Archive for the ‘Computing’ Category

The first web applications (TT280) CMA is back

Of the 481 students on this run of the course, all but 2 passed it with 83% getting 85% or above.

Somehow I suspect the figures for the next CMA will be rather different as it required a good deal more thinking about in comparison to the relatively easy CMA1.

As is customary with the TT CMAs, one of the questions was cancelled. There’s no official reason for that but I suspect that it’s down to the rather iffy statement in the book that smaller web designers most commonly use hierarchical structure for their sites. Whilst that may well be the “answer according to Sklar”, I’m not convinced that it’s the correct answer.

I submitted my answers for CMA2 this morning so next up is completion of SK185 before I get on to the first TMA for A251.

Copyright © 2004-2014 by Foreign Perspectives. All rights reserved.

A slightly more tricky second CMA for the web applications course (TT280)

The first CMA of the course hardly required any thought at all but this one makes up for it.

Not in a big way mind you as I’ve around 1/3rd of the questions completed at the first run through. The remainder will require a bit more thinking about although there’s scope for a fair amount of short-cutting of that thinking.

There’s a couple of questions on weird tables where you’ve to work out which of the sets of HTML will produce the illustrated table. Frankly, some of them are enough to put you off using tables for layout for life. The code required for the nice simple tables that I would use is complicated enough (I used to fire up FrontPage Express to create the code for me) with one stray <tr> or <td> being quite enough to totally mess up the layout: the ones in some of the questions is something else altogether.

Short-cut wise, it looks like pasting the code in the questions into a file and seeing what Firefox makes of it is the way to go. Sounds a bit like cheating in a way but then this is very much a practical course so it seems the only sensible thing to do.

I’m toying with making a proper start on the ECA this week with a view to spacing out the work over the next six weeks or so. I definitely don’t want to be racing through the report so spacing that out over the remainder of the course seems sensible.

Copyright © 2004-2014 by Foreign Perspectives. All rights reserved.

The web applications (TT280) ECA

I left this course to the one side for a couple of weeks whilst revising for the astronomy exam so it was Saturday before I found that I’d my expected two weeks worth of work to be done (which took a couple of hours) and that the ECA had arrived the day before.

In terms of marking it’s 60% for the two reports (1000 words for the client, 2000 words for the design team), 30% for the four web pages and 10% for the overall structure and presentation. Sounds like quite a lot of writing at this point although a quick glance at the ECA shows that there are quite a lot of sections to both reports which always makes for easier writing. To a large degree those sections are even stated in the ECA. With six sections listed for the client report, 1000 words doesn’t sound much, the five sections for the colleagues report doesn’t sound like enough for 2000 words.

Arriving at some stage today is the second CMA for the course which I hope to complete sometime this week along with the SK185 ECA. The last one took under an hour so hopefully this one won’t be a major undertaking either.

I’m at week 6 of the course material (a couple of weeks ahead of the official schedule) which means CSS. That chapter of the book is heavier going not because it’s difficult but rather because it’s going through every keyword of CSS which makes for quite a boring read. Still, only 10 pages to go and that’ll be completed. I’ve picked up a couple of things from it which would have been handy to know a few years back when I was writing the Inns sites though mostly it’s been revision for me, hence rapid pace through the reading (boy was the tables chapter tedious!). There’s a longer than usual course guide for this week which I’ll be reading during the week (thus far they’ve basically said “read chapter X of the course text and do these hands-on assignments”).

As far as the hands-on assignments go, thus far I’ve been able to skim through them fairly quickly but if you were using this as a course to learn HTML and CSS you’d be looking at a fairly serious time commitment which is something that I must bear in mind for later courses in the certificate as I’ll be running some of those alongside a logjam of other courses now and again.

On other fronts, reading on A251 is progressing quite quickly now as it’s on to concrete developments in the agriculture of south-west asia (where it was invented) so it looks like the 30 or so pages a week of reading won’t be the chore that it looked initially. The course doesn’t officially start ’til November 6th by which time it looks like I’ll be three weeks ahead and so be starting into the first TMA. I’ve had confirmation that the course text is available as PDF from the end of this week but it looks like it might be an image scan rather than a proper resizeable PDF so I’m not sure how that’ll work on the reader.

