New Year, New Me?

Hello 2013, you snuck up on me a bit there. 2012 has been a bit of a busy year and has ended rather earlier than I thought. Still, here we are in a brand new year.

I had loads going on in 2012, although my (irregular, rare) readers wouldn’t know it due to the paucity of blog entries in the latter half of the year. I have been a rubbish blogger over the last six months and I would like to write a lot more in 2013. We shall see.

Last year saw me complete two Open University modules: M257 and T306. I struggled with M257 (due to both lack of time and interest) but did achieve a grade 4 pass, while I enjoyed T306 rather more due to the nature of the materials. I have found systems thinking to be an immensely useful too for all sorts of situations and I was fully engaged with the course over its nine months run, when I did well enough in the exam to get a grade 2 pass. This means that I am well on the way to getting a 2:1 BSc (hons) in Computing and Systems Practice once I’ve finished the final four modules over the next two years.

I have less than two years left of OU study! Hurrah! Also: shame! I’m enjoying this experience immensely, but it’s taking up too much of my spare time and I have other things I’d like to do, like spend time with my wife and daughter.

2013 brings two modules, both Java-based: M362 and M256. Netbeans is going to be getting a battering this year for sure. I struggled a bit with concurrency in M257, so M362 will need a bit of extra work, and the exams in these programming modules are hard. I should probably book a week or so off prior to my exams for some intense revision because I really want to do well in these modules, if only to improve the latent developer in me.

I will do better this year, I will. I was repeatedly behind with my OU work in 2012, I must not let that happen this year. I won’t. I must get more organised. Yes.

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Too much study, not enough time

I never went to university after my A-levels, unlike most of my friends, so I have no idea how much stress is involved with doing a proper degree. However, I can say from experience that doing a part-time degree with the Open University can be an immensely stressful experience.

I’m finding it a bit tough at the moment. I’m having to overlap modules due to the OU making the decision to withdraw my named degree at the end of 2014, and this is leading to intense crowding of assignments. I’m managing to get through my work, but I’ve had to ask for several extensions this year and I’m having to cut back on other things in order to make time for family.

I have just finished M257 but I hardly concentrated on it at all. I was hoping to get to grips with Java in a proper sense but T306 is my priority module this year and something had to give. I will be lucky to get a grade two pass, but my time is limited and it got just enough time for me to pass it. The exam was difficult but I’m fairly sure that I did enough to get over 55% and a grade 3 pass, but I would have loved to have done better.

I have a full time job and a family that I like to spend time with. Doing this is hard. I don’t go to band as often as I’d like, my evenings are often spent studying and I don’t spend as much time with my wife as I should. It’s tough, but enjoyable. I do enjoy the study and I’m doing this  degree to give me the kick up the arse I need to get on with my career. I should have done this years ago, but here I am in my 40s making life difficult for myself.

I have something to aim for, something to achieve. I want to do well and I’m finding it difficult, but I’m not going to give up now. I will pass and I will learn something useful along the way. The Systems Thinking material is life-changing stuff and the technical modules may give me sufficient programming chops to hop into a slightly different career path. We shall see. I do know that despite the stress and the sacrifices that I am finding this whole thing rewarding and worthwhile. It is worth it.

I know I don’t say this to Jo enough, but the support she gives me during my studies is very, very much appreciated. I’m sorry it cuts into our time but it’ll all be worth it in the long run. Love you very much!

T306 Block 2: TMA02

I’m not entirely sure how I managed it but I actually submitted TMA02 on time. Well, it was 9 minutes past the official entry time but within the 12 hours leeway they give us, so I’m called that “on time”.

I was over two weeks late submitting TMA01 and only managed to get this one in due to having some time off work. We were going away but decided to save money and shelter from the appalling weather forecast. Instead of enjoying an icecream or fish and chips in Whitby harbour we ended up putting Ruby into nursery while I worked on my T306 assignment. Not the kind of week off I was thinking about.

Anyway, it is done now, even if I only completed one activity and worked through the TMA after a cursory read through the module notes. Not ideal, however I was fairly happy that I covered enough of the material to get a reasonable mark, and even if I didn’t do that well I did get some good, useful feedback from TMA01 so I’m sure that my tutor will do the same for this one.

TMA03 could be problematic too. I have two assignments to hand in next month; one for M257 (Putting Java to work) and my T306 assignment a week later. Doing two modules at once sucks, especially as I’m also working full time. There are people doing three modules at once and I have no idea how they do it!

Anyway, back to my M257 work. I’m running late on this one (surprise surprise). Real life will resume in 2015.

T306: I have some SERIOUS catching up to do

Well, haven’t I been a bit lax on my T306 block work? This should be evident from the lack of updates in my learning album. Unfortunately M257 took over, real life has had a habit of consistently getting in the way, it’s the brass band contest season and I have had a small dose of some mildly debilitating disease.

I don’t know how I’m going to fit it all in but here we go. Back to the activities

Blimey. It’s been a while

This place has been a bit of a blogging wasteland for the last few months. I’ve been a little busy with real life, and once my last OU module finished I just couldn’t be bothered spending much time updating my blog.

So, what have I been doing with all this free time? Well, I have a wife and a daughter and I’ve been enjoying their company a little bit more than they’re used to. That’s good, right? Work has kept me occupied during the day and band is often busy around Christmas. We’ve also been on a most excellent holiday to Oregon (visiting friends) and Toronto (staying with my sister and her family) and that took up a month of my blogging hiatus.

In years gone by I would have regularly updated my blog with exciting photos and descriptions of my exploits. These days I’d rather just enjoy my holiday and spend time with my family.

I started a new OU module back in October – M257 Putting Java To Work – which involves me writing some code in Netbeans and getting very confused about syntax. I have not paid it enough attention so far and I really need to get my arse into gear before submitting my next assignment in March.

I am also starting another OU module next month – T306 Managing Complexity: a Systems Approach. This is the final presentation of this course and it’s the last of two systems practice modules that are the core of my chosen OU degree. There is an enormous amount of work involved in this and it’s going to have to take priority over my Java course. My next nine months are going to be very busy.

I shall be using my blog for my “learning album” for T306. This may make even more tedious than previously, but it does afford me the opportunity to categorise and tag my entries for easy retrieval, plus some of my T306 cohorts may come along and join in the discussion. I do hope to update with some none-OU stuff every now and again but I’m having to restrict my Internet time to study purposes these days, primarily, and I don’t have anything like as much time for faffing about. This grieves me greatly, but is probably good for me.

In other news, I still haven’t read the book about procrastination I got from my sister for my birthday in June. Sorry Sis.

I got a Grade 2 pass (2:1 equivalent) for T214. I can’t tell you how chuffing chuffed I was to get that! I even managed to somehow achieve 88% in the end of module assignment, something I am immensely proud of. My overall mark was affected by some poor performance in Block 2; if I hadn’t messed those two assignments up I may have been able to get a distinction, but my brain failed to absorb enough of the course materials and I did not do well for a month or so. No excuses, it was my own fault for not applying myself well enough. T214 was a hugely enjoyable course on the whole, but very hard for the most part and the hardest academic exercise I have ever taken. T306 takes similar subject material up to the next level, but I’m determined not to suffer the same lull in concentration.

We are all fine here. Life is good. I have an amazing family, and despite the enormous amount of study I have lined up I am looking forward to 2012. Hope everyone else out there in Internetland is well.