We are about halfway through this semester and I just wanted to put down some thoughts on being a programming student versus being a liberal arts student.
I have a bachelor’s degree in journalism and an associate degree in video editing and graphic design. With those degrees there isn’t really a lot of “learning” per se. You read a book and write a research paper on it. You can plow though a book and you basically do a bunch of work. Read a lot, take notes, organize them, bang out a paper. That’s it.
Learning programming is considerably more difficult. You have to see the concepts over and over again. You have to code something three or four times before it begins to click in your brain about how all the pieces fit together.
I feel like someone gave me a box with a thousand gears in it and they told me that if you fit ten of them together, you get a watch. The first time they give you the ten, the next time you have to find them in the box and figure out how they work together.
If you do this often enough and reuse a few gears you start to get to the point where you can identify a few of the gears that make a watch from the box. After a while you figure out more and more of the gears you need. The goal is to get to the point where you can pick out all ten gears based on knowledge or memory or intuition.
Why am I bringing up the gear analogy?? It’s because there is this push and pull between the teacher and the student about how much work can be done versus how much work needs to be done.
I know that many of my fellow students feel we are being asked to do too much. I will admit to feeling like too much is being asked. I feel like I need to do the book work two or three times before I can even contemplate doing the written assignment Eric gives us. Eric calls the book work a “typing exercise”, but I need to do that typing exercise a few times before I understand it enough to even try doing the written assignment.
On the other hand, I understand that Eric would like us to do even more than he is asking us to do. The sheer scope of what you need to know to make a professional-looking app is enormous. How fast can you go through the material while satisfying both the teacher and the students, to say nothing of the prospective employers who hope to employ the students?
For myself, this class is very intense. I have done more work on this one class than I did during semesters of my journalism degree when I was taking 15 credits, but this is only a 3 credit course. I think the amount of work we are doing justifies being a 5-6 credit course.
I know that generally speaking if you are taking a 3-credit class it is assumed that you will spend about three hours in class and spend 3 hours outside of class doing homework. I am spending at least 30 hours a week outside of class doing the work and I don’t complete all of it. I know I am not the only one.
I don’t mind spending that time doing the work. I know many people don’t have that time to spend doing this work and that most people I am speaking to are planning to take this class again and to also take the prerequisite Objective-C class again.
How do you solve this issue? How do you give the students enough work that they are able to complete it while learning something without overwhelming people to the point that they feel it is necessary to take the class two or three more times?? I honestly don’t know.
I think that college shouldn’t be a one-size-fits-all model. If you are taking a math class or a computer programming class you should not structure it the same way you do an English class. If you have to spend over a dozen hours outside of class to master the material, then make the class worth more credits. Either that or change the curriculum where you are taking 6 programming classes instead of three, but taking them over and over again.
This would clear out all the students who drop the class the day before the drop deadline then take it over again with people who have never had the material before. I know that it is depressing being in a class full of people who already had the material who grasp it more quickly than you do. Most people are too embarrassed about being “stupid” that we won’t go up to people who already had the class who understand it faster because we feel like we need to “figure it out on our own the way everyone else