Evaluation Comments
Course:Formal Semantics of Programming Languages

Quarter:Autumn 07/08
Time: ::: - :::
Location: Distance Learning
James Riely PhD

Associate Professor
Instructor homepage

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Summary     1       2       3       4       

What are the major strengths and weaknesses of the instructor?

1.   Very well organized and knowledgeable.
2.   Dr. Riely has an exception teaching style and a deep and rich understanding of the material.
4.   This is his research area, so its all strength when it comes to the material presented.

What aspects of this course were most beneficial to you?

1.   Theory of programming languages.
2.   Reducing programming languages to their mathematical foundations provided excellent perspective on languages in general. Building up a simple OO language (for example, Featherweight Java) was also very valuable.
4.   Going deep about typing formalizations, and operational semantics of programming languates, it is not easy to graps, much practice and going over is needed, sometimes years need to be spent just to get a hang of this field. Not for the faint hearted

What do you suggest to improve this course?

1.   The pace of the course can be slowed down a bit. Instructor could probably assign shorter assignments instead of many lengthy assignments .
2.   Possibly cut out the OCaml at the beginning of the course. It's an extremely challenging course, and the OCaml adds to that challenge. The midterm needs the full amount of time alloted to it (at least 2 hours as opposed to 1.5 hours).
3.   I think the applicability of this course towards actual real world work was not made clear right away. I would be more inspired to understand and plug away if a real world example of when you would use the knowledge from this course would be presented as an example on day 1.
4.   The text books, are notoriously difficult when it comes to theory of programming languages. although this text book was the most practical , it was still disjoint at points, and glossed over subjects that are pretty hard, in two sentences.

Comment on the grading procedures and exams

1.   Fair.
2.   Seems very fair.
4.   Grading was fair

Other comments?

2.   This is my third Riely class, and it was every bit as good as the other two. I've learned an incredible amount from him. He's an exceptional teacher.
4.   Great professor, he is full of humor, which is needed when taking a deeply theoritical course. Without it you will fall asleep and never wake up.