Life of a mature student – TM111 – my first module

I wrote some thoughts about my first module in this post about the first four months of my degree, but my idea is to write a summary post about each module once I’ve finished it. So here are some thoughts about TM111.

As the title says, it’s an introduction to computing and IT. I had some prior knowledge in a few of the areas that we covered. This definitely helped me, but I don’t think it was necessary as all of the information should be in the materials. This didn’t mean that I didn’t go elsewhere on occasion, but that was more about my learning style than a lack of information. Sometimes when you’re stuck, you just need to find someone who can explain it in a different way.
I want to write these posts in a way that’s accessible to all of my blog readers – whether or not they understand the subject matter or what I’m talking about – but if anyone wants more specific information, just let me know privately.

The content

The module is split up into three very distinct blocks. This is great in terms of helping you to focus on one thing at a time. A bit less great if you really don’t enjoy one of the blocks, but if this is the case, you do feel a sense of achievement when you get it finished and know you’ll never have to see it again!

Block 1 – the digital world. This was probably the most varied block because as well as a basic history of how computers have evolved, you get an introduction to some quite different activities from creating and manipulating sound, to designing a simple web page. There’s also an introduction to databases and some content on what you need to think about when designing new products. Each of these sections is fairly short and you get an introduction rather than a deep-dive, but I like the way that the material is varied, giving people the chance to try new things and start thinking about what they may want to focus on in later modules.

Block 2 – creating solutions. Normally I would find something like this really interesting – it was all about solving problems through designing simple programs. I’m a linguist, so learning how new languages work is right up my street. The only thing was that these concepts are introduced within a graphical programming environment that is inaccessible to blind people. So, learning the concepts was a valuable experience for me because I’ll be able to apply them in other programming contexts, but as I couldn’t do any of the practical work independently, it was less enjoyable.

I understand why things are done this way – people can get up and running and start producing programmes quickly without having to bother much about understanding how a text-based language works and the grammar rules or missing character that will break your programme, but for me, it really wasn’t fun.

Block 3 – connecting people, places, and things. This was an introduction to networking concepts, wireless communication, and the internet of things. It also looked at some of the social aspects of the way in which we use technology, as well as data security, biometrics, and the advantages and disadvantages of increased connectivity in our everyday lives. As someone whose business is carried out entirely online, I was interested to look at how people interact online.

I think some of the networking concepts could have been explained in a more straightforward way – I just looked up the information elsewhere because it felt that a lot of space was given to drawing analogies with things that we already know, whereas I just wanted to know about the thing we were supposed to be learning about and how it worked. That’s a learning style thing though. I’m sure some people would have been happy that someone took the time to try and make the concepts more relatable.

Things are changing all the time and I imagine it will be difficult to keep this really up-to-date, but I think the module raised some questions that are relevant to us today and the case studies helped us to think about people whose experience of using technology is different from our own.

Some concepts, such as maths, run through all of the blocks. Others are dealt with individually in one of the three blocks.

Assessment

The marks come from three tutor-marked assignments, which include activities to demonstrate what you’ve learned throughout the course, and three electronically marked assignments, which you complete online by answering multiple choice questions or typing specific values in the box.

I had a really helpful tutor who responded quickly to questions, made sure I had everything I needed if I was going to attend a tutorial run by someone else, and chased up some accessible materials when they went astray.

I worked hard – extra hard in some ways – but in the end I was happy with my mark and it was all worth it!

Learning as a blind student

I want to be positive because I did really enjoy doing this module, but for me it wasn’t an easy introduction into studying with the Open University as I believe the initial courses are intended to be. For me, even though the content will get harder, this was probably one of the most difficult and frustrating modules I’ll take due to the inaccessibility of a large chunk of it. Only my helpful sighted assistant and the knowledge that we’d soon be going onto other programming languages and never have to see OU Build or Scratch again kept me going – along with all the positive vibes around Christmas (because this was block 2)!

On the plus side, I could access all of the material, either as downloadable documents or as web pages on the site. Descriptions were provided for the diagrams in the material. There was an active community on the forum, which is run by the Open University, as well as a student-led Facebook group where students can socialise or ask questions.

