Let's go.........RANDOM!

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Re: Let's go.........RANDOM!

Postby Jackdapantyrip » Fri Oct 04, 2013 2:44 am

Well that makes more sense to me. I'm not too familiar with the Portugal education system.

It does sound nice though, coming from the Us, to hear paying 1000 euro for tuition each year..
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Re: Let's go.........RANDOM!

Postby xander » Fri Oct 04, 2013 6:14 am

I'm teaching a class this semester that contains quizzes which must be taken online (this was not my idea---it is how the class is taught by the department). One of the quizzes was due last night at 9:00 PM, after having been available for a week. Due to some technical difficulties, the quiz actually became unavailable at 8:00 PM, rather than 9:00 PM. At 8:54 PM, a student emailed me to ask why she couldn't take the quiz. I was very polite, and even gave her some extra time (this was the first quiz of the term, there were legitimate technical problems, and I am not a total dick most of the time), but I really wanted to scream:

A LACK OF PLANNING ON YOUR PART DOES NOT CONSTITUTE A CRISIS FOR ME! PLAN BETTER!

Grr... undergraduates.

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Re: Let's go.........RANDOM!

Postby Xocrates » Fri Oct 04, 2013 12:23 pm

Out of genuine curiosity xander, when assigning coursework, do you guys have into account the students workload on the other courses they are likely to be taking?
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Re: Let's go.........RANDOM!

Postby xander » Fri Oct 04, 2013 3:45 pm

Xocrates wrote:Out of genuine curiosity xander, when assigning coursework, do you guys have into account the students workload on the other courses they are likely to be taking?

This is the way that I think about it: at an American university, you are considered a "full-time" student if you are taking 12-15 semester credit hours (that amounts to about 4-5 classes). If you are a full-time student, the assumption is that you are spending basically the same amount of time being a student as anyone else would spend working a full-time job, i.e. 40-50 hours per week. Since 12-15 credit hours is about 10-13(ish) contact hours (i.e. 10-13 hours in class), that implies that students should have another 27-30 hours outside of class scheduled for completing coursework, i.e. about 3 hours outside of class for every one hour in class. I figure that if I am teaching a 3 credit hour class, then my students should have an additional 9 hours of time outside of class to get work done, which amounts to a little more than an hour a day. Hence I figure that I can assign about an hours worth of work every day (in reality, I shoot for 30-45 minutes per day in the lower division classes that I teach).

In this way, I feel that I have taken into account any other classes that a student is taking---assuming that other professors respect a similar formula. I do not take into account any other jobs that a student might have. As I see it, my students are adults, and they can decide if they want to be full-time students or part-time students with a job (or full-time students with a job). I begin every term by explaining the paragraph above, and make it as clear as I possibly can to my students that my expectation is that they will work about 9 hours per week on homework for my class. At that point, responsible adults need to figure out how to allocate their own time.

xander

EDIT: I should also note that students need to understand the difference between math and science classes, where the workload can be expected to be fairly consistent all term (i.e. one or two discrete assignments every week), in contrast to writing heavy classes in the humanities and social sciences, where there may be some reading most weeks, with a couple of major papers due at some interval (i.e. very little work most weeks, but a few week of panic). Good planning on the part of students can mitigate against this some, but only if directions for the major assignments are given in good time, which they often are not.
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Re: Let's go.........RANDOM!

Postby Xocrates » Fri Oct 04, 2013 5:33 pm

hmm...

That lies extremely close to the line between reasonable and highly naive. However without knowing the American system, it's hard for me to decide.

So, just for the sake of disclosure, here are the immediate problems I would expect of the system:
- It assumes the only disruption contact hours cause is their duration. If you have a bad schedule (as I usually do) attending contact time can easily take out several hours of your time every week.
- It assumes minimal time for changing topics. One of the major problems I have with college, and one of the main reasons I feel I'm not learning, is the inability to focus due to requiring to shift between vastly different topics several times every week. Doing coursework already requires a fair amount of revision, but when you're not even allowed to focus on a particular topic? I sure hope you're all damn good teachers.
- It disregards any problems planning that may be out of the student control. This is particularly bad with group works, which most of my work is. Ever tried planning for 3 different groups, all with different elements, different abilities, different schedules, with different courses, some with jobs (not to mention personal lives)? I have on many occasions ended up with far more work than I was supposed to because I couldn't (and occasionally, because I could).
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Re: Let's go.........RANDOM!

