Friday, 7 December 2007


Well, M257 is underway and seems to be going okay at the moment (although to be honest the first 5 modules didn't have a lot of new content when compared to the course I have just completed (M255)). The results for the first TMA were good, and I have completed (although not submitted) the second one - which should give me a nice leisurely run up to Christmas.

I have signed up for M256 which begins in Feb, and is the last of the Level 2 courses I need to complete - reading between the lines it seems to be more discursive than both M257 and M255 so I might have to put a slightly different slant on things whilst I am studying.

I toyed with the idea of running a Level 3 course simultaneously in Feb, but ultimately decided against it. I think it probably would have been manageable if I hadn't had M257 running too - but 80 points would put too much of a strain on things I think. The current setup with the course means that I won't be able to follow my one in Feb, one in Oct model for the Level 3 courses as all of them only run once a year and begin in Feb. Seems a bit strange 60 points all in one go, and then nothing for a couple of months and I need to read the comments and reviews and talk to the course convenors to work out the best combinations. I still think it is important to keep the 60 points a year model - otherwise I won't be graduating until 2012!

Off out for dinner this evening - the first of a long list of festive bashes. Deep breath everyone......

Wednesday, 17 October 2007

The M255 exam

Well, despite the best efforts of Cambridgeshire conspiring against me I managed to both attend and complete my M255 exam - the second of the OU exams I have sat since starting my degree in Computing (B29) in October 2005.

I have to say that it was a stretch. The material covered was diverse, and was not quite as straightforward as similar questions from the previous years. I am confident that I will have passed, but not confident of the grade. We will have to see - I have no control over it now.

The OU forums are ablaze with people who really thought the exam unfair in its content and didn't have enough time to complete the questions. My personal thoughts are that this is largely down to exam technique - rather than a lack of knowledge - and teaching this technique is probably an area where the OU could do more to help its students.

Thursday, 30 August 2007

Mangled Brain!

Well I have just come back from my holiday - on the Queen Mary II - and it was wonderful - and to commemorate there is a new photo - which actually includes me - on the blog.

I will get round to a proper update in the near future, M255 is going well and the final assignment is being checked for as we speak. However, all the learning I have had to do coupled with the break has pushed all useful information out of my brain. This morning when I got to work I had forgotten my pass code to get in and had to be let in by the receptionist.....ah well.

Wednesday, 1 August 2007

The Open University Boost I needed

Having been jaded with the whole OU experience recently (mainly because of the M253 horror) I have been given the boost to get back on with things that I needed.

Two course results have been returned - and by heck they were good ones.

MST121 - my second mathematics course - was returned and I had OCAS and OES scores of 98%. Unsurprisingly I really enjoyed this course, but was still pleasantly surprised by how well I performed on the last two assignments.

But, the big surprise was M263 - Distinction (WOO HOO!). I am so happy (although the question I performed most badly on was not actually the question that I thought I had stuffed up - strange but true). It was a very valuable experience in exam technique and I am relieved to have got off to this flying start as far as graded examinable components for my degree are concerned. It has given me the boost to get stuck back into M255 to see if I can reproduce this feat. :)

Monday, 23 July 2007

M255 - recapturing the enthusiasm

So after the misery that was M253, and the intensity leading up to the M263 exam, M255 got lost in the quagmire and I found myself with little enthusiasm for the course. However, with TMA 03 I made a conscious effort to get my arse back into gear and get on with it. What do you know - it paid off. I managed a 99% - which I am very proud of. Hopefully I can carry the momentum forward into the final TMA and onwards to the exam in October.

Having looked at the specimen paper it looks challenging - but I can only do my best, and there is my holiday between now and then to enervate me even more!

M253 Feedback

So I passed M253 - not wonderfully - but I passed it.
What is confusing is that I received some feedback on the examinable component - i.e. the last assignment - and I am not sure if it makes any sense. I don't know whether too much time has elapsed between getting the results or what but the comments didn't really help..............

Ah well - onwards and upwards.

Wednesday, 6 June 2007

A death in the family....

