Wednesday 25 December 2013

Merry Christmas blogpeeps!!

Lock up the chocolate and prepare for Doctor Who, it's Christmas!!!

I got some lovely notebooks for Christmas, one of which I intend to use for the next course, as it's too nice not to start using in a hurry!

I can see me starting on the new course materials very shortly after the holidays, if only for the sake of using the book!!

Have a great time, see you on the other side!!!!

Wednesday 18 December 2013

A sneaky peak...

Despite the fact that the course materials are never due for despatch till January, they invariably land just prior to Christmas, a little mini-present of sorts.

Which brings the same dilemma as the early present, do I open and start looking now or do I wait until the course is due to begin.

Me, I'm a peeker!  Loving the looks of the new course, will now have to try and prevent the rare scenario of using course materials for procrastinating when it comes to pre-Christmas chores.  I so want to dive in but I know that if I do, all the things that I promised myself I would tackle or achieve in 'downtime' will not happen.

The washing basket does actually need to be tackled, I like to hit the bottom before Christmas Day so that I can have a work free, guilt free Xmas and Boxing day.

Wednesday 4 December 2013

Confessions of a Resting Student

Sometimes I wonder if the long awaited break between courses is actually a good thing.

There, I said it, not just in my diary but on my blog for the whole world to see, if it were ever so inclined.

I am thoroughly enjoying the time off away from study, and therein lies the proverbial rub. (Where did that come from?).  A bit like exercise, studying is indeed the exercise of the brain, and in the way of exercise and fitness, it's much easier to keep doing it while you're doing it. Stopping makes starting very difficult for a while.... Many an OU student might tell of the early-course procrastination period.

So don't get me wrong, loving the break but will be almost glad when, 2 weeks after the course starts, I have caught up after procrastinating again.  And then keep on doing it to myself till the journey's end.

A long awaited day...

Yippee! Results are out and I passed, not just passed but with Grade 2!

The elusive distinction remains just so, but given the big leap in mental requirements that was needed for Level 3, anything that says pass would bring me joy.

(Mental requirements=I needed to be slightly more mad to take on each new level of part time study craziness).

Bring it on M364, I think I am ready for you!
(After another couple of resting months more though!)

Are we there yet?

No not an interminably long journey with a toddler, but an unexpectedly longer wait for results! Due out by the 29 November, we had to wait till 3 December! Only a few days of real time but, oh the machination of the stressed student mind when no real reason is given for the delay, have the papers been lost, will they make us do it all again long after we have forgotten most of it?

Thursday 17 October 2013

The other side...and the bit in between

Well, I survived the exam anyhow.  Whilst I wouldn't say it was good, I will say that it could have been worse.  And so I am now happily indulging the need to quilt, and the need to simply stop for a while.

In fact, some days I just can't figure out which of the many things that I want to do will be first, so I end up doing none of them.

I'm genuinely looking forward to the next course, but I am exceedingly glad for this period of downtime, where my own time is simply that - my own, to do or not with as I will.

Results are not due till Nov 29 so a bit of a nervous wait, but I do feel hopeful for a positive result - as ever anything over 40 will do but I live in hopes for the elusive distinction.

Tuesday 24 September 2013

Progress... of a sort

Having made a decision on 'next course choice' a while back, I thought that today was the time to finally bite the bullet and get it happening for real.

So the automated button is pushed, and registration for M364 has begun.  Monumental in a way - once I have studied (and of course passed) that course, only the mandatory Level 1 will stand in my way before I can graduate.  At which point I COULD choose to walk away with a basic degree and my head held high.  I probably wouldn't do it, just for pride's (and career potential's) sake.  But I think just knowing that I could will make the rest of the journey a little easier.

Probably won't get back to the blog before the exam now, unless severely bad procrastination sets in.

(I hasten to add that my study time was over for the night before I started writing these posts. Roni - student guilt even over blogging, dammit!!)

So here's to coming out the other side (relatively) unscathed.   And to the prospect of some well earned winter downtime.

When the basket fights back..more PMA please?

Feeling a little out of sorts with it all at the minute.

I can't seem to summon up the enthusiasm and drive that I need for the amount of revision that I think I still need to cram into the 12 days that are left till the exam.  Eeek - T-12 and counting.

