Nigel Gibson Post 1• 18 May 2020, 14:02 • Edited by the author on 19 May 2020, 10:06
Section 4, Activity 1
This thread is for section 4, activity 1
Investigate a module
Select a module from the list below and work through the study material yourself. What did you find engaging in the material? What did you think a student who is new to the subject may need more help with?
Web Technologies (TT284) – an undergraduate stage 2 module (equivalent to year 2 in a full-time degree).
IT Systems: Planning for Success (TM353) – an undergraduate stage 3 module.
Software Engineering (M814) – a postgraduate module.
These are examples of the type of posts we might expect to see:
"I considered the technical learning in the module, for example learning PHP for web technologies."
"I picked out that there is a lot of terminology used in IT Systems Planning for success that may need explaining."
"Students often need pastoral support as changes in their lives occur, or advice about how to take advantages of opportunities such as ways to apply what they have done at work."
Use the "Reply" button below to contribute to this discussion
(Image CC BY-SA Flickr user Christiaan Colen https://www.flickr.com/photos/christiaancolen/)
The Web Technologies course made a good effort of explaining what is a rather abstract set of concepts. Where it really worked was in contextualising those concepts. Most people, and particularly students choosing to study this course are users of Web Technologies every day, often without grasping what is going on "under the covers". Perhaps some of the more technical language heavy sections could have benefited from a translation, or a diagram
I was surprised at the breath of knowledge that I had, perhaps as a result of working on major IT systems over the last 25 years with the last five years at a senior reviewer level so needed to understand why a system had the requirements that it did and how those requirements where being addressed using different technologies.
What struck me from a teaching perspective was to be able to break each element down to its simplest form in order work through the material and be able to explain it to a student who was new to the world of IT.
I was really struck by how the content is broken down into digestible chunks, and how, as a practitioner, you often do not even realise how much you already know. I think if I was writing this material, I would find it pretty hard to break my knowledge down into something similar. As an OU tutor this must be a skill you are always working on.
I do actually do some teaching, but not online, reflecting on my own experiences, I think when I am teaching face to face, many of these small bitesize bits of knowledge are conveyed in the way I do or demonstrate things. Also, if I miss something obvious, then somebody will just ask me to clarify. I guess that in online learning it is key that nothing is ambiguous. I bet this is hard in some cases, for example, the section about sociotechnical nature of IT systems in the ‘Successful IT systems course’, has to be really clear about what it means when talking about the word ‘system’.
I examined 'An Introduction to Web Applications Architecture' and was struck by the quality of the sources used to to support each section.
In particular, in presenting sources with different definitions of the term 'architecture', the course immediately encourages the student to start thinking about technology as something that is culturally constructed.
At the same time, by presenting small, clearly presented sections on different contemporary architectures, the student is given access to a valuable resource they can use to understand how each works, and how each might be applied to solve different practical problems.
The activities that ask students to examine representative systems on the web will help students connect the material in the chapter to familar examples, but new students who lack professional experience might need additional support in linking the exercises and information to their own practice.
TM353 - this matched my background, working with science communication & implementation of online staff training rather than the tech itself. I imagine some more tech-minded students might find the grey sociopolitical areas challenging as they require a different way of thinking, but the structure & content were clear.
As I am still in the process of taking my undergraduates, TT284 is actually one of the modules I am taking next year alongside TM351. I was quite grateful to see the snapshot of the module.
I liked how it gave me a brief overview of what is included without overwhelming me with the details, it left me curious and wanting to learn more. As a student who currently has little exposure to the subject I want guidance to find learn more in a way that matches my learning style.
So I think a student needs a mentor with experience that is confident in the subject, they need someone that hears them and can direct them by showing them how to find what they need.
I went through IT Systems: Planning for Success
What I found engaging was:
Like teaching at secondary school, the learning outcomes was spelt out at the start and at the end in the conclusion of the module.
The structure was broken down into manageable bitesize pieces concentrating on a particular learning objective or part of one that could be digested easily, interspersed with student breaks.
I found the instruction, activity, instruction style to each page engaging.
The activities were engaging, particular the ones to do own research on the internet, this is ideal when learning online as students have ready access to computers.
