Network down, Robotics up

Photo by Possessed Photography on Unsplash

Well, TMA 1 has been submitted. I think that might be the last that I will see of networking for some time. Now for the good stuff. Python programming and Lego robots; what is not to love in Block 2 of TM129 Technologies in Practice!

If you read my previous post, you may have noticed my ambivalence about the networking block. It is an interesting topic and important if you have more than a passing interest in a career in cybersecurity.

Networking is a difficult subject to teach remotely. However, the Cisco Network Essentials material succeeds in making it an interactive and engaging experience. Nevertheless, the presentation of the module caused more than a little consternation in the module forums over the last month.

This mainly centre around the availability, or lack thereof, of the practice exam. It was taken down when the final exam became available a few weeks before the end of Block 1. This was to avoid confusion and prevent students from completing the wrong one.

Unfortunately, to make the most of the practice exam, you had to be well ahead of the module study planner. Many students also appeared to be unaware that the practice exam would be taken down when the final exam opened. Eventually, after much heated discussion in the forums, the module team reopened the practice exam.

Luckily, I completed the practice exam. I then completed the final exam before the practice exam went back up again. Some students only completed the final exam after the practice exam had been taken down. They enquired whether, now having the opportunity to do the practice exam, they could do the final exam again. Alas, it was not to be.

In the end, it was a good example of the module team responding to student feedback. It is probably a good idea to remember that much, if not all, of TM129 is new. All three blocks have undergone extensive change over the last few years. Our cohort is the first to do this incarnation of the Robotics block, which looks tasty. Indeed, the content for the third block, on Operating Systems, is yet to make an appearance on the module website. The content for the Robotics block only came online a few weeks before it was due to start. I think they have gone the right way with the networking block. They just need to work with Cisco to tweak a few things about the presentation.

One of the good points about TM129 so far is the quality of the tutorials. Now that they are all online, I have tried to go to as many as possible. There have been some excellent ones so far. Tutors have recorded than on previous modules. Out of the ones I attended, I think there has only been one where the tutor did not show up.

All the tutorials are online. They look set to remain that way until at least the end of this academic year. I enjoyed the face-to-face Computing and IT tutorials until Covid-19 forced them all online.

The tutors have been helpful at explaining the material and how to approach the TMAs. Of course, they will not give you the answers, but they will keep you in the game. Now, I am off to install Docker a virtualised computing environment (VCE) for the Robotics block. Sadly, the Open University do not send you a Lego robot with the module materials. They do, however, include a copy of I, Robot by Isaac Asimov.

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