Postby xander » Fri Oct 04, 2013 6:39 pm

Xocrates wrote:That lies extremely close to the line between reasonable and highly naive. However without knowing the American system, it's hard for me to decide.

It could be argued that any student who expects anything else is being rather naive.

Xocrates wrote:- It assumes the only disruption contact hours cause is their duration. If you have a bad schedule (as I usually do) attending contact time can easily take out several hours of your time every week.

One mitigating factor is that UNR is a residential campus, i.e. there are dorms, and many students live in them. There are students who must commute, but they are largely outliers in a university setting. And I would point out that many professionals who work a 9-5 have an hour long commute in each direction, so a 40 hours per week job undercounts many hours, too.

Xocrates wrote:- It assumes minimal time for changing topics. One of the major problems I have with college, and one of the main reasons I feel I'm not learning, is the inability to focus due to requiring to shift between vastly different topics several times every week. Doing coursework already requires a fair amount of revision, but when you're not even allowed to focus on a particular topic? I sure hope you're all damn good teachers.

I don't mean this in a disparaging manner at all, but have you considered the possibility that you have a learning disability? Yeah, taking several different topics in a term requires shifting gears quite a lot, and it can be a problem, but the amount of hardship that you are claiming is unusual. There are some learning disability that can be effectively treated with drugs, therapy, or other accommodations. I had a student over the summer who seemed to have pretty bad dyslexia, but had never been diagnosed. I sent her to the folk on campus who arrange for accommodations, she got a diagnosis, she was taught some compensating techniques, and was given a quiet time and place to take exams. She went from a low D student to a B student in a month.

In a more general context, I might advise that you take fewer courses each term and/or move to an institution on a trimester or quarter calendar rather than a semester calendar. The classes go by faster, so the workload is more intensely focused into fewer topics.

Xocrates wrote:- It disregards any problems planning that may be out of the student control. This is particularly bad with group works, which most of my work is. Ever tried planning for 3 different groups, all with different elements, different abilities, different schedules, with different courses, some with jobs (not to mention personal lives)? I have on many occasions ended up with far more work than I was supposed to because I couldn't (and occasionally, because I could).

I don't mean to sound cruel, but I have little sympathy (except in the case of group work, which I never assign). I am very clear at the beginning that I expect my students to spend 6-9 hours outside of class every week working on the material that we cover in class that week. I provide a syllabus that includes a schedule of assignments and exams. Yes, I expect a lot from my students (as do all university instructors), but I am upfront about it. I hope that others are, as well. It is the responsibility of students to determine whether or not they have the time to meet the requirements of the class.

I should also point out that things like jobs, other courses, and personal lives are certainly not out of a student's control (though the jobs, courses, and personal lives of others certainly are). Being a student requires a certain amount of sacrifice. It really should be thought of as a full-time job. Finally, my comment about universities being about research and not teaching was not really a joke. If you want people to teach you, there are community colleges in the US for that (I don't know what the European equivalent might be). University students are expected to learn primarily on their own, with some guidance from faculty.

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Re: Let's go.........RANDOM!

Postby Xocrates » Fri Oct 04, 2013 7:57 pm

xander wrote:It could be argued that any student who expects anything else is being rather naive.

College isn't a 9 to 5, and I wouldn't expect it to be treated as a 9 to 5. The problem isn't the amount of work, it's how it's handled.

For what is worth, I've held actual jobs in the past, and I've never found them to be nearly as intensive or as stressful.

xander wrote: There are students who must commute, but they are largely outliers in a university setting.

I intentionally left out commute, though I forgot to mention it (though in portugal, that's the norm, not the outliers).

I have/had multiple classes that are scheduled in such a way that prevent any significant amount of productive work either before or immediately after them. This is not to say it can't be done, but generally that time is litlle more than dead weight.

xander wrote:I don't mean this in a disparaging manner at all, but have you considered the possibility that you have a learning disability? Yeah, taking several different topics in a term requires shifting gears quite a lot, and it can be a problem, but the amount of hardship that you are claiming is unusual.