I liked the understanding of successful IT system, many of the concepts came up in my ITIL and Project management qualifications and service delivery and project work experience.
I found the broad breadth of examples of IT systems across industry sectors engaging, e.g. an accountant’s experience and the NHS and I liked the use of read world data to back up theory i.e. Standish.
Regarding what students may need help with:
Students may need help identifying and understanding useful and valid information real world example resources to respond to some of the activities. Previous experience academically or from work experience, which students may lack, is invaluable in understanding and picking up salient points from articles on the internet.
Students may need help with some of the terminology and for the tutor to provide analogous examples e.g. the human body as an open system or what a construct is.
Students who are focused on the more practical side of computing, e.g. coding or system building may also need motivation from the tutor why planning IT system for success is so important to get right.
I looked at 'An Introduction to Web Applications Architecture'. As this is a Year 2 module, I don't know what was covered in the earlier modules. In general, I felt it was rather text heavy and a bit dry. It could maybe have more diagrams and more examples that students could relate to. The SOA principles section in particular has terms/jargon that's not explained, for example:
"Statelessness: excessive state information can compromise the
availability of a service and limit its scalability; hence, services
should remain stateless as far as is realistic to allow them to do their
This is really gobbledygook unless you know what the concepts of state and stateless are. Although, I guess at this level there is some expectation that students would do some of their own research. You can't explain everything.
I found the use of case studies in TM353 to be very engaging as it conveyed a holistic view of the issues associated with IT systems success/failure. It provides the students with a means of reflecting on the concepts covered and also demonstrating their understanding of same through the activities included in the study material.
The study material of TM353 was well developed and presented for easy understanding. Perhaps, a student that's new to IT may need clarity understanding terms/expressions like Legacy Technology, Virtualised, Private-Cloud-based Architecture, Operational Data Store, Evolutionary Approaches, Agile Methods etc.
I selected the Web Technologies (TT284) module. This is one that I considered at level two, and will be taking at level three later this year.
I was impressed by the way that the various components are broken down into manageable sections and explained in detail in a way that students should be able to grasp.
Having worked in IT for 30 years, I am fully aware that it has it's own language full of acronyms, and felt that the module was delivered in such a way as to reduce the apparent complexity.
Have to agree with your observations.
I felt the subject matter was well organised and chunked into discrete managable units. It's alway preferable to use examples to demonstrate how the technology operates. Way back I remember a tutor joking that computing courses were where you learned to speak in three letter acromyns.
IT Systems: Planning for Success (TM353)
The material was engaging because it sets out the, surprisingly wide, scope of IT systems.
Students new to the subject may need help to come to terms with abstract concepts and the interlinkage between components as learning progresses.
Students will need help with abstract thinking and systems thinking (perhaps even computational thinking).
Using and interpreting diagrams can be daunting for some learners
Iain, I don't think you have noticed that there are discussion threads set up for each of these activities, so we can keep all the posts together. I'm going to merge your posts with the relevant thread here.
- Jump to: Parent to post 14
Since I did several post-graduate IT /Computing courses many years ago, I checked the Software Engineering (M815) module. The sample material talked about Software and the Law, which, without a doubt, is relevant to practising Software Development today, so I found it pertinent and important. Clearly the coverage was not to enable the IT student to be self-sufficient on the topic, but rather to not be ignorant about the issues. A lot of references for follow-up were provided and the importance of seeking professional collaboration for projects of a significant budget was surely driven home.
IT Systems: Planning for Success (TM353)
Very much like the manner in which the module is broken into bit-size learning pieces.
My only query is the definition of 'Success' being directly related to time & cost.
The implication being that being over budget & over time is a 'Failure'.
From experience, most Projects are receptive to the changing needs of its stakeholders, which are not often captured in the Porject Plan, nor the progress being made. Hence, the Projects may be delivered 'late' and 'over-budget', but remain within the expectations of the stakeholders.
I agree with Rod's point. Success very much depends on the stakeholder's place in the organisation. A project that is late and over budget might be considered a failure by Finance but a success by the users of the system as the added time provided increased functionality or improved the user interface.
I like a challenge so I worked through Software Engineering (M814).
