TM352 Web, Mobile and Cloud Technologies – A Review

It seems weird to review an Open University course but I feel like I should, considering that it’s the last Open University course I did and I had very, very mixed opinions about it. While I enjoyed TM352 more than those infernal design courses (looking at you, TM356), I found this course to be… weird. There were problems in TM352 that I didn’t have at all in other courses.

At first glance, the content of TM352 is pretty technical and enjoyable. The first block was definitely enjoyable. It did somewhat throw you into the deep end a little bit if you’re not that experienced a coder but all the projects and everything in block 1 were really well put together. There was little troubleshooting needed and there were steps and tricks to follow should things go wrong. Sure, the Java stuff can be a bit confusing if you haven’t touched Java in a bit but a refresher guide was provided.

The home page for TM352
The home page for TM352

Things kinda took a bit of a downturn when block 2 started. I wouldn’t say that block 2 was bad, it was just a bit dull and mostly filled with technical stuff. Block 2 was specifically the “cloud computing” part but really it should have been called “the Amazon Web Services” block because that was mostly what it was. There was a cool practical section though which involved playing around with a cloud system on Open Stack and it was nice seeing first-hand how these all work. But there was also a LOT of sitting around reading through AWS documentation. Personally, I enjoyed block 2 the most and I’m not sure why.

Block 3 was the worst though. Everything went wrong. Not only was just getting started with the BASICS incredibly tedious and hard to do, but the whole damn block was delayed, which meant that the extra time I had saved from studying during break weeks (i.e. over Christmas and before the course officially started in October) was completely wasted as block 3 materials were released late in general.

The delay was bad enough but really the structure of block 3 was bad too. There was a huge amount of time wasted just trying to get everything set up properly so we could start building apps. We were using Cordova and Node.js and things like that to automatically build the apps into .apk files for us, but these were just tedious and I couldn’t help but wonder why we were doing things this way rather than using Android Eclipse or something. Then again, I find it odd that we developed for Android in the first place, since there are sooooooo many variants of Android that nearly everyone will have something going wrong.

This had an awful knock-on effect, meaning that EVERYONE had to rush through block 3 in order to have enough time to work on the EMA.

Actually, I say that Block 3 was the worst, no, the EMA was the worst. It was badly worded, buggy, hard to understand, overly complicated and not clear in what the assessors wanted and, worst of all, THE SUPPLIED CODE WAS INCORRECT. Even before you had even started, there were errors in the code that we were supposed to work on! The fix was pinned to the top of TM352’s EMA forum but that should have been fixed from the start.

So even though I got good marks, AMAZING marks in this level 3 course for the main coursework (seriously, first time I’ve managed over 90% in level 3 courses in two assessments), I’m probably just going to scrape a pass with the final assessment (which is scored the same way an exam is) simply because the EMA was a horrible mess.

I’ll be fair though, the tutors tried REALLY hard. It wasn’t their fault, they got given a shit sandwich to deal with and they did a great job clearing things out and helping students. Well, the main tutors/moderators on the forum and my own tutor were great. One of the other groups had multiple complaints about slow times getting their results back. But for the most part, the tutors were awesome.

The weirdest thing though is that… I, uh, didn’t end up learning how to make apps like I wanted to. I mean, sure, I can make a basic Android app that uses an API to fetch some information but that’s pretty much it. Nothing was mentioned on how one would use databases or perhaps use something other than Javascript to do things. Nothing was mentioned about how games work. And actually getting an app into a usable, sell-able state and getting it uploaded into Google Play Store or anything like that was only HINTED about!

Which is really annoying, because now everyone expects me to be able to make apps and I’m frankly none the wiser.

If you’re looking at doing a course like TM352, I’d… not do this course. I’d look at one of the more programming-orientated courses instead if you want code-based work or one of the design or mathematics courses for anything else. TM352 doesn’t do a lot and what it does do, it doesn’t actually do that well. It’s like they wanted to cram as much stuff in as possible then let half the important stuff fall out at the end.

Actually, no. TM352 is a course that was clearly re-written half way through. Chances are, by next year, it will already be out of date.

Medic

Also known as Doctor Retvik Von Schreibtviel, Medic writes 45% of all the articles on the Daily SPUF. A dedicated Medic main in Team Fortress 2 and an avid speedster in Warframe, Medic has the unique skill of writing 500 words about very little in a very short space of time.

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