But, even if you’re doing an open degree as I am, if you want it to be an IT-based one, there’s no getting past TM111. In many ways you wouldn’t want to either, because a lot of basic concepts are introduced that you will be building on in later modules. If you can’t use the visual programming environment because you are blind, you need to be prepared to work with a sighted assistant as there is really no other way round it if you want to complete that part of the course in its current form. The work will need to be your own, but you will have to have someone carrying out tasks for you with a mouse, and also giving you feedback about what the programmes actually do when you run them, so you can check that this is what you wanted or expected.

Most IT modules do have a degree of inaccessibility, but when comparing percentages, this is one of the highest I found, so in this respect, things will only get easier.

All information is correct at the time of writing, though of course things may change when the module is run again. If you are interested in studying it, it’s best to get the most up-to-date information directly from the Open University.

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Good things in April 2019

I got a bit bored with my favourites posts because they were all quite samey, and often focussed on beauty products, which I know is less interesting for some of my readers. So I thought I’d try something else now, to make the posts a bit more varied. So here are my April highlights!

Something I bought

I’ve already been raving about my coffee machine! I’m really glad I got it!

I needed a way of keeping track of the capsules because I can’t read the pods. My first idea was to stick Braille labels on the boxes (text recognition apps don’t work so well on them). Anyway the idea with the Braille worked well enough, but it did look a bit untidy with all the capsule boxes.

Then I discovered some trays that slide out for your pods. The ones I bought hold 60 capsules each, and you can stack the trays if you want to have more than 6 types of coffee. The trays have raised squares to keep the pods in place. They might move about if you’re not careful, and you do need to put them in properly so they don’t get stuck. I now have a Braille list that sits on top of the trays. I’ve numbered the lines and written down which coffee is In each line of each drawer. I can still keep track of them, and it looks tidier in my coffee area – or coffee shrine as a friend recently called it!

Something I tried

Can you believe I’m still getting through advent calendar products? One of the things that was new to me was the almond milk and honey body lotion. I knew about the body butter and the body yoghurt, but I hadn’t come across the lotion before. It’s similar to the yoghurt, but it comes in a tube, so is arguably less messy and a bit more hygienic.

I like this gentle range and find the cream cooling as well. Sometimes my allergies cause a reaction on my skin too and I like something gentle like this for times when my skin has been irritated and needs something soothing. I was already a fan of this gentle formula, but I didn’t know about the lotion – so I’m happy they put one in the advent calendar.

Something I did

I’m all about the online networking. When you’re visually impaired, it really creates a level playing field. You don’t have to care if someone’s giving you eye contact, keep your place in the queue for coffee or see where the nearest toilets are. You don’t have to find your way to places you’ve never been before, or shell out on taxis because there’s no sensible way of getting there with public transport. I would do these things too, but I like the freedom I get from networking from my own desk, and have met interesting small business owners from other parts of the world that way. It’s less hassle, and as it’s not one of the first things I tell people, half of the people I speak with don’t even know I’m visually impaired. It’s not relevant for the discussions we’re having and as far as I’m concerned, not the most interesting thing about me.

Having said all that, I am aware that having an international business does mean that I don’t get to meet many new people locally. Yes, I have my friends, and I meet other people through them sometimes, but a lot of the people I used to meet in London were somehow either on the journey to work, or through work. I don’t have that now.

I decided to look for a local group of business owners. I quickly discounted any that sounded pretentious or that expected people to meet at 6:30 in the morning – because who can even put a sentence together at that time? I can’t! But I have found a Facebook group now and pushed myself out of my comfort zone by signing up to a face-to-face meeting too.

Something I read

Rivers of London by Ben Aaronovitch

This is a series of 8 books and I originally found out about them through another blog, though it was so long ago unfortunately I can’t remember who it was so that I can tag them.

I’m glad not to be living in central London now, but reading about it makes me feel a bit nostalgic. Without giving anything away, the books are based on the life and adventures of a young police officer who ends up getting involved in the supernatural cases in a world where the gods of the River Thames are actually people some of the time, ghosts are real, and magic is a thing that can be learned.

Normally I stay away from any crime or detective books. I’ve worked in the criminal justice system and it bugs me when things aren’t true to life. It’s way less glamorous than the TV series make it out to be. But in real life there is no old house where people go when they’re working on supernatural cases, so I had no expectations of it being like real life and could therefore just enjoy it for what it was – a story.

It does make sense if you read the books in order – many of the characters appear again and you build on the knowledge as you go along. However each book is a story and a case that can stand alone.

