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Thoughts on Web Technologies (TT284)

TT284 Web Technologies is a level two Open University module now in its second year of presentation and compulsory on the solutions development pathway of BSc (Hons) Computing and IT (B62). From the module description:

This course will give you an insight into architectures, protocols, standards, languages, tools and techniques; an understanding of approaches to more dynamic and mobile content; and demonstrate how you can analyse requirements, plan, design, implement and test a range of web applications.

Generally the module logically approaches the process of developing a single unified web application. Split into four blocks, we start with website structure, accessibility, white space and mark up. M150, T175 or TU100 provide more than adequate preparation – indeed this is true for the bulk of the second block where we look at JavaScript client side and PHP server side with MySQL for data storage.

Next we tailor web content for mobile devices, building an Android application and integrating it with our work from the first two blocks. The module team opted to use AppInventor – which is understandable as this is essentially the same development environment as Sense (based on MIT Scratch) used in TU100. Finally we look at availability, life cycle, risk, version control, testing and security.

Course materials are all presented on-line. I can see advantages in this: errata issue, access from multiple platforms; the ability to integrate media and to be able to link to resources. There is also likely to be a cost saving over producing, maintaining and distributing physical materials too, not to mention an reduced environmental impact (when I did M255 the entire course material was re-issued because of a misprint). That said going by the forums there appears to be a dislike of not having a printed module text and I can’t help but wonder if students have a point – clearly you could print the material but the format doesn’t lend itself to that. Which leads to me to a criticism – PDF produced were poor, offering little over the web site. Hopefully this will improve as the University gets to grips with eBook formats – M269 provides epub and mobi formats for example.

Assessment was consistent throughout the module – a mixture of practical application and discussion. It helps that there is a consistent theme that culminates in the end of module assessment project.

The module description states it is an insight and the certainly never strays from this. Little is covered in depth and the assessments require considerable research, although the module staff are quick to point out that everything required for assessment is presented – as one response states “All the code required to complete the module is given in the materials.“. I’ve been fortunate and walked away with a distinction on this module and in hindsight it was more worthwhile than I realised while completing it.