Evaluation Comments
Course:Data Structures I

Quarter:Autumn 14/15
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.   The ability to interact with students.
2.   Very easy to understand.
3.   The instructor knew the material well and provided many ways to study the material outside of class.During class, however, much the time was spent debugging the very code intended to help the students learn the material. It seems as though the sheer amount of supplementary material the instructor tried to incorporate exceeded his ability to manage it all.There was no individual feedback given on homework assignments, as it seemed most if not all of the homework grading was outsourced. The instructor was often overly terse, and occasionally slightly condescending, in replying to individual email questions, perhaps out of the expectation that questions be fielded to the class discussion forum. While understandable, this expectation should have been made more clear.
4.   Dr. Riely has done a great job organizing the course with his website, and presenting resources for the students. I think he deserves recognition for his efforts to improve the 402/403 sequence over its 383 predecessor.
5.   I felt that he presented the material clearly. the only issue is that it did not prepare me for the homework assignments. I felt thrown into learning a new programming language and learning data structures at the same time. It was overwhelming. I feel if you work full time. This
7.   I thought that there was too much focus on the tracing software and as a student with little previous technical experience, it added a level of complexity to my learning of Data Structures rather than making the material more understandable. I also found the teaching style to be unfocused and I struggled to keep up and ultimately will have to retake the class.
8.   Very easy to understand.

What aspects of this course were most beneficial to you?

1.   the instructor responded to class related questions in a timely matter
2.   Very applicable to my major
3.   Working with a complex, powerful IDE like Eclipse probably taught me more than the details of the algorithms studied in the class.
7.   The external reading and practice materials are helpful. The class seems to assume more technical confidence than a novice such as myself has. I took 401 but still had holes in my learning. I am currently taking online courses on Java and programming to try to prepare myself for this class in the Winter.
8.   Very applicable to my major

What do you suggest to improve this course?

1.   Nothing
3.   Perhaps as a way to save the instructor's workload and reinforce disciplined programming, there should be less hand-holding for the homework. Though it perhaps prepares students for the reality of having to work with and understand co-workers' different styles of coding, it also does nothing to help us practice the basics (object initializing, for example). The instructor's solution of telling students to simply rewrite the code on their own wasn't much of an incentive.Also, the instructor's hand drawn diagrams on the whiteboard were far more effective than the attempts at convoluted visualization programs.
5.   materials should presented slower and with a better textbook.
6.   More programming assignments.
7.   I'm not sure - perhaps less focus on additional software that may overcomplicate the course and more focus on the material. I am taking some external classes at Lynda.com and pluralsight and I'm getting Data Structures in ways that I wish were more clearly taught in this course.

Comment on the grading procedures and exams

1.   they were fine
2.   Fair
3.   Midterm exam was too long, given that all code had to be handwritten and "debugged" through double checking.
5.   Way to difficult.
8.   Fair

Other comments?

7.   I'm concerned that Depaul's CS program is on the website welcoming people who have no computer background and yet it moves at a pace that is assuming rapid integration of very new and challenging materials. When I spoke with a tutor, I was told that the drop/fail rate for people in my situation with little technical training is very high. This is discouraging given the financial cost of the course and the future need for programmers. I would think the program would be more encouraging and supportive particularly as a Master's course - which is a space for career mastery or career change. I am continuing with the program and will continue to seek external support so that I will succeed, however, I do think that there are ways to create a challenging program that simultaneously inspires and motivates people from diverse backgrounds if that is the intention of Depaul's CS program.