I'm generally top of the class, when I said I'm not learning I didn't mean in the sense that I can't handle it, I meant in the sense that I'm not given the possibilty to really grok a subject beyond the required to do the class. Which frustrates me immensely because I feel like I'm working for a grade, not learning anything I would deem useful - this is aggravated by the fact that many of the courses I'm required to take are of little to no interest to me.

Of course, it does not help I've had/have several courses that require you to do work before covering the topic, or doing so with the smallest amount of detail.

xander wrote:In a more general context, I might advise that you take fewer courses each term and/or move to an institution on a trimester or quarter calendar rather than a semester calendar. The classes go by faster, so the workload is more intensely focused into fewer topics.

Due to carrying over several courses from my previous degree, I never had a full semester, though those were mostly maths and physics which generally have fewer ongoing works.

xander wrote:I don't mean to sound cruel, but I have little sympathy (except in the case of group work, which I never assign).

Which, like I mentioned, is most of the work I have (not counting tests and exams). The only exceptions I can think off was optional stuff worth about 10% of the final grade

Curiously, the one course where I could do it be myself, ended up being the only one I gave up on, mostly because it was far more work than it was worth. It was giving me more work than all the other courses combined (and those were group work that I pretty much had to do by myself), I was bound to have a far lower grade than any of my other courses, and had a real possibility of being voided if I failed the exam - which was fairly likely to happen on account of being a very dense course that even the teacher admitted to being overly demanding.

xander wrote: University students are expected to learn primarily on their own, with some guidance from faculty.

Thing is, this wasn't quite true for my first degree, but due to some European treaties this become more "expected" for my second one, and I don't think the transition was as smooth as it needed to be. To all effects now just feels like I have more to do, in less time, with less support and minimal adaptation of the program and resources.

Essentially this killed whatever made college worthwhile for me. But I would still like to graduate, and I would particularly like to take some of master level courses.


Ultimately though, I'm just frustrated with it because I simply cannot tell if it is worth it. I am not getting the skill to do what I want to do, and as long as I stay in college I do not have the time to figure it out on my own. Right now I just a want a way out, and I am not seeing any.
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Re: Let's go.........RANDOM!

Postby xander » Fri Oct 04, 2013 8:17 pm

Xocrates wrote:Ultimately though, I'm just frustrated with it because I simply cannot tell if it is worth it. I am not getting the skill to do what I want to do, and as long as I stay in college I do not have the time to figure it out on my own. Right now I just a want a way out, and I am not seeing any.

I get that, and I suppose that it ultimately comes down to what you want to get out of a university education. As I see it, the role of universities has historically been to extend and preserve human knowledge. Undergraduates are seen as apprentices in that task (grad students are journeymen, and faculty are masters, to finish the analogy). An undergraduate education is meant to prepare the students for working in academia, i.e. conducting research. From an institutional point of view, a bachelor's degree is not about training a student to perform some other job in industry, or to fill their heads with knowledge. It is very specifically to teach them how to be researchers. Research isn't for everyone, but the problems that you point out are very much in line with a real research position.

So it is like a 9-5 job, just a 9-5 in academia, rather than some other industry. "9-5" is very loosely interpreted (while working on my thesis, "9-5" was more generally 6-10, plus weekends---I had a pillow and sleeping bag under my desk on campus that got used more than once).

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Re: Let's go.........RANDOM!

Postby Xocrates » Fri Oct 04, 2013 9:51 pm

xander wrote: From an institutional point of view, a bachelor's degree is not about training a student to perform some other job in industry, or to fill their heads with knowledge.

You're still required a degree to get a job in industry though, which is why the situation is bullshit.

And for what is worth, my previous jobs were in research, which is why I wanted out. It was still nowhere as bad as college.
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Re: Let's go.........RANDOM!

Postby xander » Fri Oct 04, 2013 11:42 pm

Xocrates wrote:
xander wrote: From an institutional point of view, a bachelor's degree is not about training a student to perform some other job in industry, or to fill their heads with knowledge.

You're still required a degree to get a job in industry though, which is why the situation is bullshit.

That is a problem with the expectations of industry. Or, more accurately, industry would rather fob the cost of training people off onto public universities, to the detriment of those universities.

Xocrates wrote:And for what is worth, my previous jobs were in research, which is why I wanted out. It was still nowhere as bad as college.

Doing what? and for whom?

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Re: Let's go.........RANDOM!