Worse still, I'm not even using the washing basket as a procrastination tool - the darn thing is overflowing due to wet but warm weather that doesn't allow sufficient use of the central heating to allow indoor drying at pace, but neither does it allow the summer luxury of hanging it all outside to dry.  Add to that a child back at school and wearing uniform faster than I can wash it, an interesting new job to take up my brain cells, and yes, a still-ongoing obsession with quilts which makes patchwork the ONLY thing I actually want to do.  And all that makes for one frustrated washer-lady/student.

(Cos I am getting to do none of the stuff I want to do, little of the housework stuff I need to do, and not enough hours in the day left to cram everything I need to know into my over-stuffed head).

I'm experimenting with different forms of revision in addition to my usual stuff - with mixed results.  I was liking the idea of mind mapping, getting the important parts of a unit down on a page.  Till I realised that I was limited in the amount of maps I could create with the free software package I had chosen, and unwilling to pay for the subscriber option, I took the huff and decided to try another tack.

Thankfully a helpful OU colleague created a set of flashcards in a software package called Brainscape (  This has given me a new place to test the basics of my learning and hopefully keep in mind that "All I need to pass is 40%".

Here's hoping that will keep the panic to a minimum.

Sunday 1 September 2013

A different ball game...aka the art of revision

A load of balls??

Well, the final TMA is done, the results are back, and it's definitely time to progress to the next stage - revision!

The question of revision is a difficult one - when to start, how much is enough, how to do it, when to do it?

Now some organised folks will start their revision right along with their normal learning.  Others the very second the last TMA is submitted.  Not saying that any of that is the wrong way to do things.  But for me, it would not be close enough to the exam to retain sufficient information.  So I have devised a system, over the last couple of courses, that appears to have worked reasonably for me so far.

Following the last TMA of a course, I know immediately that the last thing I wish to do is go anywhere near a computer.  And for once in my study life, I indulge that without student guilt setting in.  I allow myself a good 2 weeks break between the end of the TMA and the start of exam revision.  This usually also allows for TMA results to come back, which cements in my head any weak areas that I can arrange to spend extra time on.

And then I plan the day that I will start.  But Day 1 of revision simply involves making a revision plan.  (see I know that I will be in procrastination mood, having had time off, so I don't expect anything more taxing of myself than the promise of a plan of what and when and how).

The revision plan itself involves working out everything else that will stop me from studying, and figuring out a way to get some learning into my head despite all that.  So for example, if I know I will be out at meetings on a night, then I plan to read a certain unit on the bus to work, or in my lunch break, or even in the afore-mentioned bath.  On the simple grounds that 'anything is better than nothing' when it comes to revision.

I will also download precisely two old past papers as well as the specimen exam for my course.  Why two?  That number simply allows me to look for trends of a kind, but between the 3 papers there is just enough not to send me over the edge into exam-panic, which can be counter-productive (literally), as I get nothing done once I feel like that (except for the washing and ironing!!).  These I will work on in small doses throughout the revision period, and on one final day close to the exam under simulated exam timings.

I also plan to take time off from revision, with at least two nights in a week where no study at all is required (although I still feel the guilt pangs at these times).

How much is enough?  Finally as the day itself dawns, I print out as much as I can to cover my weak spots, and read them on the train to the exam centre.  I've tried more general flashcards and broader revision at this time, but that just sends the brain into panic mode too.  So enough is enough.

Throughout the process I remind myself of two things:
(1)  This is still voluntary!!
(2)  All I need to pass is 40%.  Anything else is a bonus.

The knotty problems of revision

Touch wood, these strategies have worked so far.  So onward and upward, stop procrastinating at once and start making that revision plan!

Stunned and amazed - again!!

The magic wand....there must be one...!!

OK - dunno how it happened - but 89% again!!  Oh, and of the 'missing 11' - at least 4 were for a silly silly mistake where I ought to have read and re-read the question - argh!!

But realistically I can't cry over only losing 11 marks, so I will celebrate the other 89 quite happily.

Saturday 17 August 2013

The patchwork of my life

..hmm can you tell where my current obsessions are lying?

Currently in my 'other' life as a crafter, I am making not one but four patchwork quilts of one type or another.

Sewing the seeds of another quilty idea!!

But the word 'patchwork' suddenly and inexplicably threw me back, mentally speaking anyway, to an old post about work-life-study balance, and its differing interpretations.
So I have a mental image of a 3-coloured quilt, featuring something relating to work, something relating to life and something relating to study.  I don't see the colours clearly yet but just thought that I would share it with myself and the world in general.  Just to prove that there is indeed life outside the washing basket, and even outside of the study.

