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.

My characteristic advice for Open University study is always: Get ahead early, and stay ahead. This is because real-life considerations invariably impede study at some point during the year, and it’s easier to absorb these if you’re ahead. It’s much more difficult to catch up if you fall behind. Because of this, I like to get one or two weeks ahead of the schedule before study begins in earnest.

This year, I nearly didn’t make it. I’ve just now finished getting a bit ahead after the module websites have been open for two full weeks. I tried switching to hand-written notes to aid in memory retention. The result is that I accomplished in a week and a half what normally takes me three days to do. And when I think about it, memory retention is not a study problem I have. My weakest point is guessing what tutors want to see. New strategies for dealing with this are where I should be spending my planning time.

Anyway, I’ve swapped back to digital cloud-based notes, and finally caught up to where I wanted to be. Or maybe just a bit ahead. I’ve still got nearly two weeks to go before the official beginning of my academic year, so I have time to make any other adjustments that are necessary. With three modules going simultaneously, I really need to concern myself with speed and the best results with the shortest effort.

M269 appears to be just what I thought it would be: It’s a very mature module with a well-planned structure and resources that make sense for the subject matter.

TT284 is slightly less encouraging. There’s a requirement to misuse forums as group engagement which is obviously wrong-footed. If the goal is engagement, you need a problem more engaging than throwing words at a wall which nobody will ever read. It appears to be endemic of the module, so far: Short-sighted decisions based on ticking boxes handed down from above. This weak structure will make the module a bit annoying, but shouldn’t affect the quality of its content.

TM257 is a mystery. As it’s based nearly entirely on Cisco’s NetAcad curriculum, most of the structure really lies with Cisco, and will be unavailable until I have a tutor. The content should be very strong, though. The module team got a bit lazy with the assessment strategy, only saying that some activities contribute to different aspects of assessment. They haven’t expressed how much they contribute, which is rather the point of the assessment strategy. But I think they were just a bit rushed to press. They’ll probably correct that in time. (They’ve probably got their hands full rewriting every paragraph that mentions the obsolete CCENT.)

TM257 also doesn’t appear to allow students to work ahead (though it could just be poorly phrased descriptions). For the reasons detailed above, this seems short-sighted to me and better suited to classroom study than the realities of distance learning.

I’ve received two emails from the OU this week in relation to two of the modules I’m starting in October: TM257 and TT284. Their titles were nearly identical, but their content was rather different.

For TM257, which I happened to read whilst on holiday, it had an offer to prepare for the module by creating a Cisco NetAcad account, logging in and downloading the Cisco Packet Tracer network simulation environment, and taking a short course on its use. I thought this was cool, created the account, and put it out of my head for a while. I figured the TT284 email would be much the same, and I made a note to check both of them out in more detail after I got back.

I did the Packet Tracer course today. I’m quite happy to get my hands on Packet Tracer, to have a bit of a play with it before the module. I know how slowly things are going to move at the module’s start, but it’ll help at least a little. I had fun trying to do a Packet Tracer Activity without watching the accompanying video. I thought I’d completed it in just about five minutes, but it was slightly over half an hour before I’d gotten the activity to agree that I’d completed all the tasks it was asking for.

The course itself wasn’t terribly helpful, as it’s mostly going to be over the heads of non-networking people, and fairly basic for any networking people. As is so extremely common with OU materials, it’s a solution without an actual audience. They really need to work on serial development from one year to the next, so these gaps don’t engulf the majority of the intake. It took me just over an hour (due to taking an inordinate amount of time on that one activity, which ideally should have only taken 7 minutes, but I wouldn’t have learned as much), so it was cheap in terms of my investment. Over all, I appreciate the offer and the effort. (It’s rewritten for last year’s TM257, but is already outdated as the CCNA paths no longer look at ALL like it did a year ago. On one hand, it’s not the TM257 team’s fault that it’s changed so drastically so quickly. On the other, everybody in this industry knows how often this happens, and we know not to plan anything that depends on it being static. I hope they’ve got better clarity on the road map by the actual start in October. I know Cisco is willing to help them if they reach out for specific help.)

