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M250 Object-oriented Java programming: update briefing

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Edited by Christopher Douce, Friday, 11 Jun 2021, 16:34

M250 Object-oriented Java programming (OU website) is changing. On 25 May I attended a short module briefing which summarised some of the changes to existing M250 tutors which will be introduced to the 21 J (October) presentation of the module.

One of the reasons for the need for a change is that earlier modules, namely TM111 and TM112 now have more programming content, and there is a need to ‘beef up’ M250 to help students when they move onto a sister module: M269. The new version of M250 will be more practical.

A good place to visit to find out about Computing and IT modules is through the Computing and IT subject siteWithin this site, there is a page that is all about M250 Object-oriented Java programming where students can access some sample exam questions, some M250 'prequel' materials, and complete a really helpful Self-assessment quiz.

It is expected that chapters 1 to 3 of the module materials (probably in ePub form) will be available as 'taster' materials for the module. There are also some links to library resources. M250 students can also access discounts from certain Oracle certification exams (but I don’t know to much about this). Students who are fully registered on the module will, of course, have access to an ePub version of all the materials.

Key changes

The key M250 learning outcomes remain unchanged. The new version of the module will be based around Objects First with Java by Barnes and Kölling (book website) which will be used with BlueJ version 4.1.3, which comes with JDK 8. Students will, of course, be sent a copy of this textbook. This set text will be supported by material known as chapter companions and extension materials for those students who want to study further. Unlike the previous version of the module, students will not be using bits of software, such as the object microworlds, or the OU workspace.

An important point I noted down regarding the set text is that students are not (immediately) expected to understand everything that they see. There will also be some more video materials to support students.

There will also be some style changes. The keyword ‘this’ is not going to be used as much, or emphasised, and the new version of the module will make use of some more standard terminology. There will be a couple of new things, such as try-with-resources (which I don’t yet know anything about), using the hashcode method, and doing a bit of computational modelling (which is covered in chapter 12).

Assessments

Just as before, the module will have 3 TMAs. TMA 1 will address the foundations of object-orientation, classes, objects, and introduce the ArrayList. TMA 2 will cover packages and import statements, collections and access modifiers. TMA 3 will cover the more advanced concepts of inheritance, polymorphism, interfaces, exceptions, and file input/output.

Students must gain an overall score of 40%, and must pass the examinable component with a score of at least 30%. There are no threshold requirements for the continually assessed part of the module (the TMA bit, which is known as OCAS).

The way that the marking will be done is going to be slightly different. There will be points for different categories, and tutors will be encouraged to highlight where mistakes have been made.

Reflections

Another thing I have heard is that the way that tutorials are being organised is also going to change. The number of clusters (groups of tutors) across the UK is being reduced, which means that there will be larger numbers of tutors working together to deliver tutorials. There is, I understand, a plan for groups of tutors (or individual tutors) to present a tutorial that focuses on certain chapters of the Objects First set text. I think this is a really good idea, and should increase the teaching and learning opportunities available for students.

One change that I am curious about is the way that the TMAs are assessed in the new version of the module. It strikes me that tutors will be given more freedom to assign marks for work done, whilst working within guidelines provided by the module team. The current M250 marking guidance is very prescriptive, but sometimes students do provide worthy (and interesting) answers that have not been thought of by the module team. In some ways, the new way of working will enable us to make more academic judgements about the work that has been submitted. Perhaps this change also represents an interesting opportunity for scholarship.

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