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.

        1. I agree wholeheartedly with this. If you let people study what they are passionate about, they will excel, and they’ll bring that to whatever role they end up in. Thank you for the warnings about TM254. I have found the OU to be excellent in my experience so far, but in any large organisation there are going to be weak points, and constructive warnings like this are necessary to keep things improving, both for students and educators.

  2. Mark, this is a great blog. Thanks. I’m currently on the Computing & IT bandwagon too, although only in stage 1 at the moment and looking to go on the software route. I notice that, unlike the other modules, you can only read the full description of M254 when choosing modules and not read any student reviews. I wonder why?

    1. Hi Gary! TM254 had its first presentation this last year, and results were only given to students about a month ago. I’m guessing that they have some reviews already, but they have lots of procedures to follow before putting them up. If you’d like some reviews, I’d recommend joining the Facebook group for last year’s TM254, and asking about it there. A few students have, and not all the comments were negative. It also gives you a chance to ask about the parts that matter to you.

  3. Hi Mark,
    sentiments RE: TM254 are coming across loud and clear to me- I share them wholeheartedly!

    Had a call to the Student Support Team, where I listed a formal complaint regarding wording of materials being to sparse, alongside the TMA question wording offering too much of a level of interpretation. I was responded to by the STEM faculty as being incorrect, that it was peer-reviewed by many people so it was therefore bulletproof!

    According to them, all of those of whom decided to make comments regarding our grievances were completely wrong; I quoted from this website to even show that it wasn’t strictly based on this year, but that was also shunned alongside a label of your words being akin to “uneducated” (bit rude, no?).

    It really is a shame that on my degree route I find that this is a required module (software route); whilst I understand that service is something that is important in the IT sphere, it should be a more granular form to those of whom are on their first time coming across it, just like the philosophy of the OU- where people don’t just jump in at the deep end, they should be “eased” into the module.

    1. I wouldn’t call what they’ve said about my complaints rude, but I’d call it dismissive. For an educational organisation, that’s frankly worse.

      Anyway, it’s possibly too late for you to cancel that dumpster fire of a module, but I hope others won’t be pressured into taking it simply because it helps get the named degree. If they’re taking it for employment purposes, employers really won’t care one way or the other.

      I appreciate your feedback. And, oddly, theirs.

  4. Excellent blog! I have been reading it as I follow a very similar path to yours. I 100% agree with your comments on TM254, I ended up putting all my time and effort into M250 (it was so much more enjoyable). Unfortunately I am now playing catch up on TM254 as I just couldn’t bear to face it, lol!

  5. I am doing TM254 at the moment, and it is the worst module I have ever done and very confusing. I have to force myself to log in to the OU site now. This blog is great and I have been following it for a few years but this is the first time I have commented.
    Everyone on this course so far hates it and there has been so many comments on the tutor and cluster forums and a lot of students have formally complained to the SST about it. The OU have agreed that there are problems with it and it needs to be looked at, wheather they do anything about it is to seen.

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