TT284, on the other hand … Well, despite the similar title of the email, it had nothing at all to do to help students prepare for TT284. It was a link to the Are You Ready For quiz for TT284, along with an explanation that it was a student’s fault if they didn’t do well on the module, despite students being assured they’ve been prepared if they’ve passed all the courses leading up to TT284. And that’s it. And the questions in the AYRF quiz boil down to, “Are you able to write HTML by hand, and have you written a lot of programs outside of OU study?” It’s frankly insulting and reads like a disclaimer. If students aren’t getting enough out of their previous years’ study to do well on this module, it should be addressed at the end of those modules. And real resources should be offered to the students, rather than a general, “You suck at HTML. Good luck sorting it out!”

I get that university study is learning how to learn at a deep level, rather than being spoon-fed knowledge, but the OU has convinced its students that they’re ready for something they’re not, and then told them it’s their fault for not being ready. Again, this would be better handled were there better serial links from one module to the next in both materials and assessment/feedback. At the very least, TT284 could learn a lot from the TM257 staff.

This 2019/2020 academic year, I’m going not going to be able wing it. I’m taking three 30 credit modules, which the OU recommends might take from 24 to 27 hours of study a week. Realistically, I read and study slowly, and this is stage 2, so that might be underestimating it. Unfortunately, there’s really not another gap in my schedule that I can maintain for more than a few weeks.

For a few weeks at a time, I’ll be fine with finding extra time here or there, but just to get TMAs out, and possibly exam revision come next May. (May is always insanely busy at work, though, for some reason, so we’ll see.)

I’ve squeezed an extra half hour into my schedule at night, and I have my extra hours on Wednesday back, but I’m just barely in the green zone, now.

Study schedule

20:30 – 23:30 15:00 – 17:00 20:30 – 23:30 20:30 – 23:30 17:00 – 20:00 20:30 – 23:30 20:30 – 23:30
20:30 – 23:30 20:30 – 23:30

Total: 26 hours

(The OU academic week starts on a Saturday.)

I know that this is the absolute limit of my self discipline. Anything more is just going to crash out. The hours aren’t the best for my brain being active, but my family comes first. So everything has to happen after bedtime, or when the boys are with their grandparents.

I’ve also been able to plan for what the week-by-week looks like, making some assumptions about breaks in the OU’s schedule next year:

Week 614/11 TMA01
Week 94/12 TMA01
Week 1012/12 TMA01

Break 21/12/2019 – 3/1/2020

Week 1530/1 TMA02
Week 1820/2 TMA02
Week 2112/3 TMA03
Week 2325/3 TMA02

Break 11/4 – 17/4

Week 32ExaminationEMAEMA

M269 also has 7 iCMAs throughout the year, but they’ve never caused me to rush in the past. There’s a near miss in weeks 9 and 10, but they’re first TMAs, which tend not to require as much work as later assignments. Finishing two EMAs and revising for an exam all at the same time does seem like a crunch, so I’m glad I’ve got about two months to sort that out, along with studying the final module units.

At some point there will also be a residential / day school for TM257. It will probably be around the Easter break, and there’s an evaluated network configuration task that’s worth 30% of our EMA, and an exam on the day which I think is worth another 30% of the EMA. (I don’t have access to the assessment strategy, yet.) Revising for that might be very, very tight on time, so I hope it goes alright.

Related to the service management studies of TM254, I have a hard Rule Number 1 for service transition: Never make a change on a Friday.  (Ask any IT professional why.)  For whatever reason, this hasn’t been implemented into ITIL, yet, but I’ll continue my campaign.

Likewise, I’ve recently started to note a de facto Rules Number 1 & 2 for Open University study: Get ahead of the study planner, and Stay ahead of the study planner.  I’ve given this advice here a few times, now, but it’s actually becoming my default advice to any new student.  You never know what challenges are going to come at you during your module, but you can be pretty much guaranteed they’re coming.  The last thing you need when dealing with real-life tragedy is trying to play catch up in your studies.

With this in mind, I’ve gone through the module guides and first units of each module, to get a feel of what I’m in for this year.

