iCMAs and TMAs

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Photo by Arisa Chattasa on Unsplash

There are two types of coursework for TM111 and MU123 (and probably for other maths and computing modules at the Open University); iCMAs (interactive computer-marked assignment) and TMAs (tutor-marked assignment).

Well, to be accurate, there are three; I’m forgetting EMAs (end-of-module assignments). No, it’s not a large, Australian bird intimately acquainted with the late comedian Rod Hull but, effectively, an extended TMA.

For TM111, I have three iCMAs and three TMAs, nicely spaced out over the six months that the module lasts. The first iCMA consisted of multiple-choice, or fill-in-the-blanks, questions that I completed online through the website. I didn’t have to complete it all in one go and I could save my progress. I had three attempts at each question, with a certain proportion of the marks deducted if I entered a wrong answer. They only contribute a very small proportion of my overall mark for the module, so all is not lost if I make a mistake.

The iCMAs are different for MU123. For a start, there are five of them, but this is to be expected as the module lasts nine months. There seem to be more individual questions than the iCMAs for TM111. The big difference is that I only get one attempt at each question. This means I didn’t know my overall score until the Open University published the results shortly after the deadline. With TM111, if I don’t get offered a second, or third, attempt then I’ve probably got the correct answer.

As with the TMAs, the iCMAs each cover a certain part of the course. As soon as the module starts, the clock is ticking. In fact, the deadlines for the first iCMAs for MU123 and TM111 occur only a few weeks after the course starts. They sound terrifying to begin with and, for me, the biggest worry was that I would press the wrong button and submit it prematurely. I suppose there could be more guidance about how the iCMAs work as there were a lot of questions about this on the forums.  However, by Christmas with two iCMAs for each module under my belt, I should feel like an expert. Well at submitting them at least, I’m sure the questions could still catch me out if I’m not careful.

The TMAs, which account for a far greater proportion of my overall marks for the module, took up a little bit more of my time. For TM111, the first TMA covered the first block of the module. Among other topics, I enjoyed getting a bit creative with editing sound files and coding a basic website. I imagine it is well within the comfort zone of people who have been working in computing and IT in some shape or form.

For MU123, if you’re submitting electronically, you can write your maths in WORD and then convert to PDF. Alternatively, you can write it by hand and then scan it into your computer. I chose the latter, which is how I did it for the Early Start programme. Apparently, typesetting your maths in WORD (or other method) takes some getting used to and the Open University would prefer you focus on the maths. In later modules, you are taught how to typeset your maths but MU123 is an introductory maths module. I may re-evaluate my decision at some point as scanning in each page is far from a speedy process.

Anyway, my tutor has 10 working days to mark the TMA and provide feedback. My MU123 tutor returned my TMA a week after I submitted (which was itself a few days before the deadline) with some very helpful comments. The deadline for my TM111 TMA has only just passed but, if the feedback on my ‘dummy TMA’ is anything to go by, I should get good feedback too. As I found with the Early Start programme, one of the benefits of the Open University is the amount of feedback I get on my coursework. In fact, as far as I can remember, I think it exceeds, by and large, that I received during my first degree.

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