<a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shakey_the_Robot">Shakey the Robot</a>, star of M366 Block 2. He might be a bit clunky, but I still think he's great.

Shakey the Robot, star of M366 Block 2. He might be a bit clunky, but I still think he's great.

Today I finally worked up the nerve to submit M366 TMA01, after a good few weeks of tinkering and fiddling with it. I think I’m more nervous than usual about it because M366 is a very different kind of course to the ones I’ve done in the past, so I’ve no idea how badly or well I’ll do. I suspect I’ll get somewhere between 60%-80% for this assignment, but I wouldn’t really be surprised if it turned out to be a low Pass 3; I’m not confident at all about my ability to provide the kind of answers the TMA seemed to be asking for, so I’ll be relieved with anything above 40%!

Speaking of M366, my tutor replied to my email about TMA02 this morning, so I should be able to get that wrapped up tomorrow. It looks like I might have gotten the wrong end of the stick about Q4 (a)(ii), the one that requires 400 words when I’ve managed about 80 – the Curse of the Vaguely-Worded Questions seems to have struck M366 again. I’m not sure how much I can actually divulge about the disparity between what I thought the question was asking for and what my tutor has advised me to write about – but in any case, if anyone is finding it hard to write 400 words for this question, I would definitely recommend asking your tutor for guidance, in case you’ve interpreted the question the same way I had.

Anyway, with M366 TMA01 finally jettisoned into the eTMA system, I spent the rest of the day finishing my first draft of M257 TMA03, which was a lot more straightforward than I expected. When I saw that the final question was worth a humongous 45 marks, I thought I was going to be working on it all weekend! But to be honest, the whole TMA has been quite hand-holdy. Which has been an issue in all three assignments, really; often, I’d read the requirements for a question, and start thinking “Ooh, how am I going to approach this problem, what would be the best way of tackling it?”… and then turn to the next page of the PDF and find that the question specifies pretty much exactly, in a step-by-step list, how I should do it. It reminds me a little bit of the part in Lockhart’s Lament about how some mathematics grad students “come to grief when they discover, after a decade of being told they were ‘good at math,’ that in fact they have no real mathematical talent and are just very good at following directions”; I’m not sure if I’m being a bit silly in wanting a Level 2 course to test for much more than following directions? It’ll be very interesting to see whether the Level 3 Java course that I’ll be taking in a couple of years’ time is any different in this respect.

Apart from my dislike of the bullet-pointed lists of instructions, I’ve been enjoying getting back to Java a lot more than I expected. I thought I’d probably end up feeling bored by M257, since I generally think about maths a lot more than programming these days, but the actual coding involved in TMA03 was surprisingly fun. I am having a bit of trouble remembering to use Java conventions/syntax/etc rather than VBA, though – apart from my OU stuff, the only coding I do these days is for work, so unfortunately I tend to think in VBA automatically, so I’m having to really consciously keep reminding myself “no, the code editor won’t auto-capitalise those method names for you”, “no, you don’t need a then keyword on the end of your if condition”, etc.

I kind of miss the good old days when I was programming in C++ and the weird M263 “course code” along with Java in my spare time, and doing VBA at work – not much chance of getting stuck in one way of thinking when you’ve got a nice amount of variety in your courseload! But overall, I don’t think I’m going to miss programming all that much next year, when I’ll be concentrating entirely on maths with M208. In hindsight, I kind of wish I’d done MS221 and M208 instead of M255, M263, etc, since I’d be on my way to a degree in Mathematics rather than Computing & Mathematical Sciences by now if I had; but then again, if I’d focussed on maths early on, maybe I’d be pining after programming courses instead right now!