Networking TM129 but not as we know it

Photo by Jordan Harrison on Unsplash

I have had a month of networking now. I find the content interesting enough and enjoy the practical activities using the Packet Tracer programme.

However, Cisco could present the course better. To start with, you access the content exclusively through the Cisco website; a link in the study planner on the Open University website takes you to the chapter of the Cisco Network Essentials module for that week.

You click through from one screen to the next to work through each chapter. Some screens have activities to test your understanding, such as lab or Packet Tracer activities. However, most have text and pictures, with some animations and videos, to read through.

Most importantly, I would like to see more activities and packet tracer activities – really, a lot more. So, while I have no background in networking, it is a practical subject that would be learnt best by doing. It is not beyond the realms of fantasy to do this in a remote learning environment.

I really feel the absence of the module textbooks that I have come to expect from the Open University. So far in my degree, they have been outstanding in covering and explaining things for a wider audience.

The Cisco website is the sole repository for the module content. For instance, there appears to be no option to download and save this as a pdf. Worryingly, if you lose access to the content on the Cisco website, you have nothing to look over down the line. As you would if you held onto your module textbooks.

So, it forced me to rethink and adapt how I go about making my notes. Luckily, there were a few creative suggestions in the module forums. Some used alternative textbooks; the Open University Library is recommended. Others found online videos. There are many great ones out there, including some that walk through Cisco activities. You will appreciate the latter when it comes to understanding the OSI model.

Still, until recently, studying the networking block in TM129 involved reading chapters of a sizable Microsoft textbook week after week. Part of the reason that the Open University switched to Cisco was to offer something more interactive and engaging. And on the whole, it succeeds. Nevertheless, there needs to be more emphasis upon practical activities and some way of retaining the course information.

Lastly, I should mention the final exam at the end of the Network Essentials module on the Cisco website. It includes multiple-choice questions and, possibly, a packet tracer activity. Crucially, you must take it within a set period, about three weeks before the end of the block. You have only one attempt. There is a time limit of 90 minutes. The end of chapter quizzes and practice final exam should give you a good indication of what to expect.

The mark you get on the final exam counts towards your mark for the first TMA . . .

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