Alas one of the turbo snails has shuffled off the mortal coil.
(S)/he had been falling off things a lot lately so I imagine that the end was nigh but unfortunately last Friday I found an upturned shell and no sign of an inhabitant.

Who will eat my algae now?

Tuesday, 5 June 2007

M253 Results?

I wonder where the M253 results has been over two months since the final ECA and as of yet there has been no word.

The date for the final submission was March 26, any yet here we are ten weeks later with no results.

I think I will mail the OU to check.

Monday, 28 May 2007

Long time no post....

It seems like forever since I got round to writing on this thing...I blame work. The new job is keeping me very busy which means I have less time to muse!

So what has happened since the last posting - well the marine tank now has two Clarki Clown Fish, 2 Yellow-Tailed Damsels and a Firefish (very pretty but very shy). As we speak I am acclimating a blood shrimp to the tank. He is not the happiest little shrimp at the moment, but hopefully that will pass and he will settle down.

There is also a figure of 8 puffer going into the tropical tank - he is beautiful, I just hope he isn't ultra destructive....there are plenty of snails for him to chomp on though - so he should be fine.

As far as OU goes things are still fairly hectic. I am finally getting over the horror that was M253, and managed to get my final TMA for M263 in on time. The result truly shocked me - 99% - guess I know more than I thought I did. We will have to see how I fare in the exam - which is no the 11th June. It will be my first exam in 8 years so I am not expecting miracles!

M255 TMA 02 is due this week (24th) and luckily it is finished. Also MST121 TMA_04 is also due for submission. That has been written for a while so all I have to do is to remember to put it in the post next week and that will be all of my level 1 courses done and dusted (I have already submitted the last CMA for MST121). There have been no results for M253 as of yet. I have provided the OU with my feedback on "the worst course ever" though.

In other news I am back at the gym - it has been a real mental struggle after being out for so long with my back but, touch wood, it is going really well - and I am much much happier in myself because of it.

Hopefully won't be another month before I post my next entry!

Monday, 9 April 2007

M263 - The Easter TMA results

So the consistency continues.
The TMA 3 results are in and, guess what, another 95% - I love it LOL - talk about consistency (that is 95% for every one of the TMAs on this course so far).
I found this TMA the most challenging I have done to date for any of my courses - not lest because of the lack of motivation I had for it arising from the horror that was M253, so it is really satisfying that I have done a decent job on it.

With the finishing line in sight lets hope I can carry the consistency forwards into TMA 4, which I haven't found as difficult as TMA 3 so far and the end of term exam. It would be nice to have a Pass 1 - but not the end of the world if that doesn't happen.

Clown Fish!

I am now the proud owner of two Clarki Clown Fish. After 8 weeks my nanoreef stabilised enough for me to add some fish!!

I have to say that it is very distracting - I can see them out of the corner of my eye as I sit and type (LOL!), I can't imagine the effect it is going to have on my open university courses......

Thursday, 29 March 2007

The OU Madness Continues

With TMA 03 looming for M263, and TMA 01 Part 2 due for M255 and having just handed in TMA 30 for M253 I almost forgot about TMA 03 due for MST121.

I think the moral of this story is do not do four concurrent courses - it is too much. Luckily M253 is now finished, and both MST 121 and M263 are coming to an end (at least I don't have an exam for MST 121!) and I think I will slip down to 2 courses a year - one starting in Feb and one starting in October - that amount of overlap I can manage!

Anyway - I didn't forget MST 121 and sent off TMA 03 - dreaded calculus. As usual it was marked in extra quick time, and I got the result in the post yesterday - 99%!!!! How cool is that - this is much better than I thought I would do (suppose it is a question of confidence, and past experiences having struggled with calculus at A-Level). It is nice to be lifted by a positive learning experience after the disappointment of M253.

Tuesday, 27 March 2007

M253 - RIP

Wow, who thought I would have been so busy at my new job that it would be 22 days between posts on my blog.....

M253 officially finished yesterday at 12 noon and frankly I am glad to see the back of it. Susannah Relf, if you ever read this, take solace in being the only person in the 'team' who I would ever trust to work on anything with my name attached to it in the real world, and thank you very much for all your hard work.

