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Open University Q62 - An Honest Review

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23 September 2018


Last Edited: 23 September 2018

BSC (HONS) COMPUTING AND IT ...IS IT WORTH IT?

Having almost completed 2/3rds of my degree course I feel as though I am now in the position to give my opinion on the course so far and the modules it covers.

This review may or may not be helpful to you as Q62 had a significant overhaul in 2017 meaning that some of the modules that I took are no longer available. However the replacements seem to be pretty comparable.


YEAR 1

TU100 - MY DIGITAL LIFE

This module took a VERY wide approach to teaching about digital technologies. In my opinion far too wide, it covered everything from the history of computing, through to the Internet of Things and everything in-between. As well as this it also attempted to teach the fundamentals of programming using their version of the rudimentary visual programming language Scratch and a basic IO circuit board.

I understand what they were trying to do with this course, which was to give a broad overview of computing technologies giving you a taste of what you could eventually specialise in. The problem is, if you are taking a computing degree then in all likelihood you will be pretty tech savvy and already know what sector you want to work in. As well as this a lot of students are taking this job as part of a vocational qualification, so they are already doing the job.

For me it was the former, I knew I wanted to study software development and as such I had already made significant headway into learning Java, so having to use to Sense (Scratch) felt like a massive backwards step. They use this software to teach primary school children and I feel that using a language such as Java or Python in the first year would have been far more beneficial and would have taught the conditional and iterative principles just as well.

The assessments were all essay based, which saw us writing about technologies and principles that were either outdated or not related to a computing degree. However having not written an essay in the best part of 20 years I did find this practice of writing and referencing invaluable.

This module has now been superseded by, Introduction to computing and information technology 1/2 (TM111/2) which seems to cover similar topics.

TM129 - TECHNOLOGIES IN PRACTICE

Technologies in practice focused on three different subjects, robotics, networking and Linux. I found these strange choices as neither robotics nor Linux is used in subsequent modules. I could see the point in the networking part if you were to progress into the Cisco networking level two course, but the new rework has seen the end to this module so you will need to wait till level three before you can use your networking foundation..which you will likely have forgotten by then.

So in summary, this course gave me a solid foundation for basically no other course offered by the OU. Perhaps a further software development or IT Management course would have been more appropriate here.

MU123 - DISCOVERING MATHEMATICS

Overall this was a good re-introduction into mathematics after a long hiatus. I was a bit annoyed that my Scottish Higher maths does not count for much when transferred to the OU meaning I had to take a mathematics course. Funnily enough though MU123 translated to a Standard Grade maths which sits below a Higher...go figure.

The course covered many topics which are essential for someone studying a computing science such as algebra and linear/quadratic equations.

Hands down the best part of this course is the lack of exams, in reality you would not be required to memorise these mathematical concepts, just be aware of their existence and how to use them if required.


YEAR 2

TT284 - WEB TECHNOLOGIES

Web technologies focused on some of the main concepts that the web runs on, from protocols, security, html and CSS. It also heavily involved programming in PHP and SQL. The module was graded via continuous assessment and requires me to complete a number of basic web applications revolving around the technologies covered in that section.

Mostly I really enjoyed this module as it gave me the opportunity to use my pre-existing skills in CSS to create some nice looking applications, improving on the assessment templates, (even if this was not included in the marking scheme).

One large problem with the teaching of this course is that I found the way in which they thought PHP rather..all over the place. Having previously completed a Udemy course focused on building a basic CMS in PHP, I was used to creating modular, neat, class based code. The code created for the course felt bodged together as if written with no clear guidelines as to what it was supposed to be doing, it was messy and I could understand why so many people new to the subject were struggling in the forums.

My inner pedant wanted to rewrite the code to use classes and class methods, however this would have been marked down as it did not follow the module standard.

The module also touched on important topics such as accessibility and project management.

Overall I felt this module is worthwhile, although a bit more freedom to be able to complete the assessments using more modern technologies would have been appreciated.

M250 - OBJECT ORIENTED JAVA PROGRAMMING

As the title suggests, this modules focuses on teaching the core concepts of object oriented programming. The course is taught using the Java language and uses an IDE built for education called BlueJ. M250 teaches the principles of OOP in a very clear manner, using a single scenario (that of Frogs and Amphibians) to explain polymorphism and inheritance.

Firstly I would say that M250 is a very good introduction into OOP, it covers all of the main concepts which are transferrable to other languages. It is a pity however that they did not choose a language such as C++ as the basis for this course.

My reasoning for this is the main feature that made Java popular (the ability to run cross platform) has been diminished by the introduction of web based applications leaving Java feeling old and unwieldy. Further to that any software studio creating industrial grade applications for big numbers or graphics will be using some derivative of the C family.

The IDE of choice 'BlueJ' is very basic and does not give a true impression of what it is like to program in a development environment. M256 has far less programming content but uses NetBeans, which is much more like a professional environment.

I conclusion, this course has so far been the most valuable from my perspective, other than never wanting to hear about another damn frog by the end.

M256 - SOFTWARE DEVELOPMENT WITH JAVA

M256 concentrated primarily on software development principles rather than actual programming. It guided you through the process of designing a software system from the requirements document to implementation.

This module was interesting, if not incredibly wordy and convoluted. Although I enjoyed the module I do think that it could have been half the size that it actually was if they cut out the waffle and repeated information.

Another issue is that the module focused on an out of date development process, where most modern teams use a variation of an Agile system, M256 was very much set in the Waterfall model meaning the content may not be fully relatable to a modern workplace.

It was however a fine example of a systematic and pragmatic approach to design and class choices which I believe will be helpful even if the process is outdated.


There we have it, although it seems that I have been pretty negative so far, I am optimistic that the level three modules that I am about to undertake will be a lot more relevant to my interests.

No matter how much I have been enjoying the modules I have been putting 100% into doing the best I can. I am committed to completing the degree and am pushing for a first.

Here are my scores so far (excluding M256 exam which was taken last week):

NB. MU123 was Pass/Fail.

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