Wednesday, July 21, 2010

The Semester in Review

Someone left the following review of this class on that site:
You WILL have to put in A LOT of time w/ this professor. Don't bother attending lectures but study & practice DAILY. HW in tears is about right & tests are difficult. Check out old tests & grade distributions on before enrolling in his class. You have been warned.

First, I want to point out that you can leave those comments on this website, which many more students are likely to see. Just leave a comment on this post.

I have to agree with the review. This class requires a lot of time (by the standards of other USC classes). I explain this on the first day of class, and repeat it constantly. Learning to program is all about practice. It is just like learning to play the piano, or golf, or writing a coherent paragraph: you have to practice. There are no shortcuts. There is no Matrix plug we can put on the back of your head to make you a software engineer.

I am slightly disappointed with the "don't attend lectures" comment. I do agree they are not needed. I learned to program from a book, in 9th grade. No one learns to program by sitting in a lecture, just like no one learns learns to write a story by sitting in a lecture. You learn by doing. Still, I hope that I at least gave you some tips on how its done. At minimum, you saw someone programming, in real life, in real time. I am sure for many of you that was the first time you saw someone actually writing a program. Maybe it was boring to you, in which case maybe this is not the career for you. I find it a lot of fun to take an idea, a real problem, and actually physically solve it with nothing but a few keystrokes and some thinking. I am glad many of you chose to attend. Since no part of the class grade depends on attendance, I assume this means they were getting something out of the lecture.

In any case, I welcome any and all comments. My only wish is that the students had asked me more questions in class, or on this website, or by email, or by IM, or during my office hours.


Darne said...

You belittle students when they ask questions. I asked you a question online (via chat) and you did not answer at all. You just stopped talking. Now after I got an understanding I saw why you did not answer, because it was, at least in your eyes, a silly question. But for me it was a serious question that I spent time on trying to understand, and you just left me there confused. Thus if a teacher responds like that what is the point of asking questions. Also, you seemed disapointed that the first test grades were high, and happy with the second set of test grades being lower. When a teacher is happy because of low test grades, it seems as if he/she wants you to fail. Again this leads to what is the point of attending class or asking a question. Lastly, I went to the T.A. for help and he said you are making the problems to hard. It took him an hour just to understand the set up of the problem and that was all the time he had to help me. Now to you I know you find this funny but from and educational stand point if I do not know what a for-loop is and I am trying to spend an hour trying to understand what the problem is saying it gives me no time to understand for-loops. Just for refrence purposes, I did not fail your class, I got a decent grade thus I am not a student that is mad because I feel you gave me an "F".

Jose M Vidal said...

I am deeply sorry if you felt belittled. It was certainly not my intention. I treat everyone with respect and patience, as I would like to be treated. I understand you might feel differently. It was probably just a miscommunication.

As far as IM chats, yes, it is certainly possible that I stopped chatting. I have IM in my office, my kitchen computer, my home office, and my iphone. Thus, many times real-life intrudes on an IM conversation: someone walks into my office, I have to get back to cooking dinner, the kids start a fighting, etc. Please understand that IM is an unreliable communications medium. If you want a person's undivided attention you will need to talk to them face to face.

I was not disappointed about the grades being high on the first test. I said that I had expected, based on previous years' classes, that they would be lower. Thus, I was surprised they were as high as they were. I was also very happy. When they were lower on the second test I was again surprised, but this time I was sad.

I can't comment much on your private meeting with the TA as I was not there.

I am glad you earned a decent grade on the class.

Darne said...

I was just addressing your comment: "My only wish is that the students had asked me more questions in class, or on this website, or by email, or by IM, or during my office hours." When things of this nature happen, it closes students off, especially if the question is never addressed either in class or in a post. You could have said in class, "someone asked a question and we got cut off..." Its neither here nor there now, I am done with the class.I never have to walk down to swenger again.