Copyright © 2004-2014 by Foreign Perspectives. All rights reserved.

Too many forum users for a change

In a typical tutor group forum out of a possible 25-30 users you’re lucky if you get four or five people participating and even then that participation is generally limited to an introductory comment at the start of the course and perhaps one or two replies later on.

Thus in my current astronomy course there are 60 forum comments of which 46 are from the tutor, seven from me and one from each of six other people. In fact, nobody replied to anyone else’s comment over the eight months of the course. Although we’re down to around 15 students now that should still be enough to get some responses.

However, TT280 is at the other extreme. For that the “tutor group” encompasses the entire course (several hundred people I think) which is far too many to keep track of. For instance, the week one seminar which only opened yesterday now has getting on for 200 messages on it. Somehow I doubt that many people have read them all or have any intention of trying to.

Where there does, so far, seem to be a happy medium is in the fast track forum which has only 13 messages on it so far. It’s the one aimed at people who are running up to three weeks ahead of the course timetable. I had sort-of expected that there would be more people participating in that but it would appear that it’s something like 50-ish out of the 1000-ish people on the course (taking the seemingly typical 20% forum participation rate as a guideline) or around 5% of the student cohort.

Already there’s a sign that some people are going to miss the wood for the trees in a big way. For instance, on the accessibility thread everyone is trying to find reasons why you should bother making websites accessible to (mainly) the blind and has totally missed what is by far the most important commercial reason which is that search engines are effectively blind. Thus, if you run up a site entirely in flash (which is surprisingly commonly done), then it’s basically invisible to google et al. From the other end, the tutors are trumpeting the OU rule that assignments can’t be distributed or published in any form yet 1) Nick Athanasiou, one of the students on the Advanced Creative Writing course has had the play written for his assignment performed (and this is even mentioned by the OU) and 2) the main reason for not publishing was related to the potential for plagiarism by future students which can’t happen for TT280 as this is the final run of the course.

Normally I’d be working on TT280 at this point but thanks to the drip-feeding of material I’m as far ahead as I can really go. Well, aside from the first computer marked assignment but I can’t submit that for another week or two anyway so I’ll finish it off during the week.

Copyright © 2004-2014 by Foreign Perspectives. All rights reserved.

Misleading course reviews

Since the Open University basically sells its wares online, obviously a lot of effort goes into making sure course descriptions are as accurate and complete as possible.

Thus, not only do you get a description of what the course teaches but you get sections on the entry requirement (ie what experience/knowledge you need in advance), the qualifications that the course can be included in, any issues that could arise if you’re disabled, what course materials you get, how the teaching and assessment work and other courses that those taking this course took. As well as this there are often links to course tasters and reviews of the course by previous students. In short, a whole lot of information about the course.

The problem is that the course reviews for some courses are very misleading. It’s not that they’re intentionally so but that they are, understandably, written with the background of the reviewer in mind. Thus, for example, Exploring English (U211) comes across as a very difficult course that will take much more than the recommended 16 hours a week to complete. Yet, I actually completed the course in around 3 hours per week. How come? Well, the majority of people doing that course come from an English literature background and it’s a language course. I came from a foreign languages background and thus had come across the majority of the concepts before so making the work rather easy.

In a similar vein, Web Applications (TT280) which I’m doing at the moment has received a string of really bad reviews yet when you read blogs about it, they seem to be talking about a completely different course. Part of that is down to changes that have been made in the course over the years but a larger part is down to this being an almost entirely online course. Now you might think that those doing a web apps course would be more likely than normal students to expect to be reading things from a computer screen but many of the complaints are from people who couldn’t and gave off at having to print off mountains of paper. Similarly, you whilst you’d want such a course to be quite up to date, other complaints are that parts were being written as the course was being run which is obviously as up to date as you’re likely to get. Still more complained about the extremely high workload yet I’m three weeks ahead in less than one week and haven’t been knocking myself out doing that either. Very much a love it or loathe it course I think.

What’s really needed is a short background to the people making these comments though I guess that would be problematical with data protection these days. It’s, of course, why the most useful comments are from bloggers where you can usually get a flavour of their background.

Copyright © 2004-2014 by Foreign Perspectives. All rights reserved.