Complexity, complexity, complexity

The words 'Keep Them Simple' written on wooden scrabble tiles.
Photo by Brett Jordan on Unsplash

If I never hear the word complexity again, it will be too soon. Three months into M269 and the module is already feeling like a slog.

I received an early Christmas present from my tutor in the shape of my marked TMA, in which I did better than I expected. Though, at times, I would have been happy just to pass.

It is safe to say that M269 is not my favourite Level 2 module. That would be TT284 so far, although I am looking forward to TM256 Cyber Security. 

Why don’t I like M269? Well, here are a few reasons:

  • There’s a lot of content. Probably about two modules worth combined. Some interesting stuff but not enough time to really get your head around it and let it all sink in. Each week on the module calendar comes in thick and fast.
  • It is tough, but that’s not why I don’t like it. There are some challenging concepts to grapple with, including the much-dreaded complexity, but it’s too much, too fast. Yes, I can get through it and pass, even do well, but I never feel like I fully understand it all.
  • It’s not that engaging. The module uses Jupiter notebooks, which allow you to write and evaluate code within the module text. This sounds good but, essentially, what it boils down to is page after page filled with slabs of black text on white background, with some diagrams. I found M250 a lot more interactive. With that module, it helped that we had a course textbook and links to video walkthroughs and animation.
  • The writing is verbose (with occasional jarring slang) and loses the main points. Sometimes I can’t see the wood for the trees. I think it could all be paired down and still get across some of the more complex points.
  • All discussion of TMAs on the forums is banned. There is a disappointing change from M250, in which we could discuss TMA questions (but not, of course, the answers) in the module forums. However, in M269, any mention of TMAs will get you shut down quick by the moderators. 

If I am being charitable, there are a few good points about the module. The module-wide tutorials on a topic-of-the-week basis are a nice addition to the usual regional tutorials. The tutors do their best to distil a topic in about an hour and a half. They still struggle to cover everything in the allotted time. Guess what the most requested topic is? (Answer: it’s complexity!)

The second good point about the module is that the Jupyter notebook enables you to implement the Python code right next to the algorithms in the text. This give rise to several practice questions, though not as many as I would like, although the TMA questions do feel like a big step up.

The final good point is that, despite one tutor’s lament during their tutorial, there is now no exam with M269. It just goes to show that, no matter how bad you think things are, they could always get a lot worse.

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