I’m impressed with the level of discussion in both modules, but particularly in TM254.  I find myself almost having arguments with the material, and either coming around to its way of looking at things, or at least being able to better defend my viewpoints when I disagree.  This is sure to continue to be the case with the service management block of TM254, but I’m hoping to have similar challenges with the discussion in the other blocks.  Also, I enjoy that the module discusses that ITIL has specific best practices for service management, but rather than having students memorise them, it simply discusses that a best practice will need to be considered and arrived at, but leaves the specific practices considered up to the student.  It isn’t providing a solution, but a way to frame the problem so that it’s easier to find a solution.

One unfortunate aspect of TM254 is that when it says the workload for a task is three hours, I’m not getting away with just putting in two.  They’ve done too good a job estimating my ability to grapple with the materials.  It’s going to take a lot of time this year.

M250, on the other hand, is almost exactly what I expected to find.  It’s a mature module, and has all the hallmarks of an OU module with a module team who has adapted as students have fed back their reactions to the materials.  The software installation, for example, has been dumbed-down to an insanely simple drag-and-drop affair, with the drawback that you have to kind of take it as it is.  It’s not going to want to work outside of a drive’s root (for Windows computers) without considerable work.

There’s also an active campaign at the beginning of the module that feels like they’re encouraging students to drop the module rather than do poorly on it.  While I appreciate that this can definitely benefit a student who is spending their own money on a university degree, I wonder if it might be motivated by internal evaluation factors of the module team.  Regardless, for those students willing to stick it out, there’s an enormous amount of support that likely wasn’t there for the first run, such as programming bootcamp exercises, quizzes, forums for helping get up to speed and even collaborate on approaches to assessment questions (though of course not actual solutions).  It’s not as supportive as MST124 was, but it’s another good example of a mature module better supporting students with challenging material.

Both modules have significant portions devoted to group work.  I refer you to the Linear Sequence of Strife.  TM254 even goes so far as to having students determine a group name, so clearly somebody’s been watching too much Apprentice.  Which is everybody who’s watched the Apprentice.  I honestly go into these assuming I’ll have to cover all the bases myself (or at least making sure it’s clear I’ve gone at least as far as boundaries allow), so any help I get will be a nice surprise.  I should probably be more concerned with bad help than no help, but so long as someone’s willing to try, we can all help get the standards of work up.

I don’t think M250 will give me much in the way of headaches, though I have been warned about it.  We’ll see, but I honestly think any time sink to come from M250 will be me playing with it for giggles rather than frustration with an assignment that won’t work.  (Working code is always a bonus, but I’m not silly enough to believe it’s an actual requirement to passing!)

The websites for both M250 and TM254 open on Tuesday, so I’ll have another post later this week, maybe on the weekend, after having a bit of a nose around.  But M250 books arrived a couple of days ago.  My study area had … deteriorated its study-conducive environment … since I finished (or really started) revision this summer, so I decided to tidy it up nice and proper before unboxing my new materials.  Here they are:

M250 materials … and tea

The contents are:

  • Getting started with objects
    • Units 1-5
  • Inheritance and how to program
    • Units 6-8
  • Collections and file I/O
    • Units 9-12
  • Exam Handbook
  • Contents Checklist

In addition to the books, there’s also a module guide and a software guide, which are only available online.  I’m happy to look/read through these books before reading the guides, but I’m not likely to start studying properly until after I at least get the software guide.  I want to know I’m using the correct version of BlueJ (the module’s preferred/required programming IDE) and plugins/software modules.

The Exam Handbook only allows for highlighting for use in the exam, and must be the OU-printed version of the handbook.  So I’ve put that back in the box, slipped it under my monitor tray, and won’t get it out again until the exam.

That’s in contrast to the other books, which are now back in the box under my monitor tray, where I’ll leave them until after the entire module’s over, at which point I’ll toss them in recycling.  I wish the OU would give me a choice of whether or not I want to receive hard-copy materials.  I still have my useless SenseBoard on my desk, not sure if I can ever find any proper use for it.

There’s one book due to be shipped for TM254, but I suspect they missed the shipping date, which is standard procedure for first-run modules: Make certain that everything is behind schedule.  The book being shipped is Project Management for IT-related projects (2nd edn), edited by Bob Hughes.  There’s also an ebook being made available to us (likely on a limited time loan, I’m guessing) for ITIL Lifecycle Essentials by Claire Agutter.  I’ve snooped through this as it’s available to all students through the OU library.  It seems well written, and is thoughtfully laid out, so I don’t think I’ll have any issues with it.

