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David McDade Post 1

18 May 2020, 20:27 Edited by Nigel Gibson on 19 May 2020, 12:04

Section 4, Activity 7

TogetherThis thread is for section 4, activity 7

What challenges motivate you to help our students?

Pick one of the modules discussed briefly over section 4 and consider how you would address the challenges described.

Also comment on some other ideas posted. How do you think the students would respond to the proposed help?

These are examples of the types of posts we might expect to see:

"I might support a project student by listening carefully to their idea, and mapping this to my own experience." 

"How long may this project take, what are the opportunities for the student to learn new things, what are the key difficulties in this area of work? I would use this information to prompt discussions with the student so they discover this information for themselves, but in such a way that they feel supported and avoid going down dead end routes.

Use the "Reply" button below to contribute to this discussion.

(Image CC BY 2.0 Flickr user Alan Levine

Shane Ogilvie Post 2 in reply to 1

4 Jun 2020, 17:55

Project work of this kind is quite alien to students they have been used to being given a task or problem which they would usually solve by applying ideas they have been introduced to in the course of their study. I have found that even very capable students "freeze" and encounter a "fear of the blank page" when confronted with an open-ended project. 

I have found that by getting them to consider what they will do, and how they will go about it - looking at the aims/objectives and methodology they will use allow them to work upwards toward a plan of activities and eventual deliverable.

David Sherlock Post 3 in reply to 1

8 Jun 2020, 15:11 Edited by the author on 8 Jun 2020, 15:11

Reflecting on the TM353 example, I think that I actually have quite strong views on the security vs privacy debate, so I would work very hard to make sure there was a distancing of my views. The OU approach seems a very good way to make sure that this distance exists though, by selecting examples and encouraging the students to discuss themselves.

Rod Gliven Post 17 in reply to 3

13 Jul 2020, 00:28 Edited by the author on 13 Jul 2020, 00:29

David Sherlock: Completely agree on TM353. I too have some quite strong opinions on the subject, from primary research & direct experience. I like to believe that this has been arrived by exploring both sides of the debate, understanding the competing requirements, and deciding where the priorities rest.

I would hope to encourage that investigative approach, and allow students to come to their own conclusions, and articulate how they arrived at these conclusions.

Martin Hillson Post 20 in reply to 17

7 Aug 2020, 20:20

I agree with both you and David that this is a debate that garners strong views. I don't actually think it's a bad thing for students to know that their tutor has a strong opinion on a controversial topic, so long as they are clearly being presented with a balanced view of the relevant evidence and viewpoints. Having come down on one or other side of the debate, group discussions could be kicked off by encouraging students to challenge the tutor on their view. It is important, though, to ensure debate remains both relevant and civilised and also not to disadvantage any student with either a minority view or one that differs from the tutor's.

Lucy Gillett Post 4 in reply to 1

12 Jun 2020, 22:31

To support a project student I would begin by asking them to explain their plan to me. What resources they are going to use, a timeline of events, their expectations from the project as it progresses through its stages and ultimately reaches the end. This will provide a plan for both the student and myself, for the student specific points that need to be met and at what times, for me, knowing what support is the right support and when to give it.

Marcus Young Post 5 in reply to 1

13 Jun 2020, 21:06

The tutor has a key role when the student is trying to decide on their project. I know from my own experience as a student how important the input from my tutor was. One of my ideas would not have resulted in a very good project, but they helped me see that and I went away and came up with a much better idea. Possible issues might be a very good student suggests a project that I think is a bit weak and won't stretch them, and my role might be to explore that and maybe suggest changes or even to consider something else. There may also be a problem if a student suggests a project that seems too ambitious, and I'd want to talk this through to see if the student understood what was involved at the various stages. 

Toni Walton Post 16 in reply to 5

9 Jul 2020, 13:10

My A Levels students have to do a project and yes I can really relate to your two points here. Able students aiming to low and weaker students aiming to high or students generally being to ambitious.  I always find the hardest ones to deal with are those being way to ambitious for the level and time scale.  Its great to have them enthusiastic but you really don't want them to be set up to fail. 

