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Student and tutor module reviews

Algorithms, data structures and computability

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  • Points: 30
  • Code: M269
  • Level: 2

Student reviews

I took the module as part of the Computer Science route of my Computing & IT and Statistics degree, having already completed Object-orientated Java Programming (M250) and having some knowledge of other programming languages but no real experience with Python. I found M269 to be a very satisfying and enjoyable module which gave a great theoretical backing to the rest of my studies.

While proficiency in Python wasn't really essential to do well in the course or the exam, I found that examining and understanding the code in the course library and in the textbook helped me get to grips with the underlying theory, so some extra time spent on Python early on is probably a good investment of time.

As well as the textbooks and online material we are provided with two further excellent documents, the Companion and the Summary, which were great as revision tools and to aid understanding during the course. I found it helpful to carry the Companion and the Miller & Ranum textbook around with me so I could dip into them whenever I had a spare moment.

The final two units, unit 7 in particular, introduce some challenging concepts which may take longer than the allocated time to understand fully. I found the module to be well structured throughout but it was helpful to work ahead of schedule on these units to allow time to step back a bit before taking a second approach at some ideas. The exam was challenging with plenty of time pressure, but a solid familiarity with and understanding of the trickier elements of the final units should alleviate those pressures somewhat and make it possible to achieve a good result.

Course starting: October 2018

Review posted: September 2019

By far I found this the most difficult module that I completed with the OU. There's a lot of serious logic that I cannot see me using it in my career such as the Big-O notation.

Only think about this course if you are confident with Python and you are thinking about a serious career in computer sciences.

Either way I passed it and got a very difficult 30 credits.

Course starting: October 2018

Review posted: July 2019

Quite a challenging module which focuses very much on the theoretical side of algorithms and computing. You will do some programming in Python but not much compared to other modules such as the Java courses.

The first unit introduces Python but in my opinion glosses over some required details. If you have experience of programming (in any language) you should get to grips with Python quite easily, but if you're completely new to coding you may struggle.

Most of the units discuss various algorithms for common tasks such as searching, sorting and storing data, and I found this quite interesting, extending my knowledge from previous modules.

The final unit was a complete change of pace, dealing with the limits of computation. There was a lot of reading involved and it took quite some time for me to understand the material.

I found it quite a challenging module overall and was pleasantly surprised to pass with a high grade.

Course starting: October 2014

Review posted: October 2015

I took this as a stand alone computing course as part of my Open degree, sandwiched between a couple of Arts courses. I was mostly interested in the theory of algorithms rather than coding and found it a satisfying course from that angle.

The main frustrating thing for me about the course was the coding. While the course does introduce Python, there is not really enough coding teaching and practice to enable a newcomer (I'd done a small amount of programming 30 years ago) to use the language easily.

This turned out not to matter when it came to the exam, which didn't require any skills in Python beyond being able to read it, but it meant that the in-course exercises and some of the TMAs took rather longer and were rather more frustrating than they needed to be. I was fortunate to have two programmers in the house who could help me out when I really got stuck on language issues but even so there was a lot of banging my head against the wall when I understood the algorithm perfectly but couldn't get the thing to run! Having said that, I got a distinction for the module despite never feeling that I'd got to grips with the Python!

The algorithm and data structure parts of the course were interesting throughout, although a lot of it didn't really come clear until revision. The final section on computability and Turing was fascinating but I felt could have been presented in a rather clearer fashion- again it was quite late in revision before it all fitted together.

I was pleased to have done the course and, coding aside, found it relatively straightforward to study, being fairly confident about everything by the time of the exam. I felt it wasn't a difficult course to do well on overall; most of the algorithms and principles were short and easily understood and the exam asked fair questions in line with the specimen papers that had been produced. The problems I had with Python meant that the hands on parts of the study took me rather longer than a 30-credit course would normally take, but the overall content was reasonable for a 30-credit course.


Louise Holden

Course starting: October 2013

Review posted: December 2014

The subject matter covered in the course is good and very interesting (and valuable). And Python is also an excellent language choice for use examining the topics.

Study is led directly from prepared pages within the modules website which take you through the content, and in turn referring you to issued books or elsewhere online as required for further reading.

Units 1-5 make use of a very interesting set text book (which also provides ample reading if you want do personal study beyond what is required). Units 6 and 7 make use of an OU published dedicated book.

This was the first presentation of the module, so there were some teething problems that required quite a few errata to be issued. Sadly the module text/course material on the website was not updated when problems were found, only errata issued which you needed to cross reference continually and remember when checking back.

Personally I think the material should be corrected in-situ when issues are found (with side notes added pointing out that a change has been made) - that should be one of the benefits of using electronic rather than printed materials!

Although, my main comment about the first presentation would be that I think the module was slightly overloaded with content and could have done with being every so slightly lightened.

Alternatively, if the quantity of content covered is to remain unchanged, then I think some of the material in Units 6 and 7 should be started earlier in the course. It is a lot more demanding that other bits earlier in the module.

The exam is sadly still written by hand, and you can easily be pushed for time. This is a pity as it means the difference between two students results could be how much they can physically write in the time available, rather than their knowledge. Either more time should be given, fewer questions asked, or even more multiple choice questions used (which do not require extensive written answers).

Course starting: October 2013

Review posted: October 2014

Please note

Each of the views expressed above is an individual's very particular response, largely unedited, and should be viewed with that in mind. Since modules are subject to regular updating, some of the issues identified may have already been addressed. In some instances the faculty may have provided a response to a comment. If you have a query about a particular module, please contact your Regional Centre.

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Module satisfaction survey

The figures below are taken from a survey of students who sat the exam/completed the end-of-module assessment for the October 2016 presentation of M269. The survey was carried out in 2017.

96 students (a response rate of 20.8%) responded to the survey covering what they thought of 10 aspects of the module.

Please note that if the percentage of students who responded to this module survey is below 30% and/or the number of responses is below 23 it means that only a small proportion of students provided feedback and their views as shown here may not be fully representative of all students who studied the module.

See this page for the full text of questions and more information about the survey.

% Count
Overall, I am satisfied with the quality of this module 79.2 76
Overall, I am satisfied with my study experience 72.9 70
The module provided good value for money 65.3 62
I was satisfied with the support provided by my tutor/study adviser on this module 87.4 83
Overall, I was satisfied with the teaching materials provided on this module 69.8 67
The learning outcomes of the module were clearly stated 86.3 82
I would recommend this module to other students 69.5 66
The module met my expectations 71.6 68
I enjoyed studying this module 64.6 62
Overall, I was able to keep up with the workload on this module 70.8 68
Faculty comment: "The module team is pleased there was a high percentage of satisfaction with the quality of the module and the support received. As a result, most respondents would recommend this module to others. We're surprised the percentage of respondents keeping up with the workload decreased - compared to 2015 there were fewer assignments to submit and one more section of the materials wasn't assessed. For 2017, we restructured the website to improve its navigation; better signposting to the critical and the non-assessed materials; and provide weekly guidance in the online planner to help distribute the workload."
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