We listened to the audio books, and Kobna Holdbrook-Smith, who narrates the Audible versions, does a really good job.

Something I watched

Star Trek – discovery

I wasn’t a Star Trek fan before, but S persuaded me to give it a go and yes, there are action scenes, but I hadn’t realised how much more depth there is in terms of learning about the characters, understanding different cultures, moral dilemmas, and teamwork. Also, this was set before the original series, so it doesn’t matter if you start watching it with no idea what comes next!

I’m not good at TV reviews and I don’t want to post any spoilers, but I would recommend it if sci-fi is your thing – or even if it isn’t!

Something I ate/drank

Pong! You’ll have to wait to see the review, but I signed up for a monthly cheese subscription called Pong, where you get a selection of cheeses sent to you by post each month. It’s a good way to try new things.

Something I learned

In this module of my Open University course we’re starting to work with Python, which I’m enjoying a lot more than the horrid drag and drop visual programming language that we had to work with in the last module. Ok, it’s only the basics at the moment, but this makes more sense to me, and that makes me happy!

Somewhere I went

We decided to make a day of the blogger event that I was invited to in Reading, and we also visited the Real Greek for lunch.

Something random that made me smile

I know that I probably don’t drink enough water. I know that I should probably do something about that – running on coffee alone isn’t the best, especially with the hot summer months coming up.

So I had the idea of putting a pint of water on my desk in the morning and refilling it in the afternoon. If it’s there next to me, I found that I am drinking it. If I don’t make the effort to put it there, I generally don’t bother.

So just changing my habit and making the effort is actually helping me to drink more water! I also decided to get this owl drinking glass so there’s one more owl in my collection!

What have you been enjoying this month? Let me know in the comments!

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Life of a mature student – how to find time for studying when you don’t have a fixed timetable

When I was at school, it always filled me with dread – that first week back when you got your timetable. I was fine once I knew what was happening, but the thought of whether my Monday morning would be full of my least favourite things such as maths and PE always made me a bit anxious – until I knew what my week would look like for the rest of the year, and then it was ok.

Generally I enjoyed school. But I felt better when I knew how it would all fit together. Which rooms I’d have to go to and when. Which homework tasks would be set on which days. Then there was order to the chaos!

Sometimes people seem to think that I was just born organised, but there’s more to it than that. As human beings, we generally take the path of least resistance, and being disorganised stresses me out way more than planning a bunch of systems and processes does. I know we’re not all the same.

So, with no lectures to attend, how do you get organised and plan your study time for a long-distance degree course?

How does it work at the Open University?

The Open university is different in that you don’t attend weekly lectures. Most learning happens when you’re working through the materials on your own. Some may find this lonely – I find it liberating because you can set your own schedule and are not restricted by what others are doing.

There are tutorials, which in a way can be like lectures, but there is a list of them for you to choose from, so you’re never tied to having to be in a specific place at a specific time, unless you want to attend a particular face-to-face event, or to go to all of your own tutor’s tutorials. The tutorials are not mandatory, but they can be useful when you’re planning your assignments or if you don’t understand something.

I opt for the online ones, and so far there have been tutorials available on weekday evenings, so I can just hop on to the call from my desk after work. That works well for me because I don’t actually need to take time out of work to do it.

There are some deadlines, such as assignment deadlines. In my last module, there were six to do.

Some people leave them to the very last moment, but again, that would stress me out too much – what if I got ill or something? So I did most of mine around a week before the cut-off date.

Otherwise though, you don’t have someone sitting there telling you what you should be doing, and you don’t have a group of people sitting in a physical space together, working through the materials together. There are forums where you can ask for help, and most modules have a Facebook group, but you really need to be responsible for your own learning strategy and time management.

The weekly planner

I don’t know whether everyone uses it, but I find the weekly planner on the student home page really useful. Ok, there is a certain satisfaction to ticking off tasks and sections of the book once they’re complete. This makes the percentage bar go up and you feel as though you’re getting somewhere!

More than that though, the content is broken down into weeks. I found it really helped to follow this plan and pretty much stuck to it all the way through the first module. I find it bizarre that the week starts on a Saturday, but I just choose to ignore this and pretend that it starts on the Monday!

There are no penalties for not following the planner though – nobody checks – and you’d only have problems if you missed one of the assignment deadlines.