The good thing is the learning objectives are up at the start of the module. These can be referred back to to ensure they are being met.
The topics themselves are broken down to a manageable size and there are several examples given of different views of each topic, which gives the student a multifaceted view of the subject - something I found helped my understanding of the subject.
There is a lot of text, relevant to technical and legal aspects of the topics, therefore having an understanding of at least the concepts involved may be something that a new student may need support with. Also, although there are case studies, the module is entirely textual - there are no diagrams that could help with the understanding of some of the content,
There are a lot less activities, and therefore less 'checkpoints' to ensure understanding of the subjects, so the onus is far more on the student to ensure their own understanding of the subjects being studied.
A new student may have to learn new skills in how to study such materials, despite this being postgraduate, the way the student may have to learn may be different to what they have done previously, so may need additional support to do that.
Hi Graham, I recently completed M814 as part of my masters. Yes your assessment of the module is agreeable. There is a lot of required reading and as I have Dyslexia this was a challenge. I archived a pass with merit so looks like the required reading did not hinder me. :) The material we're asked to read is easy going. I found myself reading more than the minimum required. Studying this module is easier if you have already studied it's sister module M813 first and also the degree module Software engineering (TM354).
I examined intro to Web apps
The information is laid out clearly into discrete chunks of learning, activities are interspersed to ensure concepts are understood.
The module is more theoretical and abstract than practical, which makes it hard to get hands on, some small demonstration or interactivity as that shown on w3schools could be useful so students gain some practice by doing.
Video based content would be useful for the visual learners who prefer to see rather than read.
Resources are well presented with good references to reading wider and further.
As the course is a Mooc and open to all, there is a missing element of an actual tutor who can guide and support through the materials. This may prove more challenging with those who have less prior experience of such subjects and find it hard to link concepts together.
You're right, the course you looked at is a MOOC (massive open online course). It is an adapted extract of an OU module, is open to anyone, and there are no tutors supporting learners there.
Students taking a module with the OU (so not a MOOC) would have tutors.
Did you post on the intro thread?
I selected Web Technologies. This was my bread and butter teaching for many years and over the years the delivery team continually upgraded the teaching materials to maintain the currency of the units in this fast developing industry. Staff were on a rolling CPD program and that was part of the fun and motivation. We knew we were preparing students for employment in a dynamic and expanding digital workplace.
I looked at all three, for contrast.
On the section from TT284, one comment on the introductory part was the historical background: these architectures came into being as a response to the previous generations of 'monolithic' architectures, with all their attendent problems. This would have been useful context to illuminate why there is such focus on the architectural models we try to apply today. Without being too much of the "in my day ..." old timer, I do find it useful to give context when mentoring, because often a sharp trainee will wonder why we apply paradigms that can look less than immediately efficient, or more complex, when in fact they reduce complexity and improve usabilty down the line.
I also felt there could have been some more diagrammes. What there were were well drawn, but I think in a teaching session I would have liked to bring along quite a few more to help bring out these concepts a bit more.
Looking at the section from TM353, I was struck by the focus on systems as artifacts of software and hardware. This subject is actually heavy on sociology, which is obvious from reading the material but not very well emphasised; a lot of technology students (and practitioners) tend to shy away from the softer sciences so need a little bit of gentle persuasion to appreciate the importance. In my experience and that of the industry as a whole it is the wetware - the people - that makes the biggest impact on the success of systems and most often systems run into problems because organisations fail to build them for the needs of the people who use the systems and that the structures of the organisations themselves often get in the way of good systems implementation. I always cite Conway's Law (https://www.melconway.com/Home/Conways_Law.html) to reinforce the point. I think such an emphasis would be important to provide to students in tutorials, with some relevant background reading.
Finally, moving to M814, it was nice to see the legal side of systems development brought into the light. This isn't often a subject engineers think about and certainly wasn't part of the course when I took the equivalent Masters unit 20 years ago, so good to see it's now there. There is certainly a lot to think about here and the glossary was useful to help digest it all; I would probably produce on myself an expanded version share with my students. This is also an area where a tutor, well versed in the technical needs of the course, may need expert guidance from someone with this specialist knowledge.
