Sunday 10 November 2019

Workshop 1 - Day 2 - is it over yet?

Starting to feel that way even about the blog posts of the experience - does that tell you how simply awful it was?

Day 2 - I think we all came in at least prepared for the experience to be bad - but it made Day 1 look like a fun day at the park.

This was another of those days where we'd asked questions about what would be covered in the assignment, only to be told to stop worrying about it, we'll cover it this afternoon.

Much of this day was spent trying to create a Software Requirements Specification for our fake system.  However, I don't feel like we actually created much, we asked for examples as none of us had experience of this level of documentation, we were signposted in the task to some formal specifications, however a 130 page document is not really an appropriate format for an hour's worth of discussion with colleagues.  Once again we were accused of 'wanting the answers', and at this point something finally snapped, and the course descended into a yelling match.

Several of us were very vocal about the fact we just weren't being listened to, that he wasn't answering our questions, and in fact half the time he wasn't even listening to our questions.  We just wanted to get some idea of how his mental process worked when it would come to marking our assignment, what kind of things he found good and bad and why.

I can't really say the afternoon got any better, but we did finally get to look at the module assignment, which should be helpful in guiding our focus on the learning for the rest of the module.  And from this we were able to glean that making sure you cite lots of sources for your argument seems to be the most important thing the tutor is looking for on this module.

Finished the day with some scathing feedback on the train ride home, and then salvaged the day by going to the fireworks display with my family.

Phew....what a ride.... can't believe we get to do it all over again in less than 4 weeks for Workshop 2!!

Workshop 1 - Day 1- Just tell us about it, already!

Yeah, I know, this has been a pretty rambling post - but I don't know if I've ever had so many thoughts tumbling around trying to be heard, all from one single experience.

Nothing to see here

So, our module tutor finished off with the introductions, and we thought, "Great, now we get to learn some stuff"....ah... that's not what the tutor had in mind.... it's going to be a facilitated process where we will work in teams to complete some exercises which you should have looked at before now. 

In the midst of this, a latecomer arrived, having attended at the original address from the invite, to be greeted simply with a very rude "You're late", and no welcome from the tutor.  Did he think that someone really wanted to be turning up halfway through the morning at their first workshop?

OK moving back into the module then... we'd seen the exercises (some as late as the day before the workshop due to yet another admin error), but there was a lot of stuff in there that we didn't exactly know how to begin... like the first question, around completing a risk assessment for our fake system to be designed.  So we shared that fact with the module tutor - and the general theme for the experience began right there.

"You are all supposed to be here studying at Level 7, you should know this already" (errr.... how does someone straight from a maths degree get experience of writing risk assessments please?), and then there followed a 15 minute lecture on the difference between Level 4 learning and Level 7, (with slides) which I'm sure might have been more useful and helpful if it wasn't being used to berate us for not knowing something. "Anyway, I haven't got time to teach you about that". (you just wasted 15 minutes where you could have explained in telling us about different levels..)

On the plus side, working through the exercises with people employed in different workplaces enabled us to discuss the differences between our working practices.  There was also a lot of discussion around the difference between a simple analysis and a critical one, which I'm sure will be of assistance when it comes to completing the module assignment.

However, it would have been much more helpful if the tutor had been less, well, critical, and more eager to show us the difference between how to structure an argument for L7 versus L4/L6.  Anything helpful that he did show us, he would scroll up and down really fast, with no proper discussion.  By the end of Day 1, I had a headache and was totally regretting putting myself through this.

It was the same whenever we asked a question, "You don't want me to give you all the answers you are Level 7 students" - no we didn't want the "answers", just guidance on what he thought was a good answer, given that he will be the one to mark our assignments at the end of the day.

Building a team
I guess the positive outcome of Day 1 was the camaraderie that grew between us students, out of sheer frustration at the module tutor and his unwillingness to listen to questions.  We finished Day 1 at the pub, and had a good old rant about the experience with each other, and learned a bit more about each other along the way.

Yeesh that was one long day.... so much so that I will start yet another post....

Workshop 1 - the one with the funny name - part 2's Hallowe'en, and it's time.... for Workshop 1 - Transunion.

Why the name then?.... ah .... I will keep you in suspense a little longer methinks, cos it's part of the tale.

