Completing BSc (Honours) Computing and IT

With ten years remaining in my contract and the government’s intentions unclear, I’ve decided to get my finger out and focus on completing the BSc (Honours) Computing and IT (B62). It can use 120 points from four completed modules – M150T175MST121 and M255 as well as 30 points from MS221, which I have already started.

At level two I’m taking two courses on top of MS221 which I intend to study concurrently, so as to be half way through by the end of next year:

  • T215 – Communication and information technologies (60)
  • MT264 – Designing applications with Visual Basic (30)

Leaving 120 points at level 3:

  • M359 – Relational databases: theory and practice (30)
  • M364 – Fundamentals of interaction design (30)
  • M366 – Natural and artificial intelligence (30)
  • TM470 – The computing and IT project (30)

TU100 Café

I’ve submitted T175‘s EMA and I don’t mind saying its a relief. Although not a difficult module, the OU changed the Computing degree structure introducing TU100, replacing T175 and M150 (which I did several years ago). Along with MST121 I had thought that I had my level one courses out of the way but with the changes, I needed to take T175.

This course used Moodle forums rather than FirstClass. This seems to have been a lot more accessible to new students and the Café in particular has proved popular. The Open University have kindly asked me to be one of the moderators in the Café on TU100. It came as quite a surprise – I hope I make a good job of it!

Calculators

I’ve just started a maths course (MS221 with The Open University). I completed MST121 with a cheap Casio FX991 calculator (it cost about £15).

The time has come to buy something a bit more, well grown up. I’ve been looking at offerings from TI and HP. I’m kind of leaning towards an HP 50g. I can’t make up my mind so I thought I’d throw it out there and see what people recommend. The course says any calculator is allowed provided it doesn’t need plugged into the mains, doesn’t have a QWERTY (or local equivalent) keyboard and can’t communicate with other calculators.

Ideally it should be able to connect with Ubuntu – the HP has an SD card but I don’t know about TI.

 

Study

When I was younger, I couldn’t have cared less about education. I didn’t like school and accordingly education could whistle.

As I got into my late teens, I discovered that if a subject interested me I could study it and study it to a greater depth than was required to pass exams. I enjoyed university, working alongside others with similar interests and broadening my knowledge.

Now in my thirties, I have been studying for a degree in a named subject and have lost sight of the pleasure of learning. I’m not interested in every aspect of the current degree I am studying (B49). In particular, I have found a great deal of the Java development a pointless chore. Don’t get me wrong – I have nothing against Java. It just seems to have been a lot of learning with no tangible results, I mean I haven’t really developed anything.

I’ve been looking over the Open University’s prospectus for 2010. I think I might want to try something I’m interested in – so am considering a Certificate in Legal Studies or a Certificate in French. Then again, Mandarin Chinese might be interesting.

Is it a good idea to step out of an ascribed program at this stage though? Who knows and who cares. Learning should be fun.

Exploring Psychology

The course material for DSE 212 just arrived. Once I’d got over the weight of the package, I opened it to discover that it consists of a number of large text books, a couple of DVD, CDs, software and the usual assorted paraphernalia – part threes, course updates and errata. Looking over the course material, it seems well structured and nicely presented. The study calendar would suggest that this is going to be intensive, with the first TMA due on the 11th November.

If you’re still reading – you might wonder what this has to do with Ubuntu. Well it comes down to the course software – a large part of the course is centred around the data mining software SPSS. Now of course you might well suggest free alternatives such as R or PSPP, indeed PSPP is intended as a replacement and is very similar. It’s not the same however and the big difference is that the course material is geared to step by step work in SPSS version 14.

The version is important, from what I can ascertain – SPSS version 17 is available for Linux. IBM has acquired the company so this may well continue. That said, version 14 is what has been supplied. This is not uncommon with the OU – MST121 for example uses Mathcad 2000.

Now, how about running in Wine you might say – the software has a little license validation applet that doesn’t seem to agree with Wine but I might be doing it wrong. However, for many studying is already expensive – why should it also involve complicating installation?

It has been suggested the Open University is not at all open to open source software. I don’t know if this is a policy or not but I do know that the Windows based software they supply is outdated. I can understand that this is probably for the same reason that Linux is not supported – that it would mean making substantial changes to the course material.

Course tutors I have spoken to have been extremely favourable to the idea of packaging software for Ubuntu and distributing it with course material. There are issues here, licensing and maintaining spring to mind – no to mention support. There is no way the OU Computing Helpdesk are going to support Ubuntu so that leaves the community.

Where does one draw the line between the desire to use open source software and the ease of using a provided solution? Am I putting myself at a disadvantage to my peers? Although I am confident with statistics, I’m effectively learning two systems as the course teaches one and I apply it to another system. Even if this entails five minutes an assessment, it’s five minutes that Windows users are excused. Moreover I’ve paid for it through course fees, can I get that refunded?

What surprises me is that the OU is about accessibility – anyone can study with them, except it would seem those who choose not to use Windows. Shouldn’t the Open University be Open?