Maybe I'll make it one day to celebrate my graduation and all the journey has meant to me.

Friday 16 August 2013

Is it because I'm a student?

Or is it simply 'being a woman'?

What is she talking about this time?  Why, the 'ping' of the guilt-radar of course.

Is that a TMA I see on the horizon?

When is a bath not a bath?  When it's a study-bath of course.  Sometimes the reality of being a distance-learning student is that you have to find time from anywhere and everywhere you can in order to cram it all in.  Which leads to studying on the bus, in the bath, in your lunch-break, on the loo etc etc.

Which is all well and good, till you just want 'a bath'.  But up pings that radar - oh you are going in the bath, you could take in Unit 10 and learn while you are in there.  So, do you give in to the desire for just some 'me time' that doesn't include the OU in any way, and lie there feeling guilty the whole time, or do you give into the guilt and take the studies in the bath, and then lie there feeling badly done to because you didn't get what you wanted?  There are no right answers for this one, and on the odd occasion I have been known to do none of it because I couldn't do any of it without feeling guilty in some way (and yeah I think that just might be being a woman), so I take the huff and achieve nothing instead.

But mostly I've taken to bargaining with myself - 'Ok, if you do parts 4 and 5 then if you still want to quilt/bathe/garden/blog etc, then you can do it without the guilt'.  So far, it works not too badly, most of the time.

The only exception is the toilet - when you gotta go you gotta go, as they say.  But the only rule there is 'you gotta come back'.

The calm....before the storm?

OK - this is just weird!!

"What?", you say - well let me tell you 'what' - I have 4 days to go on the final TMA deadline, and only one day's worth of work left to do.  And I don't feel panicked about it!!

I'm going to blame (or thank) the homeopathy - been taking some stuff to help with 'women stuff' and stress - and by jingo, something must be working!!  Normally by this time of the course, the washing basket is empty, the personal projects are flying along and I am a nervous wreck!  But this time around, the washing basket is still empty (proof that TMA procrastination fairy is still around then), I've been working helter-skelter on a new patchwork quilt project (still some procrastination), but I'm still in possession of most of my marbles, I don't want to lie down in a darkened room and die quietly, and I have 4 days to go with 1 small part of a question to do.

Odd....all very very ...odd!!

(I just keep waiting for the punchline - like there must be something I have missed?  The calm almost always precedes the storm in my life - what's getting ready to happen or fall on my head?)

Thursday 1 August 2013

PMA for a TMA

OK, staying positively positive today - reached the end of Question 2 on TMA3 - halfway house!  19 days left to cram in 2 units worth of study and 2 questions - eeek!  But I can do it, I will do it, I have got this far already.  (On the plus side, Question 2 was a non-practical question, as much as I love the programming side, it was actually nice to just type out an answer and know that was it.  The problem with the programming questions is not actually the programming's writing it all up and copying and pasting a whole load of code into your solution file - using a different font for all the code parts!  I get more annoyed at my perceived inabilities in Word than I ever do at the 'challenges' posed by Java!!)

Not my shed...or a halfway house.....but I'm sure the spiders still love it!!
On to reading the next unit, and therefore time to decant to the bathroom (the quietest most private spot to study in the house, short of locking myself in the shed with the giant spiders).

Sometimes the end of a course gets a bit like that, it's cram in the studies for the bits you need to know for the assignment, then hope you can pick it all up again when it comes to revision time.  (More eek!)

Revision will be a post all of its own I reckon.  And will have to wait till the assignment is finished, my student-guilt radar is pinging at the thought even of typing this blog post.  (hmm cue another blog topic there me-thinks!!)

Saturday 20 July 2013

And the winner is....

....M364 Fundamentals of Interaction Design

I have finally weeded through the varied options available, read and re-read the reviews till I am blue and purple in the face, and made the all-important decision of "What next?".

The reviews were all positive, although there seems to be a high emphasis on essay-writing and remembering facts, I think the psychological aspects of the course (why is a good design a good design, what makes users read a website in a certain way etc) sound interesting.  In addition, I think the reading based course might actually allow a little more combination with personal hygiene (yes I study in the bath...) and thus do my sanity good. Some reviews have even suggested that it's easier than some other Level 3 courses.  (But that may well depend on perspective so I won't take that as a certainty in my case)

I believe that I may then go to the Level 1 compulsory course after that to finish off the 'main' part of my degree, leaving just two more Level 3 ones for the Honours part, having also had a little while for more of the new Level 3 courses to rear their heads and give me choices aplenty.

