Goodbye MU123, I will miss you

mathematical formular on white background

Photo by Antoine Dautry on Unsplash

We’re in the 10th week of Lockdown (I get the feeling this might become a recurring way of introducing my posts), though many of the measures have been pulled back. I’m still working (as well as studying!) from home but now I’m down to one module, TM112, having finished my second Open University module, MU123.

After what felt like a herculean effort, I finally submitted my EMA for MU123 a few days before the deadline towards the end of this month. For the preceding couple of weeks, I focussed on finishing my maths module to the extent that I put Block 2 of TM112 on hold to make sure I got it done in time. Presently, I’m catching up with TM12 and having been two weeks behind have cut it down to just a week. Luckily, TMA 2 is not due until mid-July and there’s a break week in early June, so I feel this is more than doable.

The BIG (my emphasis) difference between the EMA and the other TMAs for MU123 was that it covered all of the maths I studied in the module, not just a few specific topics. There were more questions and, consequently, my submission for the EMA had a few more pages than for my TMAs. TMA 4, for instance, which I submitted in the middle of April, ran to 40 pages. My EMA was 50 pages. Admittedly, they are handwritten and then scanned into my computer as a pdf. Moreover, one of the requests from my tutor was to leave more space between questions so he could leave his comments. So, it worked out as one part of a question per page (I may have squeezed in two when only a really brief answer was required).

The other, somewhat startingly, difference between the EMA and the preceding TMAs is that I was not told which topic was being addressed by each question. I had got used to this and it made it easy to complete a TMA question alongside the relevant unit in the module book. What I do recommend is spending some time at the start going through the EMA question paper and working out, as best as you can, the relevant unit for each question. This gets harder for units you may have covered some time ago but, hopefully, the questions look familiar. The reason for this is that the Open University has to try to make the EMA more like an exam (as there are no actual exams in MU123, nor for many modules at the moment).

Getting back to TM112, I received my marked coursework back for TMA 1 in the latter half of May. Oddly, the deadline was in the first week of May, only four weeks after the module started. This is probably a key reason why many students felt under pressure with TM112 because you can’t really ease into the module, you have to hit the ground running so to speak. On the plus side, it does only cover the first four weeks and is only worth 15% of the total marks for TM112; the other two TMAs are worth 35% and 50% respectively. Not that I did but, if you can, I’d suggest trying to get ahead before the module starts, on any module really, but especially with TM112. As it happened, I ended up submitting TMA 1 a lot closer to the wire than I normally do.

Yes, TM112 is more challenging than TM111. There’s a lot of emphasis on maths. Even though I have finished MU123, I have not left maths behind. Binary and logic maths are the key topics here. It’s tough to get your head around them and tutorials will concentrate heavily on these topics. So, it’s worth attending a few or listening to the recordings if they are available.

TM112 also focuses a lot more on reading and writing summaries of academic articles. And, lest I forget, correctly referencing these articles. Generally, all questions that require you to write an extended piece of prose in a computing and IT TMA will have a word limit. In TM111, they were less strict about what would happen if you went over this, but this is not the case in TM112. If the word limit is 150 words, then tutors will ignore word 151 onwards in awarding marks. They will also deduct a mark if you don’t include a word count.

For TMA 1 for TM112, I received lots of really positive feedback, even when my tutor was correcting my mistakes, as I had for TM111 and MU123. My new tutor is extremely helpful, relaxed and encouraging. I have been to one or two of his tutorials and the most recent, which focused on the forthcoming TMA 2, I found very useful. If you have the time, I really would advise going to as many tutorials as possible. The tutorials are organised into blocks with the same title, but each tutor will cover things in a different way. Some might focus on programming, others on maths or how to approach academic articles. Usually, there’s no way of knowing this beforehand. All you will know is that a tutorial will cover a particular block. A useful addition, particularly since the Lockdown, is the drop-in session, where the tutor is there solely to answer your questions or explain a topic of your choice. There’s no structured content prepared by the tutor in advance and you can submit suggested questions or problem topics beforehand.

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