Postby Xocrates » Sat Oct 05, 2013 12:01 am

xander wrote:
Xocrates wrote:And for what is worth, my previous jobs were in research, which is why I wanted out. It was still nowhere as bad as college.

Doing what? and for whom?


I was an intern for about a year in the national veterinary laboratory trying to develop ELISA tests for avian flu while working on my master thesis (I can probably link you an abstract if you want. Sadly the thesis itself is in portuguese), and worked for about a year with these guys at ITQB trying to develop a stochastic model for biofilm growth.
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Re: Let's go.........RANDOM!

Postby NeatNit » Sat Oct 05, 2013 12:30 am

I've never understood how research works. The only way I can think of for developing/finding new medicine/chemicals/other is "try different things randomly until something works".

Maybe I'm just dumb.
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Re: Let's go.........RANDOM!

Postby Xocrates » Sat Oct 05, 2013 1:56 am

It's more through "educated guesses based on previous work" as opposed to randomly, but you're not far off.
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Re: Let's go.........RANDOM!

Postby jelco » Sat Oct 05, 2013 4:23 pm

As someone currently in his fifth year at Uni and having friends in pretty much every field being taught here, I've learnt that above all, considering one BSc to be equal to the other BSc is misguided at best.

Most direct cause: personally I was rather let down by the value of my BSc in computer science. I'd summarise my opinion on the matter in a couple of points:
  • Computer science is an incredibly broad field. The bachelor is "only" 3 years, which means it can introduce you to a lot of different subjects within that field but generally doesn't allow a whole lot of specialisation.
  • Computer science isn't really a science - it's much more a field of engineering. Everything scientific (i.e. with the emphasis on the theoretical component) is basically mathematics. As a result, I really feel that the only thing that makes the course an academic degree (as opposed to a polytechnic one) is the math-based subjects in it. Besides some discrete maths and calculus that's pretty CS-specific maths in some subjects (cryptography, algorithms, database query logic etc.) but maths nonetheless.
  • If you consider any of the projects or assignments I've done during my BSc classes "research", you haven't seen real scientific work. The one exception is my final paper which was considered extremely high quality by the staff, whereas personally I considered it "going in the OK direction", being limited mostly by time and assets to perform it on proper scale. However, when I compared it to the other stuff being done I understood the praise for my research; not because mine was of such exceptional quality, but just because many of the other papers were utterly crap in comparison. (Don't get me wrong, I am proud of what I managed to produce, but being judged based on skewed standards just feels wrong.)
  • Most of the directly applicable knowledge I've gained over the past few years, I didn't gain because of Uni. I've been spending several years at a webhosting company in basically an R&D/devops-kind of role, and besides that I've been on the campus IT association board which (amongst other things) has made me involved in IT-related politics at the highest level on our university. Both have given me invaluable experiences and insight into The Real World(TM). If I were to look at purely the stuff I learnt in class, "basic knowledge" is putting it mildly.

Basically, if you have a BSc in computer science without any experience in the field, your education is wildly insufficient. When I compare my classes to that of my friends majoring in e.g. physics or medicine, I'm almost ashamed of what the title BSc claims I've accomplished at Uni.

---

In this country most people seem to go for bachelor's and master's degrees in one go before they jump into any jobs (with some electing to go the research route through a PhD), while I get the impression many other countries generally have students going for a bacherlor's before taking a job and combining a master's only with a PhD. This being one of the reasons many Dutch people frown at people proudly calling themselves BSc ("you didn't finish the MSc!") and as I have since realized, why e.g. Americans tend to frown at people proudly calling themselves MSc ("you didn't finish the PhD!").

This by itself is just some legacy of the old systems being standardized by the same names, but what bothers me is the fact there is an ongoing shift here in the Netherlands over the past 10 years or so, of people feeling a bachelor's is sufficient and quit Uni at that point. Looking at my own field, it seems pointless (to me) to spend years of time (and money) on an education which teaches you very little you couldn't pick up with some job experience. Combine this with overall deterioration of quality of high school education and some utterly retarded reforms of Unis (both locally and nationally) I can't help but feel a little depressed about the direction we're headed.

---

tl;dr:

Image

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Re: Let's go.........RANDOM!

Postby xander » Sat Oct 05, 2013 8:56 pm

jelco wrote:Everything scientific (i.e. with the emphasis on the theoretical component) is basically mathematics.

And math isn't a science, anyway. :P

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