Friday 19 July 2013

Rebel without a cause

OK, the procrastination fairy was obviously just delayed in her arrival!  Along with the hot weather the post-assignment slump is trying to put me off my new-found enthusiasm, and is succeeding very well at the task.  It's hitting temperatures of 30-ish degrees out there, and so the computer room (which is normally an icebox for most of the year) has suddenly become a greenhouse, and me a tomato plant with insufficient water!

I've hit that point of chaos, where both the washing basket and the studies are getting the cold shoulder (OK hot shoulder this week!!), all I want to do is play on the PS3 or stitch patchwork or cross-stitch or knit (or generally find time for my many craft projects).

Trying to keep up with the studies in one way or another though, even if it's only by taking the course reading materials in the bath to cool down with.

Oh I can barely remember the good old days, when I could read a book or magazine in the bath, play games to my hearts content, and still have time left over for crafts.  Really looking forward to that break over winter, with no studies to do I might catch up on the washing and the crafts (whilst wishing the next course would hurry up and start, no doubt - such is the fickleness of the human mind).

Hoping I can shift this slump quickly, only 32 days to the next assignment.  Crikey!  And then it's down to revision for the exam in October.

Thursday 4 July 2013

Out with the old, in with the new..

Waiting for my lightbulb moment..

Somehow, my brain is stuck on the question of "What Next?" - feeling unsettled without particularly good reason at the moment.

I'm into the final 3rd of this course (M362), and whilst I am getting good (OK, great) results on the assignments, somehow I am feeling a massive lack of confidence towards the exam, due in October.

And I think that lack of confidence (how will I do in my first Level 3 exam?) is hindering the choice of next course.  Add that to the ever-changing goalposts that is the OU's syllabus, and my brain is battered.

(Hence the reasonably empty washing basket - I can cope with that without thought...).

A lot of courses are coming to an end in 2014 - so it will be my last chance to take a few of them.  We have M363, M364, M359, or M366, along with a couple of others that I like the sound of but that I should have preceded with appropriate Level 2 courses.  These are being replaced from October 2014, but we don't have sufficient details as to 'with what' to allow for the most accurate decision making in the next few months.

I've never felt as though I didn't know my next step in this OU journey, and I'm finding that lack of direction difficult at the minute.  And I don't think I can afford to wait to see if I pass this course first before signing up for the next one, as it would leave it too late for any financial assistance applications.

Will I have that lightbulb moment?  I sure hope so.

Sunday 30 June 2013

Stunned and Amazed!! Magic disappearing numbers

Well, I never!!

Stunned - having submitted my assignment a day over time (having been allowed an extension) only on Wednesday night, I was certainly not expecting an email dated Saturday telling me it was ready!

Amazed - somehow I must take all this stuff in more than I give myself the credit for - my result was an astounding (in my head anyway) 89%!!

I'd found myself a bit lost off in one particular question, and this was where I lost marks (funny isn't it, we see 89% but think OK where did I lose the other 11?)  Like they magically disappeared into the ether somewhere.

I'm always happy to find that I lose marks in the places I expect to lose them, it means I'm on track and know which areas are my weakness.  The trouble occurs when you lose marks somewhere that you thought made complete sense - there was a patch like that in the first assignment for this course, which I may have to revisit and take some tutor advice upon.

But all in all, hey, talking to Deborah the other day, regarding what mark would make me happy for it - well, it takes 40% to pass, I would have been moderately happy with that, anything over 60 would put a big grin on my face, anything over 70 I would fall off my chair!!  I didn't plan for 'anything over 80' in my head as I didn't think I would go there - let alone so close to 90!!  So I think ecstatic comes to mind!!

And the procrastination fairy has left the building, I had 2 full days off from studying, and returned to reading on Saturday and practical work today.  This is a record for me - normally I lose about 2 weeks in the 'I don't want to go anywhere near a computer' phase that seems to happen after a massive assignment period.  Somehow I just felt ready to get back to it and try to stay on track - one more assignment in August and then the exam in October.