Tamara Lopez Post 6 in reply to 1

14 Jun 2020, 11:21

Ah, defining and scoping project work.  I was never particularly good at this as a student, and I don't remember many examples of my teachers effectively supporting me in identifying good projects. 

In my own experience as a student, I recall two paths.  In projects that had some intellectual leeway, I always tended to be too ambitious, and to bite off more research than I could chew.  In projects that were primarily technical, the assessment criteria always seemed to invite a conservative approach, and so I took it, and produced materials that were yawn worthy.  I generally passed with high marks, but I didn't take much from either experience as a student, and I don't think my lecturers did either. 

I hope that I could use my experiences as a student to help me more proactively support students in defining appropriate projects, and I can definitely help students complete and write research reports, but I think that this is an area in which I need to learn and develop as a tutor. 

Adrian Hehir Post 8 in reply to 6

15 Jun 2020, 13:49

This reminds me of my own Msc project, it was over ambitious, long, technical and I think the worse thing about it was the conclusion was not well planned or executed. Better planning would have helped at the start of the project. But like you, I did get high marks. 

Adrian Hehir Post 7 in reply to 1

15 Jun 2020, 13:45

Managing IT in schools, I came across the whole big brother/security debate about installing monitoring software on students and teachers’ computers. Staff and students’ views were not taking into account on the project I was involved in to install and administer this software, and this could be a good idea for a suitable student project. Thinking about what could help students with their project:

A tutor showing titles and a brief synopsis of what projects students have undertaken in previous years, this is to show students the broad breadth of subjects and project methodologies than have be done on and also students understand the quality of work required.

I think a kick-off meeting followed by progress review meetings would be useful between the tutor and student to approve the project and make sure the project is on track.

Ben Pike Post 9 in reply to 1

15 Jun 2020, 14:29

To support a student in their project I would try to help them be sure that they have the right question. I may use my own experience, but I'd make sure they have picked something that they were happy discussing at length that has the appropriate amount of depth.

Once the question has been decided I'd assist the student in creating a rough outline of what the project will entail, and break it up into smaller sections which have their own goals and time frames. I personally find it much easier to approach a large project when there are many smaller goals that can be accomplished, as it can seem less overwhelming than looking at the project as a whole.

Anna Pietrzak Post 12 in reply to 9

24 Jun 2020, 13:18

I agree with you the good support is essential for any project.

Michael Liedl Post 15 in reply to 9

2 Jul 2020, 13:20

Hi Ben,

I can't but heartily agree with you that making sure the they get the right question is absolutely fundamental to ensure that the project has the best chance to be a success.

Emmanuel Isibor Post 10 in reply to 1

15 Jun 2020, 17:31

With respect to “The Computing and IT Project” (TM470), developing work plans for the projects is one way I would like to support the students.  With a good work plan in place, students will be able to list out their milestones and deliverables per time. This no doubt will help them to measure progress and make adjustments were necessary. 

Another point will be for the student to start the writing of the report very early. Delaying the report writing till the results of the investigation have arrived may prove to be counter-productive to the project work. 

Our initial meetings can be used to work out templates for the work plan and the report of the project.

Graham Smith Post 19 in reply to 10

14 Jul 2020, 09:36

Hi Emmanuel,

You make some really good points.

Having undertaken a lot of project work in the past, your points relating to good planning, creating/using templates and importantly setting milestones are key to the delivery of many projects.

 You also make a great point about delivering what you can of the report at an early stage. Projects tend to 'move to the right', always makes things harder when there is a hard deadline, so not having to cram (or controlling the cram) at the end should make the process better for the student.

Anna Pietrzak Post 11 in reply to 1

24 Jun 2020, 13:17

To support a project student, I would start from a group discussion and that 1 to 1 tutorial or individual discussion; main reason is to understand their plan; how they want to do it, so I can react and point them on correct direction before they start. It is important how students plan, what resources they are planing to use and time. 