Some people will try to cram everything in at the end. Others will steam off ahead and ask about things that nobody has even seen yet! What people do is really up to them, but if you’re doing a collaborative activity, complaining about the fact that nobody else is participating when it is in fact you that is 4 weeks ahead of everyone else is not going to make you any friends!

General tips for staying on track with your studies

Whether you’re at the Open University or doing other distance learning courses, these tips might help you to work through your study materials.

  • Don’t leave everything till the last minute. Your brain can only absorb so much information at once, and cramming is a risky strategy, especially if unexpected personal circumstances come up, there are technical difficulties, or you discover there’s something that you need more help with.
  • If your course provides a timetable, try to use it. It can make three big books of information and tasks feel a lot more manageable. If you don’t have the material broken down for you, invest the time in making your own weekly planner, taking into consideration any holidays or weeks when you know you’ll have less time.
  • Understand that you’ll be able to sail through some sections because it’s something you know already or something that comes naturally to you. Other things will take a bit more time. With me, it’s always the maths, but I know that and can plan in extra time for it.
  • Once you have your weekly plan, try and break it down further. I generally try to do a bit each weekday and then finish off anything I didn’t manage at the weekend. I’m lucky because I’m self-employed and can set aside some time for this during working hours if I need to. But whether you do it in your work day or a bit each evening – you need to work out what works best for you. You may find it better to have two longer sessions at the weekend – but then bear in mind that there is less time for slippage. Blocking out time in your diary can help – I put mine in like meetings that I have to attend. There will always be other things that need our attention, which is why it’s useful to schedule study time in advance.
  • Find somewhere that feels like a place for working, and try to work there. Set it up in a way that’s comfortable, with less distractions, and try to make it somewhere where you won’t be disturbed. Keep all of your books and materials there, so you won’t waste study time hunting around for them. Try to limit distractions there. I just use the desk in my office, but if you don’t have that, try to identify a place where it will be easy for you to work.
  • Focus on what you’re doing, not what everyone else is doing. I understand that some people feel more relaxed if they can get themselves a few weeks ahead and hand in their assignments as soon as possible. That’s cool. But some people like to brag about it, which is not so cool. The people on your course can be good allies – you can help one another, have interesting discussions, and be there on days when either of you has had enough. But ultimately you are never going to see these people again unless you come across them on another module. So sure, be inspired by them, but don’t let them make you feel inadequate if someone is boasting about how quickly they did a task or how easy something was for them. What’s really important for your success is how you’re doing.
  • Don’t leave it too late to ask for help. I can’t move on to the next section if I don’t understand something because it will keep bothering me. I won’t be able to stop thinking about the thing until the thing has been resolved! In some ways this serves me well, but I have seen other people really struggling alone with things and only admitting it very late in the module. There are so many places to get help – tutors, other students, friends, the internet. Some of these people will be under more pressure as exam or assignment deadlines get closer, so it is often better to get your questions in as they come up. Sometimes rereading the same thing multiple times won’t make it any clearer – you need to find another strategy to understand the concept.
  • Know when to take breaks. I’m better at this if my partner is around. When he isn’t, I’ve been known to still be sitting at my desk at stupid o’clock trying to get something finished! But generally that’s a one-off. We aren’t machines. We need basic things like sleep, food, water, exercise. It’s tough because distance learning students often have a whole bunch of other stuff going on such as jobs, family commitments etc, but it’s a marathon, not a sprint. It won’t help if you burn yourself out because you overestimated how much you could do in one sitting.
  • Expect to have good and bad days. I wasn’t fond of one section in my last module. My motivation levels were down. I couldn’t wait to see the back of it! But that’s normal. Each module covers a range of information and some things will be easier for you than others. Some things will be more interesting than others. Don’t let how you feel about yourself and your ability to do the whole course be determined by how you feel about one particular task.
  • Celebrate the small wins – it makes you feel good before moving on to the next assignment or chunk of learning. Who doesn’t like a celebration? But seriously, breaking the material down into more manageable pieces can certainly help if at first you feel a bit overwhelmed.

Do you have any more tips? Let me know in the comments!