And then the Level 3 course won't start till February 2014 (although the OU are tinkering with the course start dates again, so 2014 will be a year with no lull for me, the next one will begin in the October).

Really looking forward to some downtime this year I have to admit.  I have a box of crafts both un-finished and un-started to keep me busy and intend to do lots of them.

Saturday 8 June 2013

On the edge of the basket - part 2

The washing basket itself can sometimes be a great metaphor for where my life is at the present time, and also how balanced my study life is.  Let me explain...

When I am in a total funk and want to spend time on doing things I want to do, the washing basket fills to overflowing, the house is a mess, and my brain is in chaos, usually because I have hit the point of rebellion and am hoping 'the fairies' come in to sort out the house and leave me to play games/do crafts or anything else    that doesn't involve hard work.

Conversely, when I am procrastinating badly about imminent assignments or deadlines (which I am doing now), the washing basket and every other household chore suddenly become 'urgent', and the washing basket reaches that empty state which causes the wardrobes to overflow.

The 'edge of the basket', i.e. not overflowing, not empty, just below the top, suggests a state of work-life-study-balance.  Not a place I see very often, I must admit.  But somewhere I would deeply love to return to, as it suggests that I have found time to do things other than wash or study.

Right now though I need to stop the procrastination and see if I can make OU magic happen in my assignment.  See you on the other side!!

Sunday 2 June 2013

On the edge of the basket....aka work-life balance and what it actually means....part 1

This post suggested itself to me at the end of a Bank Holiday Monday that I'd enjoyed a lot.  Bizarrely though, so had my husband and son....which sounds peculiar I know but let me explain and it will maybe make the post itself become clearer.

On a Bank Holiday Monday (henceforth to be known as BHM cos I can't be bothered to keep spelling out the whole thing), my idea of a great day is one where I have done lots of separate things, not spent the whole day doing one particular hobby or activity, it usually involves a little housework (so I feel less guilty about spending lots of time doing other things) and may even involve a little bit of study (hence its relevance to the blog here).  For my hubby, a great BHM involves getting up late, spending lots of time on (whatever the game of the moment is), and generally reading a lot.  For my 6-year old it varies - at the moment he's currently obsessed with a Ratchet and Clank video game, so his ideal BHM would be spending as much time on that as possible.  Last BHM we all seemed to achieve just that.

Which got me thinking about 'work-life balance', and how it can mean vastly different things to each of us.

Now my idea of work-life balance (with its piles of study involved) probably sounds like hell to other people.  Conversely, I feel like I have wasted a day if all I do is spend it in front of the TV or a game, my best days are filled with activity.  For my best friend Deborah, a good 'work-life-balance' day probably involves catching just the right bus to waste as little time as possible in her long commute - although that same commute does make for a fantastic blog - check out for some good reading.  So I guess whatever feels most balanced to you is the right one for you.

My idea of work-life balance also involves a manageable level of housework..somewhere about the edge of the washing basket....but that's a tale for another post at another time.

Saturday 16 March 2013

What happens at the end?

Well this week I found out the answer - when you get to the bottom of the washing basket, you have too much clean ironed clothing to fit in your wardrobe!!  So you have to buy vacuum bags to shrink the wardrobe contents so it will actually fit!

But as this blog is mostly around my OU journey it also has me asking that question of myself regarding my studies and the 'next steps'.  Now that I can see the light at the end of the tunnel,  I kind of want to know what's on the other side of the hill.

Somehow I can't quite imagine The End (OU) being The End (learning).  For most of my life I have been learning in one way or another, it's become an addiction that will be very hard to give up.

Professionally (or developmentally) speaking, I plan to start looking into Open Source development opportunities first, just to give myself some 'real life' IT experience outside of my studies.  I think I would run that alongside the last couple of years of Level 3 study (the Honours Bit).

Personally speaking though - what to learn next?  I've always had a hankering for hang-gliding, or maybe a play-it-safe option of learning to make my own clothes.  Or both??

It's a few more years down the line yet, so I have a little time to think, but life, like the Washing Basket, has a habit of creeping back up on you when you least expect it, so it will no doubt be here before I have time to prepare enough.

Plodding on with M362, first assignment question complete, 3 more to go.

Thursday 7 March 2013

Who's afraid of the Big Bad Scaries?

