Friday, 20 October 2006

S103: First Tutorial

Its the first tutorial date, and I, after a little time with multimap, google maps, microsoft live, and an A-Z, am fairly sure I can find my way across the city to the secret location.

I've got a full tank of gas, a battered A-Z, its dark, but I'm not wearing sun glasses - hit it!

I roar off down the road, the radio is blasting out "Quote/Unquote" - anarchy has nothing on me, and the adventure has begun.

15 or 20 minutes later, and I've found the entrance to the school. Further more, I've found the car park, and wonder of wonder, a lit entrance with signs of life. Things are looking up!

I enter the building and approach the person on reception. I see a big sign saying something like DD123 tutorials in room 17. This looks encouraging. I say I'm here for the S103 tutorial.

"Oh yes" says the man, "That'll be room 101 - through the double doors and straight on".

Hmmm - room 101 has an ominous ring about it, positively Orwellian, not to say Merton-esque...

Through the double doors and past a lot of other doors - none of them with numbers on them. The lighting is not the best, and if this were a film, something bad would be about to happen, with the music rising to a creepy crescendo about now. I've come to the end of the passage, and it turns left - maybe I've missed a room or something...

WAIT - I'm sure someone following me! I consider my options, what would Jackie Chan do?
It turns out to be a fellow student and he's on the same search, so we pool our resources. The corridor makes another sharp turn, have we come too far? I see a number 47 finally - there is hope. We find a room 54, and a few others, but nothing approaching the 100s.

We are just wondering whether to make bivouac here for the night, when someone emerges from a nearby room, and lets us know that this is the S103 room - number 44. Ah, Ok.... Whatever...

I sit down and unpack a few notes and folders. There are 4 of us and the tutor, and we do a bit of idle chatter while waiting to see if anyone else finds us (unlikely I think!). Its at this point that the most useful bit of information of the entire tutorial is reveal. The purpose of that funny black plastic bit in the front of the study file.

You can insert the back cover of the current block book into it and it keeps everything together. I'm deeply impressed, and am still playing with it to this day. What WILL they think of next!

Our tutor decides to make a formal start, and introduces herself, and we begin the introductions. Then the door opens, and a security man shows in another 6 people, presumably lost souls who had been stalking the corridors like we had. We start again. What our background is, what we are looking forward to, and what we're not looking forward to.

In approximate order, the general trend for the not looking forward to subjects are Maths, Writing English, and Time management. No real surprises there.

One more person joins a few minutes later, having probably been directed to the basement somewhere.

Our tutor tells us a bit about herself, her role, what we can expect, some of the rules for TMA's and so on.

Some of us have had our materials for a while, others are still unwrapping theirs, and some are still awaiting arrival.

We have a brief break, but all refreshment machines have been switched off apparently, and on investigation the toilets are locked! A brave party decides to venture back to reception hoping to find an unlocked toilet, we never hear from them again... until the start of the next half.

The second half of the tutorial we do an exercise. We have a packet of liquorice allsorts, and we have to come up with a classification scheme.

After some discussion we decide to avoid the more obvious eaten and non-eaten category.
We categorise on shape, size and colour. Then we eat them.

A few more questions and answers and then its the end, we huddle together for support down the dark corridors but succeed in finding the exit without too much problem. I make my way home, picking the wrong road twice, but hey:

I survived tutorial 1 - Mission Acomplished!

S103: First TMA

OK - so its time to see if I can cut the mustard.

TMA (Tutor marked assignment) number 1. Basically its a bunch of questions to answer on the course so far to show your understanding of what you've read and done.

There are various complex rules about TMAs. Apart from the obvious, that they must be your own work, and without plagarism. To pass the course you have to score above an average of 40% on all TMAs. However you can substitute a bad TMA's by an averaged mark, so one bad one won't drag you too far down. Some TMA's are not substitutable though, so it all gets a bit complicated.
However if you do reasonably well on all the TMA's you'll pass. You also have to pass the ECA (End of Course Assessment) too - but that's another tale.

TMA-1 is different though - it doesn't count. You have to submit it in the usual way, but it doesn't matter what score you get - in fact you don't get a score, just comments. Your tutor marks it and tells you where you did well, and what you didn't get right. Thus when you do TMA-2 which does count, you'll know what's expected at least.

You quickly learn there are certain things they are keen on you getting right.
Units is one - you should use SI units wherever possible.
Another is significant figures. You are given rules of thumb for working out significant figures and how many places to give your answer to. So 3 x 1.2 should be given as 4 for instance, rather than 3.6.

Question 1 gets you to do various simple calculations involving percentages, density and so on. Mostly its looking at simple arithmetic and sig figs and units.

Question 2 gets you to look at a graph of a ball dropping and describe in words what its telling you.

Question 3 is to write a paragraph of 120 words about sweating in humans.

Question 4 is reflective, asking you to describe your study techniques and what you might improve.

I get a fairly good report on this TMA. It mentions I should use units throughout calculations more, and to consider keeping an extra significant figure until the end of the calculation to stop rounding errors.