Evaluation Comments
Course:Computer Systems I

Quarter:Autumn 09/10
Time: ::: - :::
Location: Distance Learning
James Riely PhD

Associate Professor
Instructor homepage

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What are the major strengths and weaknesses of the instructor?

1.   Professor Riely is a highly knowledgeable instructor and clearly an expert in his field. He could answer student questions very effectively and his answers revealed a lot of very important information about the topic.The general problem was that the material was not presented in an effective and organized fashion. There were many unused slides during presentations that would just fly on the screen. And there were also slides that would jump straight to a difficult example, before introducing the topic through simpler examples and finger exercises. This resulted in lectures with too much information to absorb and made deciphering what is important and what is not quite difficult.The book was of no help in this matter either, since it presents concept in a rather hard to absorb manner, instead of staring off from simple examples and building on.Hence the students were left pretty much on their own to figure things out and distill what is important, which made the course much harder than it has to be.An approach starting from "Hello world" would have been much more fruitful since it's the first systems class that most students take.
2.   Professor Riely is obviously a very intelligent man and a great computer scientist. However, I feel he is not a very good teacher. He is not able to properly judge his student's understanding of a topic and cover what is important. He spends too much time reviewing the obvious, and not enough explaining what we really need to learn. I felt like I was thrown into each homework assignment blind, even after sitting through the lecture, re-watching it, and reading the textbook several times. He does not prepare his lectures before class, so on several occasions we sat and waited while he figured out what his demos were supposed to show us, then he rushed through the demonstration.
3.   This is a hard topic to grasp. The instructor is experienced with this topic and was able to anticipate the average students choke points of knowledge and present helpful hints along the way.
5.   He is positive and seems interested in subject. He has a strong and varied academic and career background.
6.   The instructor is very knowledgeable, a very nice guy and tried to help the students whenever they had questions. Clearly, he knows everything about the topics. But unfortunately, he could not present the material in a proper way. Even the easiest topic took many many hours for us to figure out what it really was about. Everyone got lost most of the time and spent too many hours outside of the class to understand what the lecture was about. Some watched the lectures over and over again, some read the book over and over again. The book was a disaster, since it did not explain anything. The course was not difficult, but the way the material was presented made it look like it was among the most difficult. The lectures were fun though :)
7.   weaknesses: presents a little too fast, assumes students understand materialstrengths: knowledgeable, intelligent, enthusiastic, gives students kick-starts on homework assignments
8.   As an online student, it is sometimes difficult to focus on the lecture. I thought his presentation was lively and his sense of humour added to the lecture.

What aspects of this course were most beneficial to you?

1.   The labs were excellent. They were challenging for sure but certainly brought the concepts to live. Having a class mailing list was a very good idea too and it was very kind of the instructor to promptly respond to any emails send to him or to the list. The hints that came were very helpful.
2.   The "bomb lab" which covers debugging/assembly.
3.   The labs were of the most benefit.
5.   The course became more meaningful the further I got into it. Maybe it was the moving from the abstract to the concrete that made sense to me.
7.   everything. its all critical for a CS major

What do you suggest to improve this course?

1.   It's a great course in terms of content, and it certainly gives you a deeper understanding of how computers work. If the material gets organized and presented more efficiently, I think it will be an excellent course.
2.   What this class really needs is more time to cover important topics. A supplemental learning group would be extremely helpful.
3.   A student guide that breaks down some of the more difficult parts into plain speak and walk us through. The book expects some level of understanding that isn't there for most. Due to the very odd topics this course covers, we could use a bridge between the book and the instructor notes to allow the student to cover the details of the most difficult parts of the course at our pace of understanding without dragging the rest of the class down.
4.   It needs to be slowed down, or more homework than the labs given to allow a better understanding of the concepts.
5.   This was a hard course for me to grasp at the beginning. I didn't know if it was a course in C, or Assembler, or Unix, or what? I assume it will prepare me for csc 374 though.
7.   i wish the whole computer systems topic were 3 quarters instead of 2. not much else needed to improve

Comment on the grading procedures and exams

1.   The midterm was very fair. The labs were challenging but certainly very beneficial.
2.   I felt the midterm was held too early, and was unnecessarily difficult. Also, since it was only three questions, if you were stumped by one, you automatically failed the exam. The first question, which was supposed to be the "easy" question was unnecessarily tricky by asking us to work with 6 bits, when we had only ever worked with 8. It's not a big deal now, but only having the concept introduced 3 weeks prior, I was not comfortable with the material enough to make that transition, especially during an exam. Also, for how much time and effort the home works take, they constitute very little of the final grade (data lab 8%, bomb lab 12%, buffer lab 10%). I have gotten A's on all of the home works thus far, but since I did poorly on the midterm there is no way I can get an A in the class. I don't think this is very fair at all, especially since my I am working extremely hard outside of class. I don't feel my final grade will be an adequate representation of my effort nor my understanding of the material.
3.   None
5.   Seemed slow. Also, there was a disparity between online and in class regarding the taking of quizzes.
7.   all fair and impartial

Other comments?

3.   None
7.   thanks for a good class prof. Riely :]