What’s the easiest Open University Level 3 course?

This was a question on the OU Facebook group. But how can you actually tell which is the easiest course? What one person finds simple, another may struggle to get their head around. However, what we can perhaps do is look at the courses with the lowest drop-out rates, and highest pass percentage. We can think about the question itself – if this is the final 30 points required for an Open Degree, then maybe all this student needs to do is pick a module that they have the most chance of passing. With this in mind, here’s the latest version of the Endeavour app, set to highlight all Level 3 modules, in order of pass percentage in 2015.

Someone suggested MT365 for a Maths student – which wouldn’t be a bad bet. A363 might prove attractive to our friends in the Arts.

If you look at the Module Comparison tab – you’ll note an interesting feature. Whichever module our student chooses, they’d probably be better off looking at the final assessment type. It seems that (in general) at Level 3, students are more likely to complete and pass modules with an EMA, rather than the dreaded exam! However, for a Maths student in search of a distinction – perhaps the exam isn’t so bad after all…

T320 – is it really that bad?

This last week, I have watched several of my fellow students quit (my final) module T320. I cannot lie – I’ve been sorely tempted to do the same at times, and although I’ve submitted TMA03, it involved a lot of tears, grumpiness, and frustration. So, remembering what got me started on this whole concept in the first place, I ask: Are T320’s result stats worse than comparable modules?

Here I use data from my project to do a little visualisation to answer that question!

It’s a scatterplot that takes two of the Open University’s key metrics for a module: pass % and completion %. I’ve split it into quadrants, based on a dynamic average calculation, so that modules fall into one of the four categories. I’ve also filtered it to just show level 3 modules within the Maths, Computing and Technology faculty, so that I’m comparing it with its peers. And lo! Yes, indeed, history shows that more students fail to complete this module than average. And, it seems it has a lower than average pass rate, too. Scroll through the years to see the history.

One small consolation. It seems that maths & stats modules fare worse!

(ps. there are two other tabs at the top of the visualisation. These take you to a view of all the stats for the module, and to a scrollable list of all the results for all of the modules)

Usability defects and success factors

I am still in the process of writing up the EMA report. My current word count is 9444. The guidelines say we should submit somewhere in the region of 10,000. At the moment, based on the outline, I think I’ll get to about 12,000 in total by the end.

Analysing the most recent set of survey results identified one critical usability defect – in that people didn’t immediately spot that there was more than one dashboard! This was due in part to a feature in Tableau beyond my control – the lack of visibility of the dashboard tabs! I quickly built in a couple of fixes: I (re)introduced a navigation page (last seen in an iteration in June, but which got disposed of at the last minute), and by changing the background colour of the page where the vis is embedded to black to make the tabs stick out more. There were other defects raised – these have been logged & will be written up in the report, and hopefully remedied once the documentation is completed & the EMA submitted.

I’ve also been evaluating whether the project has been a success. As part of this, I’ve used the two sets of survey results to compare how users feel about the existing OU results vs. how they feel about what the project has delivered. Based on a neat Tableau dashboard I found here: http://www.datarevelations.com/likert-scales-the-final-word.html, I have created this comparison between the two surveys:

I think it shows quite clearly that people are happier with the new solution. 🙂


This is the bit where I get to find out if the project has actually achieved the objective of making the OU Results easier to understand and of more use to OU students. I’ve created a survey, based around the previous one, to see if the scores on the doors have improved since the last one. By the end of today, I should have enough responses to evidence my conclusion, as it makes its way around the OU Facebook groups…

In the meantime, I’m going to dig out the heuristic evaluation stuff from M364 and evaluate myself!

Then it’s merely the EMA left to write.


10,000 words!



Link to viz


I’ve had my head down to try to complete the solution to allow enough time for the EMA write-up. I’m now happy that it’s in a fit state for the final evaluations! My latest piece of work has been the home page, which provides and overview of and context to the project, explanations, and navigation.

Link to viz.

(Updated 13 Aug to take out embedded lost viz & link to website instead)

The end is in sight

It’s with mixed feelings that I enter the final straight of the project. I just got my result on M364, and just missed out on a Distinction. If I’ve learnt one thing from my OU study, it’s that I don’t get on with exams! And if I’ve learned one other thing from this project work, it’s that I’ve picked a set of modules that have fewer than average students getting that elusive grade 1 pass.

My TMA03 has already been marked & returned. Despite last minute doubts and confusion over ambiguous instructions, it seemed to go down well. As I’ve previously said, it’s a funny old module. *shrug*

So, this is a good point to start building the actual interface. Naturally, it’s bigger that the prototype visualisations embedded in the blog, so there’s a new link to the new visualisations:

http://leroc.net/OU_Result_Stats/OU_Results.htm (Prototype!)

I’ll continue to update progress here.

(p.s. Lots of bits don’t work yet!)

Updated: Publishing the visualisations is much easier in the blog, so I’ve changed the theme to allow full size pages which will allow me to continue to embed them in these pages.

Updated again: The new theme added annoying scrollbars to the old visualisations, so I’ve gone back to an old theme. I’ll leave this viz here for the time being, even though it doesn’t look great.

My adventures with the Open University Computing and IT Final Year Project