New Year’s Resolutions

Photo by Andrea Davis on Unsplash

As I am now three months into my BSc (Hons) Computing and IT degree at the Open University, I thought I would reflect on how it has been going. I am studying two modules together, MU123 and TM111, and, between them, in terms of coursework, I have submitted four iCMAs and two TMAs. I have attended a few computing and IT face-to-face tutorials (none in maths though) and several online maths and computing tutorials.

I hope, like me, you have had a merry Christmas. So, what have I learnt and what, if anything, would I do differently next year?

#1 Get ahead, stay ahead

Lots on at work and a bad bout of illness meant that I was slightly behind by Christmas. However, the Open University breaks for two weeks over the festive period and this is a great opportunity to get caught up. Obviously, this might be tricky if I was working over Christmas and the New Year or had a lot of family responsibilities.

At one point, I managed to be about two weeks ahead with TM111 and, given I took part in the Early Start programme over the summer, a fair way ahead with MU123. Nevertheless, an early lead can rapidly erode if other aspects of life take over. As they did. So, having this early advantage meant that I was not as far behind as I could have been.

#2 Every little bit helps

I have found it easier to do a little bit of work often, rather than a lot of work infrequently. I have enjoyed learning to programme and solving maths problems, yet too long staring at the screen gives me a headache and zaps my energy. It doesn’t help that my day job is essentially staring at a computer screen all day.

There are times when you’re on a roll and just want to go for it, weekends being especially helpful. Nevertheless, even an hour or two here and there gets things done. I tend to want to finish a sub-section of each block of TM111 or of each unit of MU123 in a session. Then tick them off a list for my satisfaction.

#3 Attend tutorials

While this is easier said than done for some, I have found them invaluable. I started off attending several tutorials on the same topic until I got sick of being introduced to the module for the umpteenth time. However, it helped me identify the tutors whose style best suited the way I work.

As the module moved on, I learned to pick and choose my tutorials. There was no way I could attend even every online tutorial, yet alone every face-to-face tutorial within travelling distance. Not if I also wanted to keep up with the course material and submit my iCMAs or TMAs on time. If I am unsure about a topic, I may watch a recording of another tutorial that I did not attend for extra insight.

I have enjoyed the face-to-face tutorials for computing and IT. They do make the subject come alive and it’s good to connect with fellow students and my tutor. I haven’t attended any maths face-to-face tutorials yet, partly as some of them conflict with those for computing and IT. I am more comfortable with the maths than the computing, which is another reason.

#4 Take part in the forums

Apart from the early weeks after they opened, when I was introducing myself continuously in every forum going, I haven’t posted that often. There are general module-wide forums and, also, forums specifically for your tutor groups and/ or tutor groups in your region. Well, there are for TM111. Unfortunately, while there are module-wide forums for MU123, there are no forums for my tutor group or even those in my region.

I have found that it has taken all my time to keep up with the course material and work on the iCMAs/ TMAs. Posting frequently on the forums has slipped off the radar somewhat. Towards the end of Block 2 of TM111, the module team post optional programming challenges in the forum. They invite you to post your solution and discuss with other students. It’s a great idea. Unfortunately, I was some way behind and, didn’t manage to complete the programming challenges until after the model answer was posted on the forums.

Thankfully, I have attended all the face-to-face TM11 tutorials with my tutor. This has given me the opportunity and confidence to discuss and work through solutions in a (very) small group. I am aware that in later modules posting and discussing your work on the forums becomes more important and less optional.

#5 Take a break, get some exercise

Inevitably, working full-time and studying two modules (plus everything else going on in my life) leaves less time for relaxation. To some extent, this was part of the deal when I signed up for the course. However, it is important that I carve out time for other things, such as going out, meeting friends or even quiet time with a book.

I worry I spend too much time sitting down in a chair. Hopefully enough to do something about it in the new year. I have a sedentary day job. While it’s great for my mental faculties, there’s not much in the way of physical exertion studying computing and maths. So, I need to get outside more, walking or some other form of exercise. Unless I figure out a way of attaching my computer to an exercise bike.

Happy New Year!

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