2013:  M362 - Developing Concurrent Distributed Systems

Ok, now don't be too afraid - the washing basket has not only been replaced, it has multiplied!!  Trying to contain the chaos in each of the rooms caused by the washing awaiting 'processing', I've resorted to those 'pop-up' laundry baskets in the bedrooms.  And my dear old friend that sent me on this journey in the first place has been usurped, he was cracking round the edges and had to be replaced by a newer, shinier silver model with a working lid.

Yeah, yeah...but that's not the real Big Bad Scary stuff - that's the start of (drum roll........) Level.....3!!

With 210 points now under my belt, it's finally time to bite the bullet, jump in at the deep end with a resounding "splash" and begin my third year studies.

Somehow the reality of the possibility of an actual degree has only now started to dawn upon me.  Yes, I know that has been my aim for a while now, but it all seemed so far away before somehow.  Like 'growing up', that thing that will always happen 20 or so years from now.  Till all of a sudden you realise that you have a mortgage, a Mrs before your name, a 'my son' and 'my husband' to speak of.

After this course (somehow I always count from after my current course), there will only be another 2 courses required, another 60 points to go, until I can graduate with my BSc (Open).  Fair enough, another couple after that before I can add (Hons) to that title, but I've decided that I definitely want to accept the degree sooner rather than later, I think the very fact of getting to attend my own graduation ceremony will be inspiration to keep me going with the final 2 or 3 courses.

OK bring on the Scaries, I think I am almost ready now...

Stop, look and listen...

2012:  A179 - Start Listening to Music

Having spotted a music course in the technology stuff that I would have loved to study but hadn't the moolah to afford, I'd decided that my final 10 point 'break' would be this course.

Ha!! How wrong can one student get??  Far from being a nice easy couple of months between the end of Level 2 and the start of Level 3, this 'little' course was the hardest thing since the great Washing Basket Quest of 2004.  I did better on the assignments and final result than I dared to hope, so something must have made it in past the brain-fog, but I have a new-found admiration for any students of music out there.  This has been the only course in my entire OU career where I submitted the assignments not knowing whether I had done enough to pass, and where I had actually contemplated quitting the course before the final assignment if I had not done well on the first one.

What I didn't realise that was, to start properly 'listening' to music instead of simply hearing it, one needs a fair amount of quiet time.  Now I dunno how many people out there have 6 -year olds, but I can probably bet that quiet time is not a thing held in abundance by most parents.  I sat there one night trying to find the rhythm and metre in some bit of Mozart or another (Leopold not Wolfgang...didn't even know there was a Leopold till now), and our boy was literally 'mewing' in his bedroom next door.

Now, generally speaking, when the noise from next door gets too loud, I take the study books in the bath and drown out the noise with the sound of the water running, but with a course presented online and snippets of music requiring stop/restart constantly, studying in the bath was not an option.  So I had to resort to taking it to bed on the 'tablet' we had recently bought.

But hey-ho (or a nonny-nonny-no, or some such ditty), pass I did, and that brings us neatly up to date....and to the beginning of the Big Bad Scaries!!

Friday 15 February 2013

Double or Quits

2011:  M257 Putting Java to Work
2012:  M256 Software Development with Java

Having cemented in my head where I was going and what I was doing towards my degree, the OU decided to throw in a curveball, with an impending change to the curriculum and qualifications.

So I figured that somewhere along the way I needed to achieve 2 'big courses' in a single academic year in order to get the required number of points for my degree within the time limit.  The only problem was, this involved a period where the 2 courses overlapped for a few months.  Gulp!!

So - M257 and one fell swoop.

M257 (known in my head and thus on this blog as 'the practical one') introduced me to new ideas to fuzzle up my brain, namely Java Swing components (the layouts used in a user interface) and concurrency/threads (how to allow multiple things access to the same program simultaneously).

M256 was a whole different ball game..(the theory one).  This one dealt more with the software development phases, and producing object and class diagrams.  Eeek, this is all starting to feel very very real all of a sudden.  But too much theory and not enough practical to keep me properly entertained methinks.

Having had a change of job in March 2011 I have to admit I struggled through the 'double up period', I was in a day-job where I didn't need to think - so having to come home and start thinking was doubly hard.

Ironically, my old enemy the washing basket didn't seem so bad, it was something I could control in the midst of the chaos of 2 courses (and, lets be honest, a great tool when assignment procrastination periods hit double-time).