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Life of a student – the first 4 months of my Open University course

Back in October I wrote my first post about my studies, before the first module had started. It was exciting, and in some ways I didn’t know what to expect. My previous experience with the same university, but a different subject area, had not been great in terms of accessibility for visually impaired students, so I guess I was a bit apprehensive, even though it seemed a lot of progress had been made in terms of accessibility.

Now it’s four months later and I’ve nearly finished two out of three blocks in my first module. So how’s it been?

The topics

The first module that I chose is called Introduction to computing and information technology, which, as the name suggests, gives you a basic foundation in a number of topics, that you can then go on to develop, depending on which path through the degree you choose.

Block 1 was really varied and interesting. Some things were more familiar to me, such as writing basic HTML and recording and manipulating sound. These are both things I do all the time at work, even if the sound production for the podcast is done using different software. It felt nice to know that I wasn’t completely starting from scratch in these areas!

Other things included a basic introduction to how computers have developed over time – not at all technical, but I didn’t know much about the history, so that was good.

Some of the maths gave me a headache, but I discovered quickly that it was more the way some concepts were being explained and not that I was just too stupid to be able to do it. More about the maths in my do I really hate maths? post.

We also looked at considerations for product design and then usability testing for websites, which is something I offer with a specific focus on accessibility. Some of the design concepts were a bit harder for me to visualise as someone who doesn’t know things that most others take for granted such as what certain icons look like (I just care about what they do and that they have been labelled properly) But this didn’t prevent me from understanding the concepts or answering the questions.

We also had an introduction to databases – the ideas for which weren’t new, but the writing of basic queries was.

Block 2 was less enjoyable for me because it focussed on programming, in itself not a problem, but it was taught using a horrid visual programming language, which involves dragging blocks of code around with your mous and assembling them to create programmes. I can’t use a mouse and neither can I see animated characters moving around on my screen.

I really wish we could have started with something less visual and more applicable to real life, but you have to wait for the next module before you start learning textual programming languages. This made me sad, but I consoled myself with the knowledge that at least the theory and concepts would be useful, even if the practical stuff required me to rely more heavily on a sighted assistant than I would normally want to.

I told my assistant what I wanted them to do and they gave me feedback about what happened visually, because the resulting programmes only run in the inaccessible software where you create them.

I went into the module knowing what I was getting in to, but all of the routes through the IT degree begin with these first two modules, so there was really no way round it. On the plus side, the most inaccessible part of the whole degree is done, because if there’s another module with such a high content of inaccessible material, I’ll just choose another – the advantages of choosing an open degree where you pick all of your own modules!

This module has three distinct blocks and block 3 is about networking. It looks a lot more interesting than block 2, although the main reason I didn’t enjoy block 2 was the programming language itself, not the concept of programming, which if written in a textual language, should be very accessible. And after all, I’m a linguist. I like languages and the rules that govern how you can use them. These rules are adhered to even more strictly in programming, than in languages such as English with its many exceptions to grammar rules, so there’s even less room for error.

Keeping on track

You get an online planner on your student home page and you can see what content you’re supposed to cover each week. It seems some people like getting weeks ahead and then showing off about it in the forums. I’ve no problem with getting ahead, but do you really need to keep going on about it?

Anyway, for most of the weeks, I set aside some time each day in my calendar and did part of that week’s work. I treated it like any other task I have to get done throughout the day and built it into my weekly planner. This worked well, although it took more effort to get my act together and stay motivated during block 2 because I wasn’t enjoying it as much.

Over Christmas I just really wanted to be done with it, so I got ahead of myself, finished the block and submitted the assignment relating to it.The end of the block wasn’t as bad because it looked at some of the concepts we’d been learning in the horrid visual language, and compared it with the same code in Python and Java – only simple things, but they made much more sense to me and gave me hope for the future!

The materials

I get printed books like everyone else, but I can’t use these, so I have been using the online versions of the books. They’re great! You can have the whole block appear on one page, which makes it really long, but then it’s easier to navigate the book using Jaws and jump around the document via the headings.

There are also downloadable or audio versions for people who want to learn that way, and it’s definitely good that more options are available now than there were when I was first looking at studying

a different module many years ago.

At first the image descriptions were missing, but afterI flagged this, my tutor was quick to help me track them down.

Working online

For me, working online is the best part. You don’t have to go anywhere. You don’t have to shift a load of access technology somewhere. You don’t have to rely on inaccessible printed books, or stacks of Braille books like I had at school. Braille books are great, but they take up a lot of room!

