This year’s Get Ahead Early & Stay Ahead (my #1 advice for the OU) is restricted entirely to TM352: Web, Mobile and Cloud Technologies. (My other module this year, TM357: Cisco Networking (CCNA) Part 2, won’t have its Cisco NetAcad materials released until after I have a tutor in a few weeks.) And yet, I still caught myself asking if it was worth it to start early. It always is.

If TM352’s title of Web, Mobile and Cloud Technologies sounds a lot like TT284’s title of Web Technologies, there’s a reason for it. They’re strongly related modules that cover a lot of the same material, ostensibly at different levels. One of the things that got under my skin about TT284 was a lack of clarity about the differentiation of Cloud Architecture as it applied to systems infrastructure and program design. The module guide indicates there will be practical experience working with both this year, so that seems like a difficult aspect to repeat.

Another positive is that there are weeks set aside just for working on assignments. Assignments in TM352 have a strong practical component, so it can be extremely useful to have study time devoted to getting those practical portions working correctly. With any luck, it’ll help me if there are any rough patches in TM357, as well.

Mostly what I’ve been doing this month, though, is chatting away on the OU STEM Club Discord. Well, no, mostly lurking. About one in every twenty comments I make actually manages to get past my internal filter, so mostly I’m just reading. It’s been remarkably busy this month, but I’m told it will be a bit quieter soon. It’s been nice to be able to chat with others who are going through the same things I am, and has really enhanced the entire OU experience.

Anyway, I’ve managed to get my customary 2 weeks ahead, at least for the one module I can, so I’m going to go back and lurk. And maybe see some of you there.

So many people seem to be struggling under Coronavirus Lock-down situations across the globe. And I’m one of them. My mental health is taking a battering. Not a start-to-tidy-up-my-affairs-and-post-a-youtube-goodbye kind of battering, more a I’m-going-to-throw-away-all-my-socks-because-wearing-socks-is-a-social-construct-and-besides-then-I-can-buy-and-wear-all-new-socks kind of battering. There may be only the slimmest of margins between the two, frankly.

But really, overall, I’m bossing it. My children are doing beautifully under their home schooling curriculum. My four-year-old has finally taken the strides from letter recognition to confident word reader. (His older brother learned to read at two, for which YouTube and he receive absolutely all of the credit. This one is all me his mother, though.) My older son has gone up several months in his maths. I don’t really know what else a nine-year-old who’s been reading since he was two needs to know, though, so he’s honestly probably falling behind in absolutely everything else. But whatever, he’ll smash those year 6 SATs next year. Which is what education is all about. (Don’t worry, I had to clean up the mess after I said that and was sick. I’ve paid for it.)

At work, we’re leading the charge. I’m not likely to go into much detail, but an IT department in a school is doing exactly the kind of rewarding work I envisioned when I chose to step out of the commercial sector.

And now, at the OU, I’m absolutely on top of things. (Note: By “on top of things” I mean I’m not drowning by having a cliff dropped on top of me. Right now, it feels like being on top of things.) Both of my modules with EMAs are continuing mostly as normal, and both of them have sub-projects to complete next week before the actual EMA.

For TM257, instead of the day school, we’re getting a packet tracer activity, instead. I’ve submitted it and got full marks except a single portion that … doesn’t make any sense as written. It’s been made clear to the module chair that marks are being dropped because the question is unintelligible, rather than assessing the learning outcomes, but that didn’t seem to reach. Still, 90% isn’t bad, and I’ve still got half the EMA to go.

For TT284, there’s a (very small) portion of a project plan that needs to be submitted several weeks early. Whoever thought of this, my hat’s off to them. Because there are marks for it, students will take planning their project seriously. Because there are so few marks for it, their success or failure won’t hinge on the quality of the plan. It just drives home the importance of actually having a plan to complete on time. It’ll be hard to argue that we weren’t prepared for how much effort we’d need to put in.

The one thing that’s really getting me, though, is how little time I have left over. Parent, employee, teacher … We’re all struggling with fulfilling all these roles right now. But there’s a deadline on self-improvement for some of us, and that deadline was determined when nothing like this seemed possible. It’s just … Much.

And while I was thinking about that, I realised that there are tens of thousands of others doing exactly what I’m doing at the same university. So I reached out to some of them. There’s a Discord server that acts as the home of the OUSA’s STEM club. I guess. Iunno. It’s not on the OUSA’s list of clubs. Maybe they’re rogue. Either way, I went to see if they understood what I’m going through, and realised that I understand what they’re going through. I found my peoples. I didn’t know I had peoples.

If I’m honest (which … probably not) I’m probably going to stick around just until I get the green light to leave my house again. Which I won’t do, I love being stuck in my house. But I can then send my family out of my house and have a few minutes to breathe and I can stop sharing my study desk with my work. But it’s really helped my stress levels this week to run into others who are going through it, too. Their invite link is at if anybody else wants a very relaxed, friendly chat with people who get it.