The final 'team' project was the result of Susannah's hard work - there was very little team effort, and all in all I find it difficult to find something positive to say about the entire M253 debacle. It was a frustrating and largely negative experience. I don't feel it represents a 'real-world' situation, as is the dogma of the course tutors, and I don't feel that I have learned anything of lasting value from taking the course. This is likely to be reflected in my mark for the final TMA - but I really don't care. As long as I pass, and as far as I can see as long as you hand something in with your name on you will pass, I couldn't care less if it was with 41% or 99%/.

The entire M253 experience has left me somewhat jaded with the OU. I have found myself with a lack of motivation for the other courses I am currently undertaking, and am not sure how I will move forward when the courses I am currently studying come to an end. Has it put me off study - to a degree yes. It was so much hassle, entirely negative and when you have to balance this with other aspects of living and working it is something that is not needed. The fact that the course team recognise that M253 can be, and is, a really negative experience for a lot of students (I have the e-mails from the course team!!) and aren't really bothered by that is, for me, another nail in its coffin.

OU you may have lost yourself a customer - perhaps you should sort this course out.

Monday, 5 March 2007


It would appear that the marine tank has settled down enough to introduce some of the clean up crew into the environment.
To this end I am the very prod owner of two new turbo snails - who are speeding around the tank munching on the algae that has built up - hopefully things will continue to go in the right direction and I can add some nassirus snails, some hermit crabs and a shrimp over the next couple of weeks. I would love a starfish - but am not sure that I would be able to look after it well enough at the moment.....we will have to see.

M253 - Is the ECA doomed?

Now, I haven't spent an awfully long time on this particular Milestone, mainly because I have been busy with work outside of the OU, but alarm bells are starting to ring.

We have until the 24th March to finish this thing, but the communication in the team appears to have stalled. The girl coordinating the group effort this time has done her best to rally around individuals - perhaps by emailing them outside of the conference - but it leaves the impression that the conference itself has stagnated.

Also of the two people that have been assigned to work in pairs with me, only one of them has contacted me. We had what I felt was some useful initial discussion but this too has dried up - worryingly without a resolution to the problem we were set. I send e-mails but don't have the time to spend chasing them up any more.

I am not sure what this means, but I don't think it bodes well for the team-generated component of the ECA. Perhaps I will have to rely on my individual response (a 1000 word essay covering 24 weeks of work - which is a bit rubbish!) to get me through the final hurdle.

Friday, 2 March 2007

New Month New Job

So I started my new job yesterday - how stressful is that. I had forgotten just how much hard work it is trying to fit into a new team.....

So far so good - have finally managed to get my computers working at least - am sure that my impact will be more significant next week after I have had chance to find my feet.

Monday, 19 February 2007

The marine tank

My beloved took me out this weekend and bought me a marine aquarium (thankyou!).
I subsequently spent the rest of the time worrying about the specific gravity of my water and arranging live rock on a bed of coral sand. Still, it should keep me occupied - and distracted given that it will sit in the corner of the study. It is only 58 litres so it might take a bit of setting up, but hopefully it will be a successful first foray into the colourful world of marine fishes.

M253 weirdness

So despite the teeth gnashing and wailing the results for TMA 02 came back and I ended up with 83%. This is okay - but I am not exactly sure how it came to pass.

The comments from the tutor seemed to indicate that there were several areas that a) the team and b) I personally had failed to reflect on and consider (it is difficult to consider everything in 1000 words) and yet the results still came back as high as they did.

I think that I have decided I have no idea what this course is trying to teach me. From the comments that I have received there are a whole load of points that I personally am missing, and that the team as a whole if failing to realise, and yet we end up with marks like this.

Perhaps it simply is a question of jumping through the hoops, and that we are entitled to a grade because we have managed to put up with the course for as long as we have.

I am unable to contribute to the final stage as much as I would have liked to, mainly because I start my new job on 1st March (how exciting is that!). Perhaps this means I will get more out of M253 for the last assignment than I have for the other two. Having read comments from other students on the course it would seem that I was almost putting too much effort in.

Monday, 12 February 2007

M253 - The nightmare continues

So after a week of navel gazing we get a post from a team member following exactly the same lines as we did for Milestone 2 - which didn't work.