Colin Jenkins Post 13 in reply to 1

26 Jun 2020, 15:33

As an IT engineer in the NHS, the security vs. privacy element of TM353 is very close to my heart. The NHS has very strict controls and regulations governing the storage, transfer and use of data, particularly the PID or Patient Identifiable Data which is basically everyone's medical records. 

I would be able to use this knowledge to provide examples to students in tutorials and answer their queries. 

Michael Liedl Post 14 in reply to 1

2 Jul 2020, 13:14

The project work is a golden opportunity to learn some fundamentally life changing skills and to concretely connect to your ultimate purpose, be this exploring new venues of knowledge, finding a new job or progressing in your career. This is what I would tell them.

How would I do it? I would guide the student in using a Project Management devoid of all cumbersome administrative overhead, that works for teams of one or more.  Describe the Project Champion (himself, his expectations, his benefits), the Stakeholders (his current employer and career path, list of possible new employers and job position, professional associations of subject area, i.e. external entities who would have an interest in the project and why), the Project Deliverables, a Work Breakdown Structure, Intermediate Deliverables which become Project Milestones, Initial Resources Available. All of the above would constitute a Project Proposal and I would ask him to produce at least two different proposal from which to compare and choose from.

I would make the whole process engaging, personal and fun. Being an open task, the student can determine the content that he relates to the best and with the excuse of the project he can start connecting with people or environments where he ultimately wants to go to. The project outcome should become an asset that benefits the student for years to come.  And my purpose and challenge is to make that happen.

Silvia Varagnolo Post 24 in reply to 14

3 Nov 2020, 21:24

Hi Michael,

you mentioned interesting tools I didn't know before and I might start to adopt. Thank you very much for your contribution.


Graham Smith Post 18 in reply to 1

14 Jul 2020, 09:27

Regarding TM112. I can remember back when I started studying with the OU, a friend recommended I do a course. So, I gave it a go. Didn't have any thoughts of progressing, just wanted to see how I got on. I then did a L2, then L3 course and my confidence and ambition grew throughout this process.

I think one of the challenges that would motivate me would be to provide the support and encouragement that instils the belief in people that they can do it. 

I have also found that participation in activities helps with understanding, therefore encouraging students to get involved in e.g. the guest lecture should help them feel more engaged in the topic and the course. Use the opportunity to question industry experts gives the students an opportunity to realise the practical application of the subject.

Raj Seepersad Post 21 in reply to 1

8 Aug 2020, 19:15

Section 4 Activity 4.6.4

I would assist students on their project tasks by visiting their progress frequently as well as giving them feedback for them to think things that pose as a challenge. Revisiting them assists them to keep on task. My speciality as Data Analysis from a Commercial Accounting Perspective and I use Jupyter Notebooks as well as Google Sheets to interrogate volumes of data using Pandas library for Python running on Jupyter Notebook. This works well as the scripting aspects are fairly easy and quick to grasp. If students had to do a data project I have first hand knowledge as to the procedures in analysing data. 

Coffee on Tyne

Bill Tarpy Post 22 in reply to 1

27 Aug 2020, 16:39

I can foresee the Student Project being the hardest thing that many students will have to do. 

As mentioned - coming up with the right idea is going to be a challenge and I suspect some students would need advice, either upwards or downwards to reach the right level. Also the scope and being careful to tie this down to avoid the dreaded scope-creep. 

Then it's the standard stuff about -

  • What are you doing?(a summary of what you will achieve and what is your success criteria?)
  • How are you going to do it ?(what tools/systems/knowledge/stakeholders, the controls you need to help you)
  • When (what's the plan, the stages, the dependencies, the risks and mitigations) 

If you can get all of this down on a sheet of A4 to start with you are on the right track.

