Evaluation Comments
Course:Computer Systems I

Quarter:Winter 10/11
Time: Tu 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?

1.   Experience
5.   This instructor made a very difficult class fun and engaging. I felt like the instructor was good at taking an interest in the subject. One huge strength was talking with the instructor after class.
7.   At the start of the quarter, the instructor was excellent at explaining the course material and helping students to understand the material. I did not have as great of an experience during the second half of the quarter. Things started going downhill with the binary bomb and by the end of the buff lab, I found myself dreading having to approach the instructor. As an example, I asked a question about something he had just presented. In answer, he repeated, in a louder voice, what he previously said without elaborating. During the break I spoke to one of my classmates who was able to explain the answer in 30 seconds. When the instructor did explain things his answers tended to become more technical and "math-y". While, it's a technical class there are instances in which trivial examples can be used to explain concepts. For instance, during the section involving boolean algebra he presented the material using an 8bit example. Someone asked a question and he answered using a 32 bit word and discussing things in terms of "all instances of 0". While probably more accurate, the concept could have been explained using the 8 bit word. Having said the above, the instructor was good about reviewing course material and I believe he was initially interested in making sure people understood the material. It's a shame he seemed to become less approachable and helpful at the end of the quarter. One other thing, James was very quick at replying to messages (both in email and on the board). However, it seemed in his effort to respond quickly he didn't take time to figure out what the student was asking. I stopped asking questions because it became frustrating at having to ask for clarification if his first answer was quick, off the cuff, and not relevant to what I was really asking.
9.   Teacher is clearly brilliant. Very tough course with very tough material. Teacher could address just about any question thrown at him. Teacher warned about falling behind but it seems inevitable with this much material.Sometimes teacher appeared confused with his own slide which didn't help my already growing confusion.

What aspects of this course were most beneficial to you?

1.   Hands On Homework
4.   The labs were great. Felt like I learned more from them than assignments in most other classes.
5.   Speaking with the instructor after class and walkign through the first part of each assignment to get a good start on it.
6.   The labs.
7.   The material was all very interesting.
9.   The labs were by far the best experience. Definite sense of accomplishment.

What do you suggest to improve this course?

1.   More Assignments
3.   Roll back on some of the homework a bit. Some of that stuff was absolutely soul-crushing. The quizzes/exams were great through.
5.   More hands on practical tutorial style instruction would be very beneficial
7.   As mentioned above, more consideration should be given to those who are not naturally technically adept by occasionally using a trivial example rather than becoming more technical. For example, doing my homework for the Boolean algebra, even though we used 32 bit words I found I could run various tests on paper using 8 bit words.
8.   It took me a while to "get" how the stack is laid out. Was probably not helped by the fact that the GDB session was taped, so no questions could be asked.
9.   More forced group interaction. I would have liked to have the teacher set aside time to discuss material inside (or outside) of class to have a 1-on-1 with another student. Felt like more students were lost and didn't feel comfortable saying so.

Comment on the grading procedures and exams

1.   fine
5.   Grading procedures seemed to be fair and were very quick. The exams were very challenging
7.   He seems concerned about making sure people are graded fairly.
9.   Material is extremely tough so exams should be as well. Wish material was easier for me but it wasn't. Teacher was very fair in grading assignments and quizzes.

Other comments?

2.   This course was fucking hard.
7.   I found the material to be quite challenging and I was very interested in it. At the start of the quarter I found myself thinking about how what we were learning related to my professional experience. However, by the end of the quarter, I was so put off by the instructor that I found myself just happy for it all to be over. I have a friend who is a lecturer at community colleges and she has told me stories about how sometimes she gets a class full of students that she just doesn't like. At the end of the quarter it felt like we were the class of students that James didn't like. It wasn't anything overt that he did, but just his tone and how he presented himself.