TM352 TMA deadline looming

Typewriter with a piece of paper saying 'Deadline'
Photo by Markus Winkler on Unsplash

Only a week left until I have to let go of the second TMA for TM352 Web, Mobile and Cloud Technologies . . . My next module, TM359 Systems Penetration Testing, will start in a couple of days.

Reflecting upon this TMA and TMA01, more than a few issues have provoked the ire of the module forums:

TMA – the practical question

A quarter of the marks are for the practical side of things. In this TMA, it is to complete an unfinished mobile app. By contrast, in TMA01 you had to build a simple web app from scratch.

Some students felt the practical activities in the module materials do not fully prepare you for completing the practical activities. You follow a series of instructions that involve you copying and pasting bits of code. Before you know it, you have a working function, such as location tracking or a camera. A series of videos show one of the module team working through the exercises.

However, should the practical activities require the student to do a bit more than cut and paste? Perhaps involving some problem solving of their own? Is this approach really helping students with little or no previous web development experience?

I think the module materials do enough to get you through the TMAs. Everything you are asked to do is covered there. However, if you want to learn React Native or JavaScript, then there are plenty of external courses.

TMA – the word limit

Three quarters of the marks are for report writing. Each section of the report gets a 500-word limit. Within this word limit, you must do quite a lot. First, cover three or four sub-topics in sufficient detail. Second, make specific references to the practical question and/ or the TMA scenario. This means the context in which you are building the mobile app and what it is for. Finally, add some external references, including in-text citations, that expand upon the information in the module materials.

It is tough and I can easily write double or maybe even triple the word limit. The aim is to get students to write concisely and synthesize a lot of information for a non-technical audience. However, the report ends up skimping on the subject detail with a broad-brush approach. Yet, it includes oddly specific and detailed references. It would be infuriating to be told “well, you could have included more detail on x, y and z”.  

TMA – the marking scheme

I have mentioned this in a previous post, Early success with TMA01 in TM352. In TMA02, for instance, you may have all but one part of the app not working. Nevertheless, you are limited to about 40% of the marks for the practical question. This is regardless of meeting any of the requirements of the higher bands of marks. Similarly, in the report, you may not have met the requirements of the lower marking bands. So, you might as well not include any external references, which get you the highest marks.

It makes it difficult to know whether you have done very well or very badly on the TMA.

It will be interesting to see if any more modules adopt this approach. So far, it seems to be a one-off.

Onwards to TM359

With all the focus on TMA02, I almost forgot I have a new module starting in a few days. However, I have gone through the module guide and introduction to the module (a video). I have even booked on some tutorials and heard from my tutor. In fact, this is the first time I have had the same tutor as for a previous module. Is the Open University running out of tutors?

As you would expect going by the title, there is a strong practical element to TM359. You are not going to learn anywhere near as much by reading as by doing with systems penetration testing. Or pen testing and ethical hacking, as it is also known.

So, we were emailed a list of codes/ passwords to access the practical learning environment earlier this week. Only trouble was, as people are starting to realise on the forum, is that the codes do not actually work . . .

And so it begins, again!

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