I would also recommend, once the above is agreed, students start using a simplified Agile approach by setting up their own Kanban board . There are ways to represent this online. Each task should be identified and quantified. The board is divided into at least three columns - todo, doing, done - more if you like greater detail. As tasks are progressed the board is updated and you can see at a glance what needs doing. As the tutor I'd like to review this with the student on a weekly basis.

Silvia Varagnolo Post 23 in reply to 1

3 Nov 2020, 21:21

In the development of the project I would support the student by considering whether the level and ideas are appropriate and I would help by having revision meetings to assess the progress. I would also help in writing the final report by giving constructive feedback.

Dhouha Kbaier Post 25 in reply to 1

25 Nov 2020, 14:37

Schedule, Gantt chart, setting the milestones and deliverables and how to measure success, what risks might the project encounter, a good research gap analysis at the beginning would be beneficial to shape the project topic.

Kevin Frost Post 26 in reply to 1

1 Jan 2021, 15:29

I would first want the student to consider how much time would be involved in completing the project, is it pitched at a realistic level with suitable resources and information available to investigate and complete it.

I would also prompt the student to think about what ae the likely issues that could endanger the completion or quality of the work.

I would also ask the student to ensure a broad view of the impacts were taken, would the implementation impact other systems or have any privacy, legal or environmental impacts?  Are there an legal/consent matters to resole first such as with the use of data?

Fiona Baxter Post 28 in reply to 26

23 Jun 2021, 00:17

I think this is helpful, as it might be difficult for a student to know if there is enough scope in their idea, or if it needs to be narrowed down. It's also a good idea to question whether they have thought of interrelated issues. 

Amanda Williams Post 27 in reply to 1

13 Jun 2021, 12:41

In the past I have supported projects by listening to the interests of the students and then working with them to find a project that is both achievable in the time allocated, but also will keep the student interested.  A loss of interest often means that the porject doesn't get completed or that the project becomes difficult to finish.  I find that coaching models are often a good way of supporting students through a project.

Fiona Baxter Post 29 in reply to 27

23 Jun 2021, 00:20

This is a good approach, especially if a student is having trouble choosing a project. They may gain motivation, confidence and support if it can be organised around their interests / job.

Fiona Baxter Post 30 in reply to 1

23 Jun 2021, 00:44

Within a module, some brainstorming / mind-mapping group activities could be a fun, peer supported way to tease out and analyse project ideas. For example in Intro to Computing & IT (TM112), if exploring Cyber Security, it would demonstrate the vast possibilities. In smaller groups, students could breakdown the best ideas into a potential report structure and demonstrate/communicate this to others in the form of an algorithm.

Later on, support would become more individualised and you may be helping with time management, the layout / citation rules etc of report writing. It might also be necessary to adjust projects mid-way, should they need narrower focus, wider scope or to ensure innovation.     

Richard Collins Post 35 in reply to 30

15 Aug 2021, 21:08
That is an excellent discussion on who you would address the challenges. My only concern is if you would be asking too much of them. Creating a report and presenting it to the other students seems it could be a daunting prospect for some.
This is one of my latest pictures.

Elena Sanchez-Heras Post 31 in reply to 1

6 Jul 2021, 12:06
I would talk to the student to get an idea of what type of reports they have written in the past. Depending on their experience, I would provide the support to get up to speed to university level. 

Listening to their ideas is very important in my view. There we talk about the resources available, always limiting the project outcome. I like to explain with real work examples how projects can shape.

John Dunning Post 32 in reply to 1

8 Jul 2021, 15:15

I would listen to the student idea, giving them suggestions and prompts where they were scarce on detail or didn't know where to go.

I'd look at their project being a way to apply their module choices and to continue to learn.

Suzie Miller Post 33 in reply to 1

3 Aug 2021, 17:01

Work backwards from the submission date to try and work out how much time there is. Rather than leaving it too late to get through the work. 

Figure out how different ways of drafting it out might help, eg brain dump lots of ideas, then turn that into sections of the project.  Then split those into mini projects to work on so it doesn't feel as overwhelming.