So, instead of the traditional 'creeping death', we were to question the person next to us, find out about them and their lives, their reasons for being here (on the workshop not existentially...), what they hoped to get from the day, and any hobbies or activities they enjoyed (or would like to enjoy if they had the time).  I sat next to a lovely lady from Harrogate called Sophie, who didn't have time for hobbies as she'd just finished a maths degree, and had just started in a software engineering role about 5 weeks ago.

One of the things I 'hoped to get from the day' was 'to find out why the course was called Transunion', and Sophie was quick to answer that one - the majority of the class were employed by Transunion!!  So, with the exception of 2 government students including me, the rest of the class were familiar with each other.

So - there you go - that's why the workshop had a funny name - ah well, I'm not going to learn any special new principles from that one then teehee!

And then it was time for the workshop as a whole - but I think that one may need yet another post..... I have lots of thoughts to sift through around this workshop, and I feel like they would result in a gigantic ranty post if I try and sandwich them all into one (or two...).

So - more in another post.

Workshop 1 - the one with the funny name - part 1

So, the end of October came around (as it appears to do with increasing speed every year now), and it was time for the first instructor-led part of the Masters journey - my first Workshop.

I'm not entirely convinced how positive I can be about this part of the experience, but I'm going to try to provide a slightly more balanced description in writing than the emotionally charged conversation with my BFF (or anyone else who asked me how it went) in the first week or so afterwards.

(That good eh??)

  • I got an invite to the Workshop early in October.  Rather than being in Newcastle as expected, my first Workshop was in Leeds - and the invitation also said it was in an outer suburb of Leeds as opposed to directly in town.  Fair enough, it's within reasonable travel distance but to get there decently early, it required an overnight stay on both nights, which I booked in advance so my employer could take advantage of the best rates.
  • Fast forward then, to 2 days before the event, when I received a text reminder - for my workshop in the centre of Leeds!  Argh!! So a quick check to ensure that the central venue was correct, and a hastily arranged second hotel booking (as my prior one was an advance booking it was not cancellable).
  • Oh - and the course was called 'Transunion'.  Googling was no help, I couldn't find a software engineering principle anywhere called Transunion.  But I figured that all would eventually be made clear once I started the workshop, so I shelved my worry on that one for now...
So - this was the first introduction to the Module Workshop process.  Pretty much as smooth as the rest of the process so far.
Bear this in mind when you continue to read the next post - part 2 - where you might get to find out about the funny name too.....

What's it all about - Roni?

Well - I've been promising myself, and my reader(s) that I would get back in here and do some blogging as there's been lots going on with the Masters.  So, time to update you all on how it's going so far.

Hmm - writing all these posts a little after the fact so feeling a bit calmer about the whole process now - but the process of the Masters following the induction didn't feel any smoother.

The structure (for us in my part of government at least) is supposed to be a single module per term, spread over 24-25 months.

However, on commencing the Masters on 7th October, I was presented with two separate modules, with work and reading tasks showing in both of these.  "Gulp!", methinks... but I started plodding on - largely with Software Engineering Professional Practice module, as there were fairly structured tasks in there, 'read this, comment on your own experiences to support your opinion' type of stuff, which looked really interesting.  I got part way through starting the second task there, alongside one other student.  Now, I did think it was quite odd that there were only 2 of us that appeared to be participating online.  However, it being the very start of the module I thought maybe we were just too quick off the mark.  Any then - the other guy's stuff was DELETED!

So, me being me, and unable to contain either my curiosity or worry that something was going on, I messaged the guy to find out why it was deleted.  Turns out we'd been shown 2 modules instead of just one in error!

Shame though, cos the module I'd worked on seemed like it would be really interesting, and teach me lots about 'reflective models'.  The module I'm currently on, Software Engineering Principles, covers, in the main, stuff that I'd already learned about while doing my OU degree.

So, I guess what I'm mostly learning this time round has changed.

  • How to write a professional critical academic report, as opposed to just the technical kind of reporting I did in my degree.
  • How to use referencing software to simplify the process of citations
  • How to summarise the content of lengthy academic journals and decide whether they're appropriate to support my points in a report.
A bit more to come on the correct module and the highs and lows of the experience so far, in a later post.