Six years is a long time to work on anything.  I’ve only had one job which lasted longer than that.  (In fairness, so did my dad … Since he only ever really had one job.)  But it’s a bit of a rush to realise I’ve only got four more final prep weeks ahead of me.

How’d it go this year?  I took many fewer MOOCs, but learned much more.  This summer’s work has been worth well more than twice what I’ve been through with TU100 so far at the OU.  Computer science and object-oriented programming were covered in far more depth than just introductions, abstract program design was probably at introduction level (possibly a bit lower), and my mathematics refresher was very strong: It seems to have covered all of MU123.  And all of it was free!

I’ve also gotten cosy with this year’s modules.

For MST124, as I said, my Khan Academy prep seems to have taken me through everything I would have been exposed to in MU123.  Additionally, I’ve worked through the “boot camp” for MST124 (a series of practice tests and live/recorded tutorials reviewing pre-MST124 maths), and the first two units of MST124.

MST124 is unique compared to other modules I’ve been exposed to or heard about at the OU: They recommend you open your books and start going through the material as soon as you get them.  They know that this stuff is difficult for some people, and give us as much time to get through it as possible.  So even though I’d planned on only getting a week ahead with my study, I’ve done as recommended, and am three or four weeks in.  It’s going really well so far, with only some silly and redundant trigonometric concepts giving me pause.

For anybody considering MST124, here’s my recommendation for preparation: Don’t bother with the “Revise and Refresh” learning materials: They’re rubbish.  But use the quizzes to check your level, and definitely do the tutorials, at least the recorded ones.  For any gaps the quizzes turn up, use Khan Academy.  Or your favourite YouTube resource that explains to your learning style.  (The actual MST124 materials are fantastic, though.)

I’ve even rattled off my first TMA, which I’ll talk about in a different post.

For TM129, there’s not really much prep work for me to do.  TM129 used to be three separate 10 credit modules which have been grouped into a monolithic 30 credit module.  These previous modules are preserved in TM129’s three blocks: robotics, computer networks, and Linux.

The second two blocks don’t need much explanation: I work professionally in both of these fields at a level higher than that covered in the module, so there won’t be much for me to wrap my head around.

I’ve only been through the first week of the robotics block, but it seems I’ve inadvertently had the perfect preparation for that: the Begin Robotics MOOC presented by the University of Reading on FutureLearn.  A lot of the same material is covered, with the academics stripped out of it in the MOOC.  It looks as though the MOOC went into more depth into cybernetics, but I’ll know more later.

So that takes care of the TM129 content, but not its processes: The reports, the studying, assignments … the ePortfolio …

Well, I’ve done prep work for all of that, too, already: It was called TU100.

My TM129 materials finally showed up yesterday.  I’ve already described the box contents, there was nothing unexpected.  I’ve had fun re-reading I, Robot though.

TM129 has one TMA for each of its three blocks, but they won’t be visible to read until closer to their due dates.  (My experience on TU100 tells me that it’s possible the module team isn’t done writing them, yet.)  I gave TMA00 a glance, expecting it be along the lines of write something about why you’re taking the class, and make sure you know how to zip and upload.

On the one hand, I was right: Those things are part of TMA00.  But the second half of it wants us to explore the ePortfolio.

TM129’s ePortfolio is nominally a record of your learning on the module: Activities that are somewhat more involved than practice exercises, and somewhat less involved than TMA questions.  After completing them, you’re asked to discuss the activity, particularly focusing on what skills it demonstrates and what avenues of study it opens up.  The pitch is that you could even show it to prospective employers to show them how much you’ve learned! (Pro tip: Never, ever show the ePortfolio to a prospective employer.  Or anyone.  Ever.)

In reality, the ePortfolio appears to be a tool meant to tie your study to your learning objectives.  And that’s cool!  Because it tells you how to get top grades on your TMAs, EMA, and the module.  The better you can sign-post how your answers match the learning objectives, the better you’re going to do.  In fact, the ePortfolio extra guidance essentially spells out how you can get top marks on your ePortfolio entries and therefore your TMAs.  (It also makes it very, very clear that if you want to half-arse it and just paste a screen shot and a three-line summary, you’re still going to pass TM129.  Welcome to university!)

