Finally enrolling for 2019/2020: Staying the course

Well, despite my misgivings on the course from the terribly written TM254, I’ve finally decided to press forward on Q62 Computing & IT from the Open University. I’ve enrolled about two months later than I normally would, because I was strongly considering switching over to a joint-honours maths degree. I think I’d have to brake too hard to make that turn right now without some serious consequences, so instead I’ll just make some small course corrections.

The first consequence of my decision is that next year is going to be a bit of a crunch. I’m going to tough it out with three modules, to catch up with where I’d have been without dropping TM254. The second (and strongly related) consequence is that I’m enrolling in easier modules related to my current job.

The first module I’ve enrolled for is not going to be easy, but should be fun: M269: Algorithms, data structures, and computability. This is real meat-and-potatoes computer science stuff: Data structures like binary sort trees, search and sort algorithms like bubble sorts, and algorithm efficiency analysis like big O notation. In my pre-university preparation, this is the stuff that’s really lit my mind, kind of like a digital landscape for mathematics. It’s the module in the Computing & IT course that I most wanted to take.

The next is TM257 Cisco networking (CCNA) part 1. The second part of this is a stage 3 module. I’d been contemplating doing the CCNA in my spare time over a summer, but now that I’m crunching three modules into one year, I’m going to take it as an official module now. Many people may find this one rough, and I may be silly for thinking it’ll be different for me, but it’s what I do professionally, and I’ve got a Cisco router in my loft for labbing with. (It should be two, but I’m sure I can use a Netgear to connect to in most instances.)

Finally, I’ll be taking TT284 Web Technologies. This is another big portion of what I do at work, and have a fairly good grounding of HTML, CSS, PHP, SQL, SSL, firewalls, etc. I don’t do much JavaScript yet, but don’t expect to be memorising much for the module. This one is a strong cop-out module for me, but there’s really slim options for modules at stage 2 if you don’t want to take the horror that is TM254.

The best part for my time is that the last two modules have end-of-module assignments, rather than exams. The last two years, I’ve had all of my assignments in from March or earlier to focus on exams. I hope that means that I’ll have enough bandwidth to work on the assignments next year.

There’s a very good chance I’ll regret this, but even if I have to defer, it’s not like it’ll set me back anything but time. With the ridiculous interest students are charged on their loans in the UK these days, it’s not like I’ll ever pay it off either way.


  1. Have you heard that CISCO have changed the structure of the whole CCENT, CCNA, CCNP, CCIE certifications? I think that starting TM257 now would be a mistake as you’ll have to complete CCNA1 AND CCNA2 by February 2020. Unless the OU redesign the TM257 module to fit in with the new CCNA structure before October. I’m in the same boat, waiting to see what happens.

    1. Hi Mike,

      I have heard this. You might want to swing over to the Computing & IT Undergraduate forum to see what the TM257 module chair has to say. As a Cisco training partner, they’ll be getting bridging information that they’ll be able to pass onto us.

      Also, keep in mind that NetAcad, which is Cisco-provided, makes up the majority of the module materials for TM257. The module site even lists the OU in-house developed materials as “supplementary” in nature. That means that the biggest struggle for the module team will likely be assessment changes, rather than content changes. Though the Cisco exams are changing next February, the Cisco documentation is already being transitioned starting this month.

      Will my plans change? Sure. A bit. The CCENT is disappearing, and I was planning on taking ICND1 next summer to stake out a failsafe if I couldn’t stomach more. But I did structure my study specifically so that I’d take TM257 and TM357 back to back. The new CCNA looks possibly less rough than the old CCNA R&S, but it could be that with less to remember, they’re going to nit-pick more.

      The OU Cisco module(s) has (have) always been a poor way to just get certified. It’s more expensive, takes longer, and requires a lot more busy work than just signing up with a local training provider. Then again, I guess I worry less than most people about networking, anyway. But honestly, I don’t think there’s much to worry about. (I was wrong about TM254, though, so my opinion may not be worth much.)

      Thanks for the heads-up, though. I do appreciate it.

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