Wednesday, March 28, 2012

One of These Things is NOT Like the Others

As a graduate student, there is a dance that goes on between instructor and student before the semester begins, or in the first week or two of the semester, especially in programs like mine. A back and forth tango of 'Have you taken any programming languages?', 'What software packages have you used?', 'Did you take Dr. S's class already?' and similar things. Then, at the beginning of the semester, many professors ask how many hours you'll be spending on your classwork.

Realistically, for a grad program, 8-12 hours is about the norm. When major assignments are due, it will be more, but in general, this is a good baseline. Which is why I stated that I'd be contributing that much each week to a course that several of us dubbed 'the class from hell.' Apparently, I was smack dab in the middle of the responses, with two others saying about 5 hours, me and a friend saying around 10 and someone answering that they'd put in 15 hours.

The entire semester, the class has required far more. In addition, the syllabus outlined three prototypes for a group project, which are time consuming. However, as of last week, there had been prototype 1A, 1B, 2A, 2B, 2C, 2D and 2E-we hadn't even gotten to prototype 3. I was trying to do the work in 20 hours, instead of the 10 I stated, and it was an impossible task.

I waved the flag of surrender, as did another classmate. If two others (of 6) didn't need the class to graduate this semester, they would have dropped the class, too. I didn't speak to the other two, but I suspect they aren't pleased, either.

Last night, I got asked by a classmate (in another class) how the situation in the class from hell was going and I commented that the class had been dropped. What I didn't expect is that the majority of our peers had war stories to share about this professor and the other class she teaches. One was told he was going to get an F on an assignment for 'plagiarizing code'. No, code is NOT copyright protected.

Another got a zero on the final project he spent many hours working on. It wasn't a big deal, because he ended up with a B in the class. Most people walk into her class with a 4.0 GPA through the program, and come out with a C, even people who have worked with the product professionally.

The professor is a nice person, I've worked with her on other things, but as a professor, she is scattered, disorganized and changes the game plan multiple times (even during one class session!).

It felt good to hear that I'm not the only one who was frustrated, while at the same time, we were able to warn others from taking her class, especially during the summer semester. The class I took is an elective for Master's students, but a requirement for the Ph.D program.

At least I know now the insanity that awaits and can prepare accordingly. At that, I'll opt to do an individual assignment for GameTeen's school, instead of plugging away at an ever changing group project.

This much is true-I've felt SO much better this week, knowing I didn't have that work load hanging over me at every turn.

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