I looked at Web Technologies (TT284). What I realised is that I could quite easily teach this topic. For me I think there need to be a bit more of a blended learning approach using videos and links to other resources. For me it is very text heavy, although the basic concepts are easy to understand.
I've started 'Web Technologies' and will return to it at a later date, as I'd like to complete this course first! I chose it as I'm from a creative design background with industry experience as a Web Designer. Having considered the content, I found it to be very text heavy and lacking in visual media, particularly in comparison to how this current course is presented. However, it aids engagement to see clearly how each part of the course breaks down. As a stage 2 module, I can see how important it is for students to be given opportunity and support to explore and find their feet at stage 1, as the content becomes more specific at stage 2.
Technologies are something most people use multiple times a day without ever As I already know from my personal experience of studying the the OU, The courses are designed with a very clear structure. There is no ambiguity over what a student should have studied each week. Each course is great at taking a concept and giving a context that will allow a student to achor the new knowledge in their existing schema. Web technologies are something most people use several times a day without ever knowing what is happening. The OU links in with this usage revealing the complexities in context.
I picked up the TM353 module (stage 3).
I was impressed by how well the module explains the scope of the material of the course: what they are going to focus in a vast field and why. Setting out the scope of the course is fundamental, in my view.
I also liked the practical aspects of the course: setting examples to explain what is a successful or a failure IT system.
I whizzed through the Web Technologies (TT284) course. Although the content is really clear I have found when teaching this at work, even to people with technical degrees sometimes there is confusion around terminology.
I find calling out the difference between a buzz word / industry term, vs a technology vs implementation of that helps. Eg Devops is a buzz word which many people interpret differently depending on their previous experience. As it's a common word they might not want to ask what it means, or the definition might feel different to what they originally learnt. You could implement devops with different tooling so that is an example of different technologies involved eg code repos. Then an implementation of that would be how to specifically do something in github say.
Another example is explaining monotheists and why single point of failure is bad. Eg microsoft office is made of word, excel etc so office could be a monolith, yet once split into different components it's more like a microservice as you're just using the functionailty you need.
Or if you have a three tier web app. It could be a shopping site, this could be all on one server, or you can break out the functionality like searching for items, shopping basket, payments, supply chain into separate apps / servers so if one of those parts goes down, they should still be able to browse even if they can't complete a purchase rather than the whole site being offline.
So sometimes just some extra tangible context I think can work wonders with people's understanding of complex topics. Especially if it is more theory than implementation based.
Modules on this course aren't related to my specialisms so I was looking from a general information and ease of access. I thought compared to other awarding bodies the level of detail related to content was very extensive. Areas for development would focus on assessment and more information around the type and nature of these
Activity 1 section 4
Having just completed the exercise working through
- Web Technologies[Tip: hold Ctrl and click a link to open it in a new tab. (Hide tip)] (TT284) – an undergraduate stage 2 module (equivalent to year 2 in a full-time degree).
I found this a brilliant examination of the future possibilities in relation to cloud computing. As solution architect for Security based services, whilst at the top level this is from my perspective, better than the materials covered by ISC, in my opinion.
Whilst the wider course would I am sure cover aspects of technical computing versus business interaction, e.g. how the consumer of such services navigates the commercial world, it was an exceptional start.
Covering aspects, that I have also worked through in my career such as SOA and Nist principles, whilst, and i had forgotten how brilliant the OU is at ,tacking "difficult" aspects such as the discussion regarding the term architect.
Part 4 Activity 2
The two most interesting MSC modules for me are:
M812 - Digital forensics
M811 - Information Security
I have over 20 years experience, designing, building and operating information systems.
Being part of the internet growth cycle in the early 2000's I was part of a team that developed uk internet services, working closely with ISP's to develop BB and IP network services.
This drew me towards SIP based technologies, in the early days, using message tools such as AOL, and Netmeeting, however moving later towards full multimedia systems known as unified comms.
During the last 10 years I have worked with corporates predominantly, focusing on security based services, and in the last 5 years spent most of my career managing a design team to develop cloud based security product, zero trust enabled services and modern based cloud native services.
Not anywhere near as hands on I was 20 years ago, but still have a keen interest in IP and internet based system design.