I often have a period of 'post assignment slump' for a couple of weeks, but didn't quite know how to deal with myself when post assignment slump hit 'pre-assignment angst' and then 'pre-exam angst' all at the same time.  Particularly with a car-crash 3 days before the exam.  I was pretty glad when the 2 were both over.

So I decided a change of scene was necessary for a few weeks for the next 10-point interlude...

Oh the Games People Play now....

2011:  T151 Digital Worlds: designing games, creating alternative realities

Wow!!  This has to have been my favourite 10 points so far.  I learned about what makes a game a good game, not just in the realm of computer games but in games in general.  And throughout the course we got to design different levels of game from the bottom up, dealing with how the sprites collide etc.

Simply playing with the GameMaker software ate up so much time!!

For my final assignment I made a maze game where a fireman would have to rescue people from a damaged building while being chased by flickering flame 'ghost' characters a-la Pacman.

I've learned more on other courses but I have to say this one sticks in my mind as the most FUN, and it did exactly what I had hoped for as a break from the intensity of the web courses before starting back to 'proper' (in my mind) 30 point programming work.

Washing basket?? What washing basket?

Thursday 14 February 2013

Where are the spiders?

2010:  TT280 Web Applications: design, development and management
2011:  TT281 The client side of application development

No spiders in the washing basket thankfully.

But as the course titles show, a foray into web application development.
These were interesting 10-pointers intended to build into a 'Certificate of Web Applications Development' along with a further course TT282.

However, they didn't feel like 10-pointer filler courses, they felt like 30-point courses crammed into too short a period of time.  Unlike the Frogs and Toads of old, I remember very little about what I actually learned on these two courses, because I did the learning to pass the assignments but didn't have time to actually take them in properly.

This led to a lot of angst going round in my washing-addled head, and after a bit of soul searching (cos they were a good 'career related' choice) I decided that, if I was going to pay lots of money to progress towards a degree that I didn't have to do, I wanted to like what I was doing along the way.

So I abandoned the idea of the full Certificate, and moved on to more Java - but with a brief 10-pointer that felt like a 10-pointer to fill in the time between them.

Basically good stuff

2009:  MT264 - Designing Applications with Visual Basic

The washing basket was settling down a little now, Phillip was a toddler and starting nursery, which gave me more time back to concentrate on reducing that never-ending pile.

This was a relatively new course on offer for the OU, and I had done lots of VB work at the office during the 'down times' at work, in fact it was helping a lot for me to cut my 'coding teeth' on.

I was starting to relax into the idea of software development as a path, and figured this was a good place to go as it would be something I could use at work and home to give me lots of practice.

That idea didn't quite work as the VBA and coding environments turned out to be quite different in places.  But it was a great course, which I finished with a result just a modicum short of distinction grade.  Drat and Yay at the same time eh?

After taking advice from my developer 'mentor' at work 'Bazman', I decided web development skills were probably a good thing to get in my arsenal next.

2009:  S151 - Maths for Science

Well - I decided to try a slightly different route for my next 10-point 'filler' course.  Something in me called out for maths, as I used to love it at school and then fell 'out of love' during the 2nd year of A level when it all got a little too theoretical for my tastes.

But this course sounded more like the physics and first year of A level maths.

Unfortunately what the 'blurb' had failed to explain was that a massive percentage of the course seemed to concentrate on how to calculate with scientific notation.

I found the whole thing (again) too theoretical and not enough practical to love it.  But I did at least pass it, submitting on the 2nd allowable date as I prepared a cross-stitch wedding sampler for my Big Little Brother Joe's wedding to Sara which seemed to take up all of the time I should be studying (hmm methinks not loving the course had more to do with it).

So back to programming again for the next course, returning to my new found 'comfort zone'.

Frogs and Toads...and scary Level 2

2008: M255 Object Oriented Programming with Java

Well, it was time to step away from the comfort zone of Level 1 for a while, and go play with the big boys in Level 2.  All of a sudden it felt like I was really doing a University level course - dunno what I had thought I was doing in Level 1 but this was for real now, and was I up for it?

'Frogs and Toads' (along with Accounts (don't ask)) were how we were introduced to how object oriented programming works - and to classes and hierarchy of objects (A Toad is a special type of Frog - they both have similar behaviour and react to similar messages but in different ways)..  By the end of the course I never wanted to see another Frog or Toad in my life - but, do you know, 5 years later and they are still how I sometimes explain object oriented programming to myself or others.  Go figure eh?