So how does this fit into TMA00?  You’re asked to make an ePortfolio entry.  Not a fake one, and not a TMA00 specific one.  You’re supposed to read through the ePortfolio and choose any one activity to give a go.  I’d like to shake the hand of the genius who dreamed that up.  It’s a brilliant way to engage the students in A) familiarising themselves with the types of activities contained therein, B) the relative effort levels required, and C) give some thought as to what will be required to complete them.  If they’d asked students to do those things, about a quarter would probably actually spend any thought on it.

I chose an activity from the networking block (of course) and it was something I’d done a million times before: Diagramming my home network.  The trouble with this (and I suspect most things in the networking block … and the Linux block … and possibly the robotics block …) is that if I’ve done those things a million times, how am I going to learn anything, and how am I going to tie not learning anything to my learning objectives?  (Without lying, I mean.  I could take the coward’s way out, but there’s no challenge in that.)

I’m keen to see how my tutor responds to my solution.  To paraphrase Kirk, I changed the conditions of the TMA.  I set myself a challenge that yielded the same result as the proferred activity, but did it in a different way than directed.  (I also did it the way that I was directed, just to cover all the bases.)  I then tied the learning outcomes to the self-created task, and wrote about that, instead.  I highly suspect this will work, but I’ll let you know.

(To be clear, though, students are told to discuss the skills and knowledge displayed by the activity, not to discuss what was learned.)

Anyway, it’s not the only TMA work I’ve done this week.  I’ve also done half of MST124’s TMA01.  I’ve decided to use Word for my TMAs, since that’s likely the only place I’ll need to use written maths skills in the future.  I’ve finished Unit 1, and will complete the rest of the TMA after the module starts and I get through Unit 2.

Whilst many of my TM129 peers received their module materials yesterday, I’m still (sort of) waiting for mine.  I’m only sort of waiting, because A) the James May show on the DVD is on YouTube, B) I already have an e-copy of the Microsoft Networking Essentials book, and C) the I, Robot book was a favourite of mine in junior high school.  As these are the only three things in the box, I can probably stop worrying.

I’ve looked a bit at the TM129 online materials, which starts on the Robotics block, but I’m not really bothered by it.  My studying will be very similar in style to TU100 (active reading through bullet-point notes, combined with activities stored in a OneNote notebook on the cloud), so while I probably will start the study a bit early, it’s not really necessary.

MST124, on the other hand … I can’t really figure out how to study this.  The first half of the module or so is going to be revision.  (That’s “review” to any other Yanks in the audience.)  I’ve spent a few hours this weekend trying to “study” it, but all I’m really doing is glancing over the descriptions, then working on the activities.  As it’s all review, I haven’t come across anything that I can’t do, yet, so I don’t know what to do when that happens.

I’ve got two weeks to study each unit, more or less, and there are twelve units.  In that time, I need to get through around 100 pages of text, a few hundred exercises (or at least several dozen), possibly sit through a tutorial, and get through either half of a TMA or an iCMA.  There’s probably more than a few exercises in Maxima thrown in, as well.  It’s not bad at all, it’s just not obvious where to put my time, especially when I’ll have to split it with TM129.  (Thank goodness there isn’t much actual learning to do in TM129.)

I think the first thing I’ll do is hope for recorded online TMAs.  If I can watch a recorded online TMA, I skip the roughly 30% of the time that the tutors give over to sitting around waiting for people to work on examples.  I watched two revision boot-camp tutorials this week, and easily saved 40 minutes on each of them by skipping over empty sections, and more time skipping parts not relevant to me.  The only questions I ever ask during tutorials anyway are those to do with policy.  I mostly sit in because I know the tutors will drop TMA-specific hints.

Next, until I get to differentiation, I’m going to work backwards when necessary.  I’d like to do all the activities in the books to make sure there are no blindspots, and because practice is the best way to retain maths skills.  If there is a blind spot, I’ll back up and run through it, encorporating external resources as necessary.

