Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Android class evals

I just read through the student evaluations from Fall's CS345/545 HCI class, a topic of many blog posts in Spring. They are quite positive, with the vast majority claiming to have enjoyed and learned significantly from a team-oriented, "real-world" project experience.

The request that shows up the most is for more explicit milestones during the semester. I had mostly left milestones up to the individual teams since each project had different characteristics, but in retrospect, I could have offered more assistance here. Perhaps next time I will use timeboxing techniques, forcing the students to complete vertical slices and deliver working code on a regular basis; without this, several groups meandered through feature development.

A few students requested more time invested at the beginning of the semester explicitly teaching Android development techniques. That is a reasonable request, although I would like to be able to sit with these students to discuss what they really want. For instance, one student requested more examples, but there are myriad examples online and packaged with the Android SDK. Another student complained about the online resources feeling "sort of scattered". These students clearly missed the point that such is the nature of modern software development: examples and resources are scattered throughout the Web and the library, and gaining experience in dealing with this was an explicit goal of the course. In the student's defense, I did not directly assess their capacity and learning with respect to navigating this information. Still, I think that this shows that students often come away from coursework with the wrong impression, that there is a Single Truth and the professor has it, and that every problem has a solution in the textbook somewhere.

Most of the departmental evaluation form deals with 5-point Likert scales, though under "Overall rating of the instructor", I received my first 10 out of 5. The student actually wrote in 6, 7, 8, 9, and 10 so that he or she could circle the ten. It made me grin, though I still recorded it as a five in my database.

I will share with you, loyal reader, the best of the bunch:

What aspects of the course did you especially like?
The freeness

How can the content and the instruction in this course be improved?
More formal structure.

Such are the paradoxes of higher education!

1 comment:

  1. missed this article. very nice. I guess being formal or predictable in education is destroying innovativeness and I agree with you, that formal structures are not going to improve us . manytimes when I attended your course, in the spring, I used to shiver before the class thinking what surprise you have got for us today. Now I remember , there is a quote which says that people fear the unknown. So when you are preparing us for the unknown thing to come, you were infact making us more strong for the betterment of our own, which formal structures in class will definitely fail to provide.