M250 is such a relief after TM254

TM254 was so bad that it had me tied up in knots every time I considered logging into the OU site. As a result, I hadn’t done much of M250 during January. (Thankfully, I didn’t need to. I’d taken care of all the things I had to do for January before Christmas.) I’ve spent the last week or so back on M250, and am caught up again through mid-March.

It’s interesting to take M250 after the prep work I did for Java and programming in general. It’s good for the object-oriented paradigm, but it’s not very good for design. (So far, I’ve only encountered three principles for program design, and they don’t include choosing readability over simplicity, or coding each method or function only to only do one or two things to support reduction of duplicate code through modular design. The design principles they have are good ones, though, they just need to be a bit more robust and forward-thinking.)

It’s clearly focused on an academic understanding of the paradigm, and that’s fantastic. I’m much more at ease in speaking about Java and object-oriented programming in general, confident that my verbiage is correct and that I’m being precise in my descriptions. It makes it easier to read other sources, and I’m finally deciphering official manual pages without having to read translations of them. M250 is a great module.

I’m very impressed with my tutor. His comments on my last TMA were spot on, disagreed with me at various points, but respected my design choices where he did disagree. I only dropped one mark on the TMA, and I laughed out loud when I saw what I’d done. (I had just finished making a method on one sub-question, then neglected to use it and re-invented the wheel on the very next sub-question.) But I’m used to being told I’m wrong because I think approach A is easier to read and understand, and the tutor thinks that approach B is easier to read and understand, and therefore approach A is simply wrong.

It’s a huge divergence from TM254, where it doesn’t matter what the question is, how you phrase or defend your answer, what parts of the module materials you cite to prove your answer … If you didn’t have the exact same wording as the author of the evaluation, it’s 100% wrong. It’s despicable. It’s not higher education. It’s not education at all.

Apparently I wasn’t the only one to quit TM254 when I did. There were quite a few others, and it’s starting to cost the OU money. They’ve responded to the complaints by (as always for this module) misunderstanding the heart of the problem. They’ve told students that some very small sections now are optional and won’t be evaluated. (Really TM254 module team? You’re telling us that something in the module materials won’t be evaluated? Like ITIL vocabulary, which made up a full 10% of TMA01? We’ve heard that lie before.) They’ve also told students they’re not studying right.

So clearly they’ve heard and understood the concer … Okay, I can’t even finish that sentence without having to take a shower. As far as I’m aware, they’re trying to determine what concerns students have without actually talking to any students with concerns. I don’t know how they’re expecting that to work, but from what I can tell, it violates everything they teach in that module about any kind of service.

I’m still considering moving over to Q67, Computing & IT and Mathematics. I’ll have to look into how much work it’ll be in stage 3, because it might add a lot of time to a degree that’s already taking seven years. But for now, I’m just going to enjoy being able to study again and learn from a module that’s been created properly. And is legible.


  1. Amazing blog! Thanks so much for doing it! Really helped me make my decision about studying.
    Quick question, next year I will be doing M250, and I’d like to buy a book on Java, but unsure of which version to get. (May not matter a while lot but still..) Which version of Java is being used?
    Many thanks.. and keep up the good work !

    1. Thanks for the complement. That’s a really good question, as it probably will help to be familiar with the specific commands available to you. Tutors will often make clear when a newer version replaces an earlier command or syntax, and the materials typically make clear when previous versions won’t understand something. None of that is really important to your M250 assessment, but it’s good information to have.

      M250 uses an OU-customised version of BlueJ version 3.1.4, and comes bundled with Java 7. Regardless of what version of Java you’re running elsewhere on your machine, if you run BlueJ from the correct icon, it’ll always find the right version, so it isn’t something you’ll have to manage on your own.

      Keep in mind that M250 is really about Object-Oriented Programming, and Java is just the language used to express examples, so any reading you can do that focuses on OOP concepts in general will put you way ahead, as others will be concentrating on the language, and often miss the wood for the trees.

      1. Ok, that’s great. It’s just I’ve never used Java & I’m about to buy an ‘easy steps’ book which I found really helpful to learn Python with.. And there are 6 different versions I could buy.. So I think I will go with the version 7 Java one then.
        I’m familiar with OOP in Python & will bear in mind that it’s the OOP that is important, not Java syntax. Many thanks for the tips.

    2. Hi Mark,

      I’d like to second David’s comment, thanks for the blog. I’m essentially a year behind you, studying the same course. I was on the networking route but was a bit hesitant about TM254 (compulsory on the networking route). Reading about your experience with TM254 confirmed my hesitation, it sounds like a nightmare. I’ve just made the decision to change to the broad route with a computer science focus, plus the interesting-looking modules from the networking route, the best of both worlds.

      Your blog is giving me an insight into my year ahead. I look forward to seeing what else my future holds, keep it up.

      1. I’d love for the networking route to be a little less rigid. The OU is too focused on careers these days, in my opinion, so they’re trying to make very narrow and obvious education-to-career paths. I like the idea of learning what you’re passionate about, and seeing what careers will benefit from your knowledge. That’s directly contrary to the current higher education climate, I realise.

        On the other hand, hurrah for Computer Science. I’m really looking forward to a formal grounding in data structures, if M269 goes the way I hope it will.

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