At this point (given that this Milestone is meant to flow directly from the last 1 i.e. there is no break) three people including me have posted to the conference. It has been ten days since two of the team members even bothered to check the messages in the conference, and 12 and 17 days respectively since the other two bothered to post anything.

I criticise the plan of action - and get a terse and erroneous response that states what is being proposed is entirely different to what went before.


I am so angry that I worked my arse off for Milestone 2, and people are now implying that they were unable to contribute because I prevented them from doing so. How the fuck dare they.

Thursday, 8 February 2007

M263 - Consistency is my middle name

Well I have now had 3 TMAs marked for M263.
I have to say, Simon my tutor does a damn fine job of giving some relevant and helpful feedback.
Not too bad this time round - I had a bit of trouble understanding what was meant by side-effects, which resulted in me not testing my software properly - but I think I understand what was required now, so I can avoid that pitfall in future.
I am also getting better at just answering the questions! This might help in the exam if I can stick to what they ask instead of trying to show them what I know.
If you count the first TMA as two separate ones (which I suppose technically they are not) I am Dr. Consistency! 95% for all three.

Have to say, I am fairly pleased!

Wednesday, 7 February 2007


Seems that the assurances I was given for M253 weren't worth the time I spent listening to them.

I get to stay in the team I am in. Great.

The debate from the people who actually convene the course centred on the fact that the M253 experience was negative for just about everyone - and that they didn't care about this. Apparently I can learn something valuable if I become self-critical as well as critical of others. HELLO? Pot and Kettle - perhaps if they were a little self-assured and took time to listen to the DELUGE of complaints this attempt at a course they might be able to implement something that the students will enjoy. I'd love to see the evidence that supports the fact that people who are unhappy in their studies learn as much as people who enjoy them......I won't hold my breath.

Their justification for not being overly concerned by this atrocity of a course? People have finished the course 'successfully' in other presentations, and the situation is not entirely unrealistic.

I am really disappointed in the OU who appear to offer the minimum in terms of pastoral support for students who find themselves in my position.

Guess I will just sit the final Milestone out. The pride that I have taken in my work for this course so far doesn't seem to have achieved a great deal.

Monday, 5 February 2007

M253 - Milestone 2 Submitted - New Horizons abound

Well after all that effort the Milestone for TMA 2 was submitted on time.
I was amazed at how all the dodgy internet connections managed to resolve themselves in time for me some members of the group to download the finalised version of the team document.
Strange that.

Still hopefully there will be a resolution to that problem. My request to be transferred out of the team has been granted, based on my dissatisfaction with the amount of effort the majority of the team put in, and consequently the disproportionate amount of time I was having to dedicate to M253. Although I actually didn't mind this, I did feel quite aggrieved to be constantly criticised for 'taking over' and 'interfering' by one of the group members, with little support from the others even though they were content to be structured in the way I suggested.

Even if I go to a team with as little motivation as the one I am currently in I think I will do better in the final ECA because of it. There simply won't be the time to build up the resentment towards the course and one another that pervades the discussion in the team I am currently stuck with. I have simply done all I can to work with this team, and feel that if I stay I will become a very destructive force.

Wednesday, 31 January 2007

The forgotten child....

With all the furore surrounding Brax and her feet Lucy isn't getting much attention.
Still I get to spend an hour quality time with her training this evening, and to make up for ignoring her I have given her a little spot on my blog of her very own......

Tuesday, 30 January 2007

MST121 - Finished


So I have managed to work through all of the units for MST 121 and have answered all of the questions for TMA 3, TMA 4 and CMA 41 and CMA 42. A-Level maths was a real help, although I did find the calculus challenging and I can now put this course to rest (the last of my Level 1 courses) and turn my attentions to finishing M253 (only 6 weeks left I can't wait - I officially hate this course) working through M263 - which by all accounts is about to get much more difficult! and start work on M255 - although I think I will stick firmly to the timetable for that one (i.e. I am not going to look at anything until Feb 3rd).

More Sleeples Nights....

