Reflecting on my preparation

man reading book
Photo by Priscilla Du Preez on Unsplash

For TM111, the Open University is very clear that they do not expect you do any preparation. The module starts off assuming no knowledge of computing and IT whatsoever. Of course, the aim is that by the end of the module you will be a little more clued up!

This is good because the course can cater for varying levels of experience. Some people will have been working in computing and IT for some time and be looking for a qualification. Others may have come straight from school or have worked in a completely different job. As it happens, I am in the latter camp.

So, as I’m studying for a BSc (Hons) Computing and IT degree, I thought it might be a good idea to do some relevant preparation. As with the maths modules, there’s a useful ‘Are you ready for TM111?’ quiz that you can take before you enrol on the module. I didn’t take the quiz until the module website opened on 10 September. I don’t know why. I suppose it could have helped direct my preparation.

I think I was more concerned about deciding between the maths modules, MU123 and MST124, for which their quizzes were helpful. In any case, I was happy with my score when I eventually did take the TM111 quiz. It was a nice little confidence boost when the module website opened. This helped me not to feel too overwhelmed when looking at the study planner for the first time.

Seeing all the activities you must do each week laid out before you can be a bit daunting. Many students on the forum seemed to feel the same way. I have to say, though, that the forum moderators, mostly tutors themselves, go out of their way to reassure students who have these doubts.

In fact, the mutual support from other students on the forum, as well as in the various social media groups, is heart-warming. As the course goes on, I imagine it must be a source of strength to help each other get through the course. There will be people who are quite competitive and like to get as far ahead as possible or take pride in their coursework marks (and there’s nothing wrong with that).

However, everyone studies at their own pace and each will be studying in different circumstances. So, you can’t really compare yourself with anyone else. I’m probably somewhere in the middle. I would like to get ahead if I can, but I probably won’t be going full steam ahead.

It certainly helped with the maths side of things that I did the Early Start programme for MU123. The maths department have been running it as a pilot scheme for the last couple of years. They may be offering it in the future to all students who enrol early.

The Early Start covers the first five chapters of MU123. They don’t send you physical copies, but you do get access to pdfs of the chapters, which contain exercises for you to work through. You also get practice online multiple-choice style quizzes, like the computer marked assessments (iCMAs) on the proper course. There were one or two online tutorials for each of the units, which I found helpful in getting used to this style of teaching and, of course, with the maths.

You can also get feedback on a practice tutor marked assessment (TMAs) from a tutor. The most important lesson I learnt from the feedback was about ‘good mathematical communication’ (GMC). This is all about how you set out your answers to maths questions and you need to do this correctly to get full marks. It’s not just about getting the maths right!

Since I am studying two modules together, the Early Start programme will help take some of the pressure off when the course starts. I have already covered what we need to study right up to just before Christmas. I will still have to complete the coursework at the same time as everybody else; you don’t get early access to that! However, it means I can focus on TM111 more in the early stages and perhaps tackle some of the later maths units ahead of time.

My preparation for TM111 involved starting to learn python and playing around with scratch. I also did some general background reading about computer science. I prefer studying from books, so I used some introductory books on these topics.

However, I am aware of the many online courses and I will be exploring these during the course and in-between modules. OpenLearn, a collection of free public courses offered by the Open University is a great place to start with if you’re new to online courses. A good place to start with is the ‘Being an OU Student’ short course. If you’re thinking of studying with the Open University, there’s not a better place to start.

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