As someone who is self-employed, I’m lucky that I can set aside some time for study, but not having to go to physical lectures means that I can fit the work in when I have time for it, andI don’t have to work around a preset schedule. I love that!

This kind of course means that you spend a lot of time working on your own. Some people might miss the company, but I don’t. I can work collaboratively, but I don’t need other people to be around for me to stay motivated. In fact, working on my own in my quiet office is my favourite thing!

There are a couple of tutorials in each block. There’s a range of dates and you book in for the ones that you want to attend. I only want to attend online ones and whilst it’s easy to book them, the system used for accessing them is not very accessible for screenreader users.

In fact it’s the worst kind of inaccessible – the flaky kind. Sometimes it works and other times the screenreader loses focus and then you’re done for unless you leave the meeting and come back. The app didn’t seem that good either, although I haven’t tested it with an active meeting room link.

Basically I can attend and hear everything that’s going on, but due to issues with my screenreader losing focus, I can’t access the chat window reliably. To be honest I don’t care much – I can email any questions in at the end. It would be nice to participate more, but the tutorials aren’t really used much for discussion or working on projects – it’s more about the tutor explaining things. At school I was often that kid who knew the answer, but never put her hand up, so although I’d be happier if they switched to something more accessible, I don’t feel it affects my overall experience too much.

Also, my tutor has a list of all the tutorials I booked in for, and he contacted the other tutors to ask that they send me their slides in advance so that I can read them outside of the conference software. Usually the slides are made available afterwards.

In more general terms, my tutor has been quick to respond to emails, answering questions or chasing things up when I haven’t had what I needed.

Contact with others

Most of the time, you work on your own. That’s not to say that there is no contact with others, but you have to be a bit proactive and hunt it out. Still, there are plenty of opportunities to find others on your course.

There is a list of forums on the main website, with a specific one for each module. I’ve also found some Facebook groups (one for each module, and also some more general interest ones). There’s a Slack channel, which isn’t used heavily, but it’s there. There’s a Discord channel, which I honestly haven’t bothered with much because the app was a bit annoying, and I don’t think much is happening there. At the other end of the scale, there’s a WhatsApp group that I had to leave because it crashed my phone and I didn’t want to download 250 messages each time I wanted to look at it.But yes, anyone who’s looking for more contact with other students can join the Whatsapp group and their phone won’t stop buzzing with social interactions!

I attended a face-to-face meet-up too, which was nice enough, but there was no one there from any of the IT courses. So whilst it was nice to have a chat, it wasn’t that beneficial in terms of the course.

If there’s a problem, you have to be more direct about addressing it than you perhaps would in a face-to-face setting where people can see you.

These past few weeks have been tough, not so much because of the inaccessibility, but because of how being more dependent made me feel. I tend to withdraw if I’m not ok, find a solution, maybe hunt out one person that I trust to talk about it with, and then come back and be more sociable. That’s fine for me, but if someone really needed help or support, they would need to be upfront about it, because otherwise people wouldn’t know. So you need to be able to communicate somewhere, either to your tutor or in one of the groups, if something isn’t ok and you need help with it.

Assessments

I’ve completed two online assessments, received 1 assignment back, and submitted the second one. I’m not going to go into my marks here, but I’m happy with them – apart from some points I needlessly dropped by not double-checking something – grr!

Overall thoughts

Overall I’m enjoying both the online study experience and the introduction to computing and IT module. I didn’t enjoy the last block, and if any blind person who uses a screenreader is planning to do this module, they will need to bear in mind that they’ll need sighted assistance for the practical tasks in block two. All of the actual work needs to be your own, but you’ll need someone to move your mouse to drag the code blocks around and describe what they see.

If I hadn’t had such a good assistant with whom I can work well, my experience would have been much worse!

But I want to focus on the positives, because the theory and concepts I picked up in block 2 will help me when it comes to the introduction to Python in the next module. Also, block 3 looks a lot more accessible, so in accessibility terms, I think the worst is over.

In more general terms, I think it’s natural that for whatever reason, whether it’s to do with accessibility or just what you like and are good at, you’re going to like some parts of a course more than others. That’s life. Yes, it would have been better if a text-based alternative had been available to the visual coding language, but it wasn’t and I kept plodding on through. Sometimes you just need to get things done so you can move on to something else.