So I thought that the foot saga was wrong I was

Poor Bracken was back at the vets yesterday with another cyst on her foot - different foot this time but same is incredibly disturbing. She is feeling very sorry for herself, and I can't say I blame her.

I suppose I should take heart in what the vet said - whatever it is responded to antibiotics last time and there is no reason that it won't do so again. There is nothing to indicate that there is anything systemic causing this problem and I think a change in the walking route might prevent poor bracken going through this again.

After all - she only has two feet left now......

Monday, 22 January 2007

MST121 - TMA 2 Result

Well I received this TMA back in record time and was very happy with the result - a 96 to add to the 100 for TMA 1 which puts me on track to do very well in this course.

The feedback from the tutor (and his general level of interest) is far better than any other course I have taken and really helps my understanding. He obviously has a great deal of expertise in teaching older students.

The next TMA is Calculus - it was always a little bit of a mystery to me during A-Level Maths, so I don't think I will be reaching the dizzying heights achieved for TMAs 1 and 2 - but I seem to be understanding it a bit better second time around, so perhaps it will go well too.

All in all I am zooming through the course - the final Block, Statistics is something I was very good at at A-Level - mainly thanks to an excellent teacher in Mrs Clark (who is responsible for me passing the A-Level!) so I am looking forwards to refreshing my memory with regards to that.

Wednesday, 17 January 2007

M253 - Milestone 2 Update

Ah well, I did it again - I managed to curse myself.

Now that we are reaching the business end of the second M253 milestone things are getting hairy. I think that the Christmas holidays, coupled with a lack of inertia and enthusiasm are going to mean that the team-generated report section for the TMA is, once again, going to fall short.

The problem seems to be that a lot of people are going through the motions - and are not willing to devote the amount of time to this level 2 university course that they would to other similar level courses. People who were more active during TMA 1 have become disenchanted and are doing the bare minimum - others have stopped checking in altogether and the exercise requiring people to work together in pairs has led to some disharmony!

The only thing keeping me going on with the course is that I am now two-thirds through it, and the only thing that I can think of that would be worse than continuing would be to have to do it all again. It is a requirement for a named degree and I feel that most of the people in the team wouldn't have touched it with a barge pole had this not been the case.

It is a shame. I think the course is useful and interesting and relevant. The problem arises because people taking the course have no interest in it from the beginning. Perhaps if it became a graded course - as opposed to pass/fail - with an exam people would take it more seriously.

Wednesday, 10 January 2007

Salty Sea Dogs

Well it seems that whilst I am slaving away in the office my dogs are out living the St. Tropez lifestyle at the beach.

Well, judging by the state of them perhaps I am better off in the office - especially on cold wet days in January!

Tuesday, 9 January 2007

M253 Milestone 2

Well what can I say.....Milestone 2 appears to be going okay - despite the Christmas holidays taking a lot of people away from the course for a significant length of time and one of the team members having to defer things seem to be remarkably on track.

Perhaps I shouldn't have said that - and as punishment things will now go haywire - but it seems to me that the whole team is getting a lot more involved in this task, so perhaps the course does do what it intends to - despite the resistance of the students involved.

I have to admit that I can't understand why it is such an unpopular course. I realise that it is not the most stimulating in terms of actual computing, but it does provide the participants with a range of skills that they would otherwise not possess (if they are open to learning them that is). Perhaps it is my different background versus people who are primarily computer based in their academics that leads to this different perspective - who knows.

New Year New Job

Well things at work have been unsettled recently, with the threat of redundancy looming large, so I applied for another job - and lo and behold managed to get it.

I start work for my new job on March 1st. It is exciting, but also a little sad, as I wouldn't be leaving my current company, who have been very good to me, had it not been for their financial restraints.

Christmas fishes

So Christmas was a blast this year - I received the present of a tropical aquarium and am now the proud 'dad' of ten fishes - 5 zebra danios and 5 black mollies. Who would have thought I would spend so much time worrying about nitrite levels, counting fishes and explaining to the spaniels that although I do have new pets to look after, they will always be my number 1.

Depending on the nitrite levels this week I may get a plec. If they are still settling down then it is another 20% water change and some neon tetras instead.

I am turning into a fish geek. :)