Evaluation Comments
Course:Formal Semantics of Programming Languages

Quarter:Spring 02/03
Time: W 17:45 - 21:00
Location: Loop Campus
James Riely PhD

Associate Professor
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What are the major strengths and weaknesses of the instructor?

3.   Strength: Impartial, fair, and understanding. Good understanding of the material and current research in the field
5.   Strengths: His knowledge of the material and his enthusiasm.Weaknesses: Sometimes the course seemed a little disorganized. And some of the goals laid out in the first lecture (like having students present homework solutions) were not realized because we always seemed to be short on time.
7.   He was a good teacher.But for this course, it seemed like he took time getting into it.
8.   Knowledgable and Excited about the subject.

What aspects of this course were most beneficial to you?

3.   The in-depth study of how programming languages evolve and are formalized
5.   Topics in the second half were definitely more fun (and more easy to relate to "reality"), but I suppose the first half was necessary to be able to understand the second half.
6.   the ideas of using types to prove things like normalization/termination, and the howward curry corespondance.
7.   The discussions post-midterm were most relevant and useful to me. Also, doing the term paper was a great idea. Been very helpful in appreciating the subject and material!
8.   Helpful Lectures. Got a good intro into Programing Language Research.

What do you suggest to improve this course?

1.   Change the textbook.
2.   The course material seems right now that I am working on the research paper. It all seems to come into place now. Till now it seemed so dry and I really didn't understand why we were studying it. Can't the course be made a little practical, like we implement the stuff maybe using OCaml to really understand where we use all the stuff.
3.   More emphasis should be placed on the homework so that a student can gauge progress. Having the answers is sometimes a curse more than a blessing...Slides could be a little more descriptive as well....
4.   In a nutshell: Prepare For The Lectures! And remember, we're NOT experts, yet!Dr. Riely effectively defines the "10" ranking on broad up-to-date knowledge of subject matter. However, this alone does not translate to an ability to convey that information to people less familiar with it. It especially does not mean that lectures can be delivered (as they often seem to have been) off the cuff. It's very discouraging-- Dr. Riely obviously wants to teach this class, and I don't at all get the impression that we're a distraction from his research. But this subject matter is too complex to wing it using other people's prepared slides.
5.   Tailor the homework assignments more to our class, rather than relying on Pierce's assignments. Some of the homework assignments were pretty far beyond us so it got to be a bit of a joke - just copying answers from the back of the book.
7.   It would be nice if reading of papers were introduced early on, even while studying lambda calculus. Probably, as some of the homeworks - students could discuss their take on a certain paper. (The papers I read, were only using EBNF style notations. So I could have understood them earlier too, I think).
8.   A second course should be offered after this course to get deeper into semantics.

Comment on the grading procedures and exams

3.   Fair and impartial. Could allot more marks towards homework, however, so students can determine how far behind they really are...
4.   Dr. Riely, think very carefully-- did you claim at some point, for the midterm, that you would give us, eg, the reduction/typing rules for any given problem? I think so, but I'm too lazy to watch six hours of recorded lecture to track down the reference. Did you then, instead, forget and ask us for those rules as part of the exam? I can't swear to it, so I didn't mark down on the "fairness of test evaluation, etc" but I think you did. I think that might explain some low grades on the mid-term. (Either that, or I completely misunderstood one of your comments.)
5.   Fine so far. Hard to comment because papers and finals have yet to be submitted/graded.
7.   Good. I took time to appreciate the assignments - my bad.
8.   Very fair. It was a bit difficult to take the mid-term exam. The exam wasn't hard but since the entire area was new, it was difficult to adequately study everything. Would have been better to Have a quiz every week ( take home ) and then make the mid-term a comprehensive of the quizzes. There is allot to learn when just starting out with this material. There are many ways to approach it the author approached his questions from an entirely different angle than allot of the questions on the mid-term, I learned by doing the homeworks from the author but the mid-term had many entirely different types of questions.

Other comments?

1.   The textbook does not have enough example.Example is very important in this kind of subject. The textbook have only 1 or 2 example in each topic, and in a very short hand writting.
3.   The course was interesting, but perhaps more tie-in's to real programming languages earlier in the class would make things a little easier to understand...
4.   The above review was, by my lights, pretty harsh. Please do not interpret that as bitterness at a bad grade or personal dislike; my grades are high and I like Dr. Riely just fine.On the other hand, some negative criticism was badly required, here.
6.   i'd like to see a successor to this class in which we took the subject farther now that we have the basics
7.   On the whole a good teacher and a good class. The last few lectures and material covered were very good!