First week: Irrational optimism

Much to my surprise, I’ve made a fair amount of progress in each of my three modules, and I’m not hating any of them. I’ve even gotten into the first TMAs already. Rationally, I know this means that I simply don’t understand how little I must understand. Things going well typically means that I’m not really paying attention.

I’ve been through two tutorials, for TT284 and TM257. Neither one added much beyond what was already in the module guides, but it was nice to ‘meet’ my tutors. (Since my weakest area isn’t in learning the material, but in guessing what the tutors want to see in evaluations, this is sort of important … If I care much about the assessments as anything more than a callibration of my own self-evaluation. And I try not to care … but then revision lands me with two months of tension headaches because I’m desperate for a clear distinction.)

I’ve got a tutorial next week for M269, but my tutor won’t be doing any tutorials this year. At all. She’s also thus far been entirely absent from the tutor group forum. History at the OU has taught me that these are ill portents. Or maybe it’s my inner (and outer) pessimist. As the module seems so well written, though, I imagine it might be much like the MST124 maths module, where all my feedback was late, consisted of, “That’s correct,” but it didn’t matter anyway and I learned loads more than I thought possible.

I’ve got myself a few days breathing room. I’m caught up through the first three weeks in all modules, and don’t want to go further than two weeks ahead. That can cause a lot of problems when I slack off later in the academic year because I’m so far ahead, and it’s difficult to renew my efforts. So last night, tonight, and tomorrow, I don’t have much to do. Enjoy it while it lasts, right?

I’m halfway through the first TMAs for TM257 and M269. There’s a question in M269 to evaluate a hypothetical paper that I could probably get out of the way tonight. At first glance, it looks like a waffle piece, but it’s really about viewing your own assignment answers through the eyes of a tutor. This helps your own self-evaluation skills, as well as callibrates your view of work with your tutor’s, so it’ll take the place of a first tutorial in my mind. I’ll talk more about that later when I’m done with the TMA and evaluate my own effort on it.

You basically need to have the first six weeks behind you for the first TMA in TT284. Since I’m not skipping that far ahead, it’ll have to wait. It seems poor planning to me to have essentially a single question on a TMA, because going by the way the module was designed, you’d have negative-two days to write your entire TMA. My tutor was explicit that students should not make an effort to get ahead, so they might have some very bad nights ahead of them if they’re not paying attention. I’ll say it again: Get ahead early, and stay ahead. (Just maybe not too far ahead.)

I haven’t mentioned anything about the TM257 Cisco NetAcad materials, as they hadn’ t opened by my last post. They have, now, and they’re brilliant. I’ve always avoided buying Cisco materials in the past, because they’re just so expensive. But I’m not going to worry about price any more. These materials are written in a way that is completely compatible with my brain and my learning. They build proper context in the proper order, rather than jumping right in the deep end of telling to memorise abstract layers of an abstract model of networking that is so abstract that it doesn’t actually apply to anything in the real world that wasn’t intentionally built to reflect it. I’ve never even come across another networking course that taught the TCP/IP model before the OSI model, when that seems obvious to me.

It also helps that my tutor knows this stuff cold. And better than that, he seems able to communicate it to the students who haven’t had much (or any) experience. One negative, though, is that he hasn’t updated his first tutorial materials to discuss the changes to Cisco CCNA certification process. He was still telling students there were two tests, and didn’t mention that the evaluated material in the modules (as they stand) might not cover the WiFi and other new parts of the exam. (The module isn’t really about certification, though: There are cheaper and faster ways to get that.) Anyway, after over twenty years in this industry, just the three weeks I’ve already been through have managed to give me that mental tweak I’ve been needing to see networks through the perspective of Cisco. It’s a really helpful module.

I’ll probably post next when I’ve got a TMA out of the way, or possibly after my next tutorial.

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