Evaluation Comments
Course:Data Structures in Java I

Quarter:Autumn 13/14
Time: MW 15:10 - 16:40
Location: Loop Campus
James Riely PhD

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

1.   Good teacher on a tough subject.
2.   Clarity was an issue an times. With a complex language such as Java, it's a little bit of a challenge to fully grasp an assignment. Especially when curve balls may be thrown into an assignment, when you don't fully understand the fundamentals, trying to figure out the curve balls becomes even more difficult.
3.   Strengths- Funny- Smart- Knows his stuff- Easy to talk to and always willing to help- Structure in the course was good, kept me focused and always doing work for the class (always learning).Weakness- I felt that using his class as guinea pigs to test new things is not fair unless you also have some flexibility when questions are not correctly worded. Making it easier for later classes does not help learn us now. If a student has a good reason for why they got a question wrong I think that the professor should give them those points. - Teaches very quickly. Hard to follow sometimes.- Should give more test cases/ examples of what programming assignments should do to make sure we do not have holes in the code. Or at least tell us to make sure it works for all types of input and not just what he provides as a test.
4.   Major strength: Availability Major weaknesses: Did not thoroughly or precisely explain homework assignments and poor time management
5.   Very good explanations of material in class. Is better than most at explaining problems. Is understanding. I was impressed by his exuberance in class; it was high, but not grating.I didn't think his teaching was in anyway sub-par. It was always average to excellent.
6.   Strengths: He's confident in his knowledge and you always felt like you would get a reasonable answer if you went to him for help. He's a pretty fun guy and that upbeat attitude went a long way towards stimulating interest in what could very easily be dry. Weaknesses: His homework and quizzes were ambiguous more than once. He does a good job at explaining concepts, but he's bad at explaining the expectations of the course and his expectations of the students. More often than not, I saw myself getting a bad grade on a homework quiz because of ambiguously worded questions or just questions that we haven't even seen before. Another example that comes to mind is that, one homework quiz had us insert code to make a program work. The problem provided us with a test case, and a lot of people inserted the line in a spot which made the program work for the test caseExcept that was wrong, there was ANOTHER test case that wasn't explicitly stated in the problem. Now I understand the logic behind this. One day we will have to come up with our own test cases and debug our own programs. But you've got to understand that many students are coming into this class with just python or a rudimentary understanding of computer science. We ALWAYS were given problems with ALL of the test cases clearly spelled out. To throw this question at us with ALL of the test cases NOT stated was a curve ball that a lot of people fell for.
7.   Really excellent email communication, really helped with the course assignments.

What aspects of this course were most beneficial to you?

2.   The aspect that it is split into two quarters, gives the student a chance to fully understand the subject, as well as recorded online classes, which allow me to go back and double check a lecture for hints or notes that i missed about a topic/homework assignment.
3.   The programming assignments were difficult enough where I had to work hard and think outside of the box to figure them out. I liked that because I felt I was pushing myself and learning. Diagrams and pictures used to explain topics and ideas were always helpful.
4.   N/A
5.   The homework. Hands down incredibly useful.
6.   The homework were by far the best. Hard, but when you got them done you had a clear understanding and felt confident with the concept the homework was trying to teach you.
7.   The homework assignments

What do you suggest to improve this course?

2.   It's on the students to ask questions when they don't understand a subject. That being said, I think we would have less questions if we were to go over in class all aspects of applying a algorithm or class. but this may slow down class speed as it is virtually impossible to cover every take on it. Maybe just cover important problems or ones we may find in the homework?
3.   - Be more flexible in grading when testing new quiz approaches/ questions on your class.- Slow down with the lectures.- Use a less 'mathy' book. I feel like I am in a calculus class that uses programming rather then in a programming class that has some math when I read the book.
4.   I believe this course would function better provided that the professor can effectively teach the material in a manner that is easier for students to learn and grasp precisely.
5.   I found the reading hw/quizzes to be very useless. They did not contribute at all to my understanding of the course material or homework. I would suggest a lab class similar to the labs I've had in my csc241/242 classes. The labs allow for hands on experience learning either simpler versions of the homework or for teaching the students the associated programs used in the homework.The specific draw program for the percolation assignment for instance. It would have been very useful for me, when doing the percolation assignment to know how that worked before I started the assignment. I spent about 10hours on it and only about 1-2 of those hours was spent having a sufficient knowledge of the associated programs. The rest was spent either trying to understand the associated programs, or coming up with solutions that ultimately failed, because I didn't understand. It was frustrating. Or knowing how check invariants worked when doing the node assignment. Knowing specifically what was wrong when a bug arose due to the check invariants would have saved me a ton of time and made the assignment much less frustrating. If not labs, at least a lot more comments on such methods so it's easier to understand what is going on.
6.   Having a Lab Day or at least a class room where we could have computers would be phenomenal. Data Structures in General would benefit from a Lab like what Intro to Computer I and II have.
7.   The idea of having a lab portion of the class if not possible to have the class in a lab was brought up which I think would have helped a lot. While computers do add the possibility of distractions, for me personally, being able to program in a classroom setting while the professor is showing you how to do it is really helpful. Yea, you can go home and program but you'll likely end up spending more time frustrated trying to figure things out instead of actually understanding what you're doing, and plus it adds the ability to ask questions as soon as they come up and lets the professor see what your thought process is. I don't know, it just feels like if you're taking a class using programming, you should be able to program in the class.

Comment on the grading procedures and exams

2.   Fair and understandable. Most of it is on the student to remember taking the quizzes before the D2L window closes, which can be an issue for forgetful students (Me). Professor should be assigned a grader so students can see homework grades with in a reasonable time frame.
3.   - Did not always give the most constructive feedback. But the emails regarding assignments were usually very thorough.
4.   N/A
5.   Seemed fair and reasonable. No other comments.
6.   No comments, no concerns. Pretty fair actually.
7.   Took a bit long but that's understandable since we didn't have a grader.

Other comments?

2.   Nah son, that about covers it.
3.   None. I like the professor a lot, he is a great guy I just want to offer constructive feedback so that the course can be improved.
4.   N/A
5.   Aside from the massive time sink each homework was, I thought the class was excellent and so was the teacher. I thought it was very applicable outside of the course, interesting, and at times fun. the MyDeckSort was short, sweet, and fun.
6.   Nope, Good class overall!
7.   Nay