Almost two weeks ago I finished a class at UCI Extension. It was the fourth class I have taken there and was also the worst.
My problems ranged from the instructor being lazy and unhelpful, to the software in the lecture notes and textbook being over 5 years old and not supported anymore, to the circuit board I was using (that was suggested by the instructor) being different from the textbook and lecture notes.
I spent most of the time fighting with the user interface on the Texas Instruments Code Composer Studio and trying to get the labs to run on my circuit board. Instead of learning the concepts, I was trying to find work arounds for my newer software and different hardware.
Every time I fixed one problem, another thing popped up. I would hunt around and find a header file I needed, only to realize I had to export my results to MATLAB and write a script that displayed a picture that was supposed to tell me something about dynamic memory. There were also several exercises where I had to run through a dozen different iterations to get my graphs to look like the ones in the book. Then there were things in how the software behaved I still cannot explain such as why certain options were grayed out or not available on my computer.
The other people in the class had professional experience with some aspects of the course before, while I had none. Other people would know to link to a different library file or make changes to the code, while I did things through trial and error or following the advice of everyone else in the class.
If this was the first UCI Extension class I had taken, it would be my last. It was one of the most frustrating classes I have ever taken. In other classes I knew if I spent the time to understand the textbook and reproduce the problems from the lecture notes I could figure things out. Here, even if I instantly learned the textbook and the instructor's uninstructive notes I would still have a host of problems.
As an example of one of my mistakes and the instructor's laziness, I will give a problem. Lets say you have a string of numbers:
This has to be divided into two different sequences (each half the length of the original) for using decimation in time to calculate an answer. The two strings are odd and even, as defined by the entries' indexes. The idea is to put every other entry in the same sequence. I divided the above string into these two.
X odd = [2,5]
X even = [4,7]
This makes sense, except it is wrong. For sequences in many applications, the numbering starts at 0. This means the first entry is even instead of odd. The correct answer is:
X odd = [4,7]
X even = [2,5]
This is a mistake on my part and something I should have been more careful about looking up. I accept I should lose points on this. However, the final was multiple choice so instead of losing points once for making this one mistake, I lost points twice because my answers to both "What is the odd string?" and "What is the even string?" were wrong.
If the instructor actually took the time to have everyone submit a Word document or PDF with their answers instead of creating a multiple choice quiz, my one mistake would have been seen as the one mistake it was instead of the two mistakes it appeared to be. I documented a problem with multiple choice tests earlier in this class.
What are the roots of 5x^2 = 0? Last time I checked, there was one root, 0. However, the genius instructor thinks it has two roots, 0 and 0. Saying it has a root of 0 and no second root is considered an incorrect answers on his multiple choice test. If I checked through the test and saw this earlier, I would have confronted him about it. However, since I was traveling and not near a computer between the time he posted the solutions and submitted the grades, I could not address it.
I ascribe a lot of problems to this being an online class. If the instructor actually had to stand in front of a classroom and be bombarded by the questions and issues that the assignments brought up he would change the assignments and not use multiple choice tests. I am tempted to say some very unkind words about this instructor, so I should stop now. I will invoke something I wrote a while ago: "No good will come of rehashing events that make me angry and no one who reads the post will be better off because of it."
The next step
Before I finished the class, I knew I had to get a B or better for the class if I wanted to count it toward the certificate program. I was very displeased when I saw I had a C+. However, upon careful examination of the website I realized I needed a grade point average of B or better as opposed to a B in every class. Since I had As in two other classes I took, I could count this last class toward the certificate. I felt much better.
Now I will wait until September to finish the last class in this program. However, I will be keeping busy with other academic things until then. I will be taking a real engineering class that does not use obsolete software or have a joke of an instructor.