Richard Collins Post 34 in reply to 1

15 Aug 2021, 21:02

What grabbed my attention was 4.6.3 and TM353, here the talk about students may hold pre-established, strongly held opinions. I think this maybe true for many modules, it's something I myself struggled with in the early part of my degree studies. To help over come this I would do two things. I would point them to library material that would present other ideas to them and also ask them to seek, using the OU Library, any material that contradicts their point of view. I wouldn't challenge them directly but I would suggest that as a learning exercise that they should challenge their points of view on their own. Changing ones view is something that only we can do, it can not be done for us.

Bob Moore Post 36 in reply to 1

18 Sep 2021, 16:13
My own immediate thoughts on the challenge of privacy vs secuity in the context of TM353, is that to some extent the course is about exploring how to match up the needs and capabilities of people, and those of the IT systems they interact with.

We know in our interactions with people that there are always grey areas. Lines we refuse to cross, which others are happy to leap over. I've not looked at any more of the module content presented here, but I am sure it will bump into many situations were boundaries need to be drawn between how much responsibility we delegate to our computer systems and leave in our own hands, so my approach would be to draw these into the discussion to defuse the idea it is an issue where there is a single 'right' answer, but that probably an agreed compromise position is required

Andrea Davanzo Post 37 in reply to 1

2 Oct 2021, 18:26

Looking my experience with TM470 I will probably start with a warming welcome and listen the proposed idea. Encouraging them to think about the risks and their development plan, and supporting their understanding of the TMAs and EMA guidelines.

Dodi - Post 38 in reply to 1

31 Dec 2021, 07:05


Kate Sim Post 39 in reply to 38

31 Dec 2021, 08:36


Welcome to the course and forum. 

Can you add an introduction on the intro discussion ...



Ravi Rajani Post 40 in reply to 1

19 May 2022, 10:57

I think time-management is very important in a big project. Making sure the work is broken down into stages and checking that sufficient progress is made at every stage. Making sure the project isn't over-ambitious, but also ensuring there is sufficient depth, is a tricky balance to strike. I would encourage a student to think about choosing a project with the right scope, and how they are going to break up the work and stay on track.

Neil Hodge Post 41 in reply to 1

2 Nov 2022, 12:52

Having recently completed my own project module, I fully understand how daunting it is to have to come up with a project idea with limited help. I would I ask the student questions such as 'what outcomes are desired from the project' or 'what are you hoping to learn from doing the project' in order to provoke inspiration.

Thomas ODaniel Post 42 in reply to 1

3 Jan 2023, 05:29

TM353 is a space which I have been introducing to students for a long time because it is a perfect way to get them thinking about how their own lives are influenced by the actions of professionals following "community standards" and "current best practice". This is the critical first step toward an outstanding project, which needs to demonstrate acceptance and understanding of standards for both the academic and technical communities.

Thomas ODaniel Post 43 in reply to 1

3 Jan 2023, 06:14

The project itself, whether it is an incourse assignment or a phd thesis, comes down to the "magic triangle" - scope, time, effort. Decomposing requirements into estimates of time and effort is the core activity in 'agile development', and a transferable skill that can be applied in lots of other circumstances. 

David Harvey Post 44 in reply to 1

26 Jan 2023, 12:04

Activity 7

Many years ago I followed a Masters in Digital Computing Networks and Digital Communications.  I was issued a Post Graduate Diploma because I left the course early to start full-time employment.  My daughter was born on 12 March of that year thus employment was my main concern.  Although the main reason for my decision, it was not the only one.  An MSc project was assigned to us and after a thorough literature search we found that it had already been unsuccessfully attempted and as such was a complete waste of time and afforded no practical academic or practical skills.  The lecturer who assigned the task was fully aware of this.  This has coloured my view of research work carried out by universities.  I would be prepared to insure students stuck to guidelines and deadlines but would not wish to be part of a system that simply assigns pointless tasks.  

Discussion tags: section 4