M255 Open University

M255: done

Yesterday I spent three highly-stressed hours in a room full of strangers taking an exam. This was the final exam for my M255 Object-oriented programming with Java module through the Open University and I found it quite a test.

The few days prior to the exam have seen me more stressed than I’ve been in years. The module content would be considered easy for people familiar with coding principles, but for those of us without much experience in programming there’s an awful lot to learn. I’m glad I’d done some Javascript in one of my previous modules so that I’d already used code with arrays and various types of iteration.

Sinclair basic it ain’t.

Still, I’ve enjoyed the course and I would recommend it to anyone wanting to take a stab at object-oriented programming. It uses Java with an IDE called BlueJ (not sure why they didn’t use Eclipse or Netbeans) and don’t expect to get too deep into Java, but it does cover a lot of ground – from simple inheritance principles to using Java IO (Streams, scanners etc). Lots to take in.

I’d managed to average 92% over the four assignments – something I’m rather proud of – and I’d done this while working on another module at the same time (T214 – Understanding Systems: Making Sense of Complexity). However, I’d only been able to give a somewhat superficial attention to the course materials due to lack of time. I’d achieved the good marks  by working from the course books and relying on the examples there.

The exam was a different matter entirely.

40% of the exam is your standard vote for Joe – 20 questions on various aspects of the course material. These questions were tough, but as I’d spent all my spare time in the three days leading up to the same cramming as much information into my brain as possible, I found these to be OK. Five of the twenty questions were a bit iffy but I was confident in the other fifteen.

The other 60%, on the other hand, required me to write some code. On paper. With a pen. No computer, no IDE, no course books; just me, my brain, a biro and Java reference guide provided by the OU. No way of checking your syntax or cutting and pasting around code – I had to write it all down into an answer book. This was the bit I was stressed about.

In the end I didn’t get to all the answers. I probably didn’t get to about 15% of the marks, so there goes any sort of decent mark for the course. Insanely, the OU takes the lowest of the two marks between the assignments and the exam as your final result. If I get 41% in the exam then that’s a pass, but a very poor pass. Doesn’t seem fair to me.

I’m not the most industrious person in the world but I’ve put a lot of effort into this module. I’m only overlapping modules because the OU has decided to withdraw my named degree by the end of 2014. They’re withdrawing all the Systems Practice degrees from 2014, so I don’t even have an alternative to aim for. I’m having to stack up these modules in order to fit it all in, and this is giving me less time to get study done. I’ve essentially been doing 75% of a full time degree course for the last five months, at the same time as working full time and being a parent to a lively 21 month-old.

I shall be writing them a snotty email. It’s a real shame, because I’m enjoying the modules and the OU have otherwise given me great support. The course materials are great and the content generally interesting, but I just don’t have enough hours in the day to study it all, and this will affect my overall marks.

I’m going to be really busy all the way up to October 2014. Shit.

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