I really enjoyed the practical emphasis of this course, and learned absolutely loads.

Oh yes - and as my first Level 2 course - this was my first experience of exams for a good long time, but the first of many more to come...

But what about the washing basket you ask?  Well, it rose, it fell, it filled up fast at assignment times when I would study and forget to do mundane things like housework.  Some things in life never change though and the washing basket is one of those things.

Along came the break between courses (having passed M255) and I thought I needed a 'filler' to keep my brain occupied.  Having read some of the maths stuff online and thinking it looked a little like maths did when I enjoyed it at school, I thought I would try something different next to try and rekindle some of that love for maths.

Tuesday 5 February 2013

Back to work...and back to work...

2007:  Am I ready for this?

OK - the washing basket was bigger, so was I, but still the burning question - is there life beyond all that?
And more to the point - was I indeed ready to go back to it all?

As far as work went, well there was not a choice to be made, it was go back or don't eat - which would have solved the weight issues but not really helped in the long run.

For my OU studies though, there was now a decision hanging over me - could I cope with the demands of a baby, a husband and an ever-growing washing basket (you anticipate the extra washing of the baby clothes, but never the amount of your own stuff that gets wee, poo and other unpleasant stains on it).?

So I decided to start slowly again, with T183 - Design and the Web.  I got to create imaginary websites for my imaginary craft club, based on my stitching evenings spent with my best friend Deborah.  I had great fun doing it, and almost as much fun imagining the things the club would do.  I learned a lot about how we view web pages and where to stick stuff so that people would look at the most important parts.  And a little HTML coding skill into the bargain.

And I also decided that yes, I was ready for the return to bigger courses.  So on to M255 - Object Oriented Programming with Java.

A new course...and a couple of new challenges

Sep/Oct 2005:  next steps, and a reason to take a break

Having successfully passed Y154, and regained a little of my sanity into the bargain, it was on to the next step with M150 - Data, Computing and Information.

Oh yeah - did I not mention I am a bit of a geeky girl?  I discovered an enthusiasm for computers and making stuff work automatically a couple of years before this.  So this was the beginnings of 'maybe get some formal IT qualifications so I can move on from the job I hate'.

Having just begun the can of course guess what happened next - having stopped focusing on getting pregnant, planning other things to take up our time for the next year, and thinking about a fabulous holiday - we then discovered I was pregnant.  And this time round it stuck.

I think the stress of assignments etc helped take my mind off the stress of the pregnancy a little.  And I adored programming and watching the code make things happen on screen.  Finally a niche that I fit in!!

So I went off on  maternity leave, finished my final assignment in the June, and gave birth to Phillip in July 2006.

So no more studies for a short while, as we adjusted to all the other new challenges we'd been sent.  But definitely not the end of the journey...

There must be more to life than this...?

Feb/March 2005:  The journey begins..

Every journey begins with a single step they say.  Well for me it began with a trip, over a pile of dirty washing  and a seemingly never-ending battle to the bottom of the washing basket.  And a chance comment in a magazine that 'taking a bath does not constitute a viable hobby'.  Oops - who knew eh?

We'd been through a very traumatic time personally, after 2 miscarriages and no sign of another pregnancy in the offing.  So I needed something else to focus on other than the struggle to get pregnant that threatened to consume my life, my sanity and our marriage.

Enter - the Open University.  And an aptly titled course Y154 - Open to Change.  I think it was the very nature of the course that first drew me in, as it encouraged me to focus on changes throughout my life and how I chose to deal with them.  Obviously having such recent struggles to use for raw material was useful, and the course proved to be truly cathartic for me, giving me a sense that there was something else out there even if we never got the chance to be parents.

But it also awakened something dormant in me, that love for learning and the need to learn more, within 2 weeks of starting that course, I had signed up for the next part of the journey - this time a 'full' course...

M150 - Data, Computing and Information.

And so it begins....

Well, I  have been procrastinating around this idea for quite some time, but lately I have been feeling the need to share with more than just myself in my daily (well technically my 'when I remember') diary entries.

So I thought I would start a blog that I could share with fellow students and friends and well, who knows who else?

The idea is to share my own O.U. experience, how it began, how it progresses currently and my  hopes for the future etc.

So let's see how it goes.

The Open University