Cheers, Simon! I stay active in the Facebook groups for TM254, and hear that the university has chosen not to make improvements to the module, and the assessment has actually gotten worse. It’s a good choice to avoid in my opinion until the university starts taking the complaints seriously, I’m afraid.

      I should add that I’ve enjoyed all three of my other stage 2 modules. TT284 can be confusing for people who don’t have much experience with SQL, PHP and JavaScript, but my advice is not to worry about being confused. It’s not really teaching how to use those technologies, but when and why. Just follow the examples, if you take that one. M250 and M269 are both great, and TM257 uses industry standard curriculum and is well polished.

      1. Hey Mark! TM257 does seem like a popular and well liked module. I have zero knowledge of networks and Cisco though. Does the module cover all aspects of networking from the ground up? If I did a general university networking course, I’d assume it covered home networks, small office, large office and the internet, for example. How does a brand specific module work?

        1. The old T216 module used to include 4 Cisco courses. Now that it’s been broken down into TM257 and TM357, each of those modules includes 2 Cisco courses.

          The first of the TM257 modules is Introduction to Networks, and is more than sufficient for home networking. It’s intended to be used by people new to networking. If you did (or are doing) TM129, that includes a block on networking with a Microsoft book on network essentials. There’s tremendous overlap between that block and the first course in TM257. If you haven’t done TM129, it may take some time to get used to the very abstract nature of networking models such as the OSI or TCP/IP models. You might want to get some familiarity with those before the module starts, but it’s not the end of the world if you don’t. You’ll get close to a hands-on experience with the network simulator (misleadingly just called Packet Tracer) which can quickly reduce the abstract nature of the instruction.

          I’ll start the Routing and Switching Essentials course later this month. It’s supposed to take you up through small or branch office networking, with larger stuff handled in TM357.

          You’ll also get actual hands-on experience at the day school. They’re fairly coy about when these are scheduled. This year it’s the weekend before Easter and the weekend after Easter. Which is a relief, because I’ve got a holiday planned through the Easter weekend, but won’t miss the day schools.

          Anyway, as to how the brand-specific module works, you just log into Cisco’s NetAcad, and study their materials, exactly as you would study the OU’s if the OU had written any. Then you do two TMAs in your OU module, do online (NetAcad) chapter exams, do an online NetAcad exam for Introduction to Networks, do the day school, and do a final exam for Routers & Switches Essentials at the day school, and an EMA in the OU module. The TMAs and the EMA have some questions to test your learning outcomes, and some questions that just copy your results from NetAcad, such as your chapter exams, your two final exams, and your score from the day school activities.

          1. Thank you! What is the MS network book? I have some credit transfer available, so wasn’t actually planning to do TM129….

          2. It’s called Microsoft Windows Networking Essentials, but most network essentials or beginning networking books (such as CompTIA Network+ focused ones) have the same information.

  2. Enjoying reading your updates. Doing 4 modules this year (269, 284, 250, 254). Have just slogged through the first block of TM254. Thinking that I would get a mark of 85+ in TMA01, I was fairly irritated to receive a mark of 56 as it is by far the lowest mark I’ve received over my 8 modules thus far. I guess I didn’t understand the module material as well as I thought, but also feel there is a disconnect between what is expected from assessment and what we’re expected to learn over the course of a block. Or I could just be rationalising my poor score…
    Back to the drawing board I guess!

    Good luck with the studies!

    1. Anecdotally, that experience seems to be (extremely) common with TM254 assessment. Many find a wide disconnect between the materials and the assessment.

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