Finally, once I get to and past differentiation, I think I’m just going to wing it.  Read without notes, try exercises, and practice, practice, practice.  Taking notes just doesn’t make sense to me with maths.  The closest I’ll come is following along the examples with a pen in hand.  I may alternate weeks between MST124 and TM129, as splitting days may throw off my rhythm.

We’ll see how it goes.  My intent is to stay one unit ahead throughout the module.  I’ve fallen afoul of getting too far ahead before, and the motivational issues that causes.  It can also make it a headache for revision.

Well that was earlier than expected!  I didn’t expect them to ship the books for MST124 out for another two weeks, but they were waiting for me when I arrived home yesterday.

The box is heavy.  My son picked up just one of the books inside and grunted under the weight.  It seems to be about a quarter acre of rainforest in the box.  The box contains:

  • MST124 Book A
    • Unit 1: Algebra
    • Unit 2: Graphs and equations
    • Unit 3: Functions
  • MST124 Book B
    • Unit 4: Trigonometry
    • Unit 5: Coordinate geometry and vectors
    • Unit 6: Differentiation
  • MST124 Book C
    • Unit 7: Differentiation methods and integration
    • Unit 8: Integration methods
    • Unit 9: Matrices
  • MST124 Book D
    • Unit 10: Sequences and series
    • Unit 11: Taylor polynomials
    • Unit 12: Complex numbers
  • Computer Algebra Guide (about using Maxima)
  • Handbook (74 page cheat-sheet you can take with you into the exam)
  • MST124 Guide (as “worth while” as every other OU module guide)
  • TMA form PT3 for posting assignments (Ha!)
  • Specimen exam paper, new for this year
  • Contents list

Here’s an “unboxing” photo with a bonus of my study area:

I had a look through the guide, the handbook, and the computer algebra guide, and then searched through they Labyrinth of Hidden OU “Support” Forums to look for anything interesting to do before the site opens.

The first thing of note was that the guide actually encourages students to start as early as possible on the material (literally as soon as they get the books, and before the site opens) and stay ahead until they’re done and it’s time to revise.  Cool!  Finally a module for the hares!

I downloaded and installed Maxima, and will use it as required, but as soon as the module’s over I’ll go back to doing what I used to do: WolframAlpha.  Maxima basically takes the place of requiring everybody to buy an expensive graphing calculator.

Then I looked into typesetting.  I have a lot of conflicting thoughts on the typesetting.  The first is that during the exam, I won’t have a computer to make my work pretty, so I may want to simply practice writing it out by hand for performance sake.  As I browse through the specimen paper, I don’t think this is much of a concern.

So for computer typsetting of my TMAs, I can either use LaTeX or MS Word’s equations.  (Or OpenOffice, I suppose, but I’m intentionally using MS through this degree course.  Another option would have been to use LibreOffice with the TexMaths LaTeX plugin.)  Last night I went through the guides for both.

Going in, I thought that LaTeX would be the better solution, as everybody glows about it.  It’s more work to learn, but apparently worth it in the long run.  In my opinion, the long run would have to be very, very, very long indeed.  It took about five times as long to learn as Word, because in addition to speaking its language for the maths, you also have to build the entire document around it.  Making a decent TMA template would probably take an initial few hours to get it looking as good as Word, with researching all the required functionality.  That said, if I were doing an entire maths degree, or was writing a book or thesis, it’d probably be worth the investment.  It’s absolutely professional quality.

Word, however, was much easier, quicker to learn, and was just barely behind in professionalism.  The only drawback was that the size of dynamic brackets wasn’t as nice as it was in LaTeX.  In exchange, you get to not worry about the rest of the document, easier and more intuitive codes, the ability to avoid codes altogether and instead point-and-click, instant rendering and feedback, and the data is then extremely portable rather than locked in a PDF.  If I need to write equations in another module (as I had to on every TU100 TMA) or elsewhere in life, the Word experience is also more portable.  If I needed complete control and customisation, then I’d probably opt for LaTex, but don’t see that happening in my current life tragectory.  It’s possibly worth it to learn the LaTeX codes, however, as they can be used in the Open University forums.

There are a few pre-module tutorials they’re running through September, and I’ll probably check one or two out, but I’m not that concerned.  After the Khan Academy prep I did this summer, I’m pretty confident already with about half the module.