I’ve basically got a week off now because next week people are supposed to be working on their assignments and I’ve already finished mine. So I’ll enjoy that and then I’m looking forward to starting the networking topic.

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Good things in November

I’m trying to get my November favourites in before the end of November because tomorrow is the beginning of Blogmas! It’s a bit shorter this month because some of the things that I’ve been enjoying will get their own post as part of my Christmas content. I’ve been enjoying getting ready for Blogmas over the last couple of weeks, so I suppose that is a kind of favourite before I’ve even started!

1. Mango products!

We went for dinner with some friends who clearly know me very well! We hadn’t seen them for a while and I was given my birthday present – some delicious mango chocolates, which are not in the picture because by the time we got round to taking it, they had already been opened or eaten, and a selection of products from the Body Shop’s mango range. I think someone has been reading my blog!

There were firm favourites such as the mango shower gel, the mango body butter, and the mango body yoghurt – all of which I can definitely recommend. I also got the mango lip butter, which contains mango oil and smells good enough to eat, and the mango body scrub, which I hadn’t tried before, but which is a soluble sugar scrub. I don’t usually use physical scrubs, but if I do, this is the best type because it’s grainy and you get the scrubbing action, but because you’re using sugar particles, they dissolve and don’t stay around.

So all in all I’ve been walking around smelling like a giant mango!

We talk a lot about the Body Shop®’s festive scents, but if you know someone likes a specific line from the Body Shop, you can just as easily put together a lovely gift from that line.

2. Feelunique pick ‘n mix

I won’t talk about this at length because I wrote a post about it, but I enjoyed finding another way to try out some new products to test on the blog!

3. Toffee apple

This is really random and I hope my dentist isn’t reading this – but S brought me home one of these after bonfire night and I was intrigued to try it because I’d never had one before. The sweetness of the sugar and the crunchiness of the apple – I don’t want to think of how many calories were in that, but I’m glad I tried it!

4. New shampoo

I usually try out new shampoos and conditioners together, but on this occasion I just got the Aveda almond cherry shampoo when I was putting through a Lookfantastic order to claim my Glossy points. I thought I’d give it a go and had been meaning to try something from the brand for a while. I should really get the conditioner as well, but I was happy with Its performance and love the cherry scent!

5. Tili Urban Jungle

I don’t usually shop at QVC, but from time to time they bring out beauty boxes. The Urban Jungle box costs £20 and contains 11 products. The shower gel alone can cost £10 when it’s not on offer, so provided you would use most of the things in the box, it’s a good deal. I gave away the dry shampoo and the eye shadow, but even so, it was still worth my while and a chance to discover some new brands.

6. Completing the first part of my first module

I couldn’t bring myself to write that getting my first assignment in was a favourite, but we covered an interesting range of topics in the first module from website design to databases to creating sound media content. Some things weren’t new to me, whereas others really made my brain work (yay for binary and hexadecimal calculations), but all in all it was a good block and I passed my first two assignments!

The current block is not as much fun for me, but I am just focussing on getting it done so that I can move on to something more interesting and relevant.

7. More work on the house complete

It’s a work in progress and we have more plans for things that we want to do, but after my accident in the Summer, getting a bannister for the stairs came higher up the priority list. I didn’t have an accident on the stairs, and I can walk around unaided most of the time, but the leg is weaker and I don’t trust it yet, so having a bannister instead of the open stairwell makes me happy!

8. Shout out to our postman!

I do a lot of my shopping online, which only increases as Christmas approaches. Most of the delivery drivers are fine – apart from the ones that don’t knock even though you’re in, or the ones that leave a card saying “We left your package either on your property or with a neighbour” – very helpful!

I guess our postman sees more of me than many of his customers, but it’s the little things – he knows I have to make a dash down the stairs and also that this is harder for me at the moment, so he doesn’t just drop the parcels and run – or even worse, take them back. Time is money, but he waits. He also knows I’m visually impaired and usually says how many packages there are, rather than just handing me the bottom one and hoping I’ll realise it’s actually a stack of boxes. Just little things that make life easier.

What have you been enjoying this month? Let me know in the comments!

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The emails contain news of my new posts, other things that I’ve enjoyed (podcasts, posts from other bloggers, interesting articles etc), and any UK shopping information that I think my readers might like.

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