TM129, robotics and dreaded TMA 2

Photo by Jason Leung on Unsplash

As I come to the end of the robotics block in TM129, my attention focuses more acutely on the TMA (Tutor Marked Assessment). The question on the practical activities vexes me considerably.

I am not alone. The forum buzzes with posts on this question but usually receive short shrift from the moderators. One of the golden rules of the Open University is do not discuss TMA questions with other students on the forum (or anywhere else for that matter). Tutors should be your first and only port of call.

Your tutor cannot give you the answer but can only direct you towards the relevant part of the course material. It is worth saying that many tutors appear not to be as familiar with some of the module as others. Due to the recent refresh of TM129, this might be because it is as new to them as to the students and they may not have been part of the core team preparing the module.

It would have been helpful if some of the tutorials included a demonstration of some of the practical activities in the robotics block. Unfortunately, the Open University cancelled the module-wide live practical demonstration for this block due to lockdown restrictions. They provided a link to the recording from last year instead.

Some students were looking to skip the question on the practical activities entirely. It is worth a quarter of the marks for the TMA, so it is possibly to pass (and even pass quite comfortably) by not answering it. The rest of the TMA questions included short questions on the theoretical side of the robotics block, an essay writing question, and the reflective e-Portfolio activities.

I like to put an answer for everything even if I think it might be completely wrong. Every mark counts as they say. That is one reason why I do not like to discount the e-Portfolio activities. I believe many students leave them to the last minute or not attempt them at all, thinking they are a waste of time. However, I understand from personal experience how important reflecting on your learning is for continued professional development in the workplace.

Still, I am finding it difficult to put an answer, any answer for this question. I keep coming back to it, re-reading the module materials. Maybe something will click. Not sure what the problem is. I enjoy programming and I understand the python coding examples. It might be the explanatory text in the Juptyer notebooks that is confusing me. It is not always clear.

If, by now, I had not even installed the Docker container or set up the Juptyer notebooks, expediency would probably lead me to just leave the practical activities. Focus on the other three-quarters of the TMA. Sometimes you must focus on what is essential to pass. Particularly, if you have lots of other things going on in life competing for your attention.

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