Evaluation Comments
Course:Automata Theory and Formal Grammars

Quarter:Autumn 04/05
Time: W 17:45 - 21:00
Location: Loop Campus
James Riely PhD

Associate Professor
Instructor homepage

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Summary     1       2       3       4       5       6       7       8       

What are the major strengths and weaknesses of the instructor?

1.   takes the time to make sure students understand
2.   The instructor is personable, however at times is confused and confusing. I also didn't appreciate the instructor bring his political views into the class. It wasn't often, but every once in a while he would make a comment during the course of the lecture that clearly stated his political viewpoint.
3.   His major strengths are that he is able to relate the material to students well and is very responsive to student's educational needs and issues.
4.   The course webpage was helpful, he was very personable and easy to talk to.
5.   The instructor was very interested in creating an environment that fostered the exchange of information between students and himself. He really tried to foster the idea that this is the way a graduate course should be and he was very successful with this goal. He was genuinely concerned about making sure that he communicated with the students and he has excellent skills interacting with the class, so the lectures were interesting.
6.   Good teacher, but exams are very tough -- he said they'd be just like the homework but they weren't at all, so many students did poorly on the midterm.
7.   Active and entertaining in class, which maintains student interest.

What aspects of this course were most beneficial to you?

2.   I believe the text was very good, one of the best I've read.
3.   The deeper knowledge of formal grammars will help me in maby aspects of my career as a software engineer.
4.   Homework was helpful, homework review was beneficial.
5.   The most valuable aspects of the course were the overview of basic theorectical concepts, the instructor's suggestions about how these concepts are used, and incorporation of research in the area through supplemental topics.
7.   The supplementary tools, eg, JFLAP.

What do you suggest to improve this course?

3.   When building theoretical machines in class, use a program such as JFlap so that the machine can more easily be viewed online. Also, it is possible to save a distribute the machines talked about in class.
4.   none
5.   The lectures on new material were generally good - they could be improved with more sample problems that explore different nuances of the topic. They also could be improved by pacing them better. For example, since we did not review all the homework problems, the ones gone over in class should have choosen for specific teaching reasons --to highlight a difficult concept rather than the class just wanting the answer. Sometimes we spent to much time on a side issue when we could have focused on more central concepts. In summary, more example problems, pacing the course based on the importance of concepts, and centralized focus for homework review would help the course.
7.   Unsure.
8.   Make notes a little less mathematical so they are easier to follow. Not everybody in the class is a math major or is an expert in mathematical principles.

Comment on the grading procedures and exams

1.   the mid-term was quite a bit more challenging than expected based on instructor comments before the exam. However, i believe the instructor took this into consideration in grading the exam, so in the end it was fair.
2.   The instructor modified the grading scale "because there isn't a grader for this class", so homework would only count 10% of your grade and the mid-term and final would count 90%, which I feel put way to much weight on the tests and not enough on homework.
3.   To DePaul: Please hire graders next year. It is beyond ridiculous that a University not hire graders.
4.   none
5.   The instructor was not entirely accurate in his characterization of the midterm and this create some issues for the course. It would be a good idea to post a sample exam, and to allow more that enough time for the exam. If these two issues were addressed at the start much of the exam controversy could have been elminated. Also, the instructor needs to raise the bar on the homework problems -- it is OK to give difficult homework -- when it helps prepare students for their exams. Finally, if the course is not going to have a grader to provide specific comments on the homework,and the class does not have time to go over the all the problems in lecture, and the problems form the basis of the exams, the instructor needs to post the answers (or possible answers) in their entirety and in a timely fashion. Without the answers, there is no way to check if the homework is correct and that students are prepared for the exam. It is unrealistic not to keep in mind that the exams and course grade are an underlying motivation for the class in addition to learning the material.
7.   I'd really like homework to be graded instead of simply checked off as existing. There is little incentive to do it well if it is an almost guaranteed 100. It would also mean that points for the course are more spread out, so that a single question on the midterm or final doesn't become such a large portion of the overall grade.
8.   - Midterm was too long and

Other comments?

2.   I have one class remaining before I complete my degree. This is the first time I have given this bad of a review to a professor. Maybe it was just a difference in my learning style and the professor's teaching style. Generally I have been very satisfied with the Professors at DePaul CTI.
3.   Professor Riely is a very good and interesting professor. I have taken two courses taught by him and have learned a great deal.
5.   I think the book by Hopcroft would have better match the aims of the instructor rather than the Sipser book. Although the Sipser book was very readable.
8.   - the notes were too complicated and hard to follow. Too much mathematical notation.- Midterm was too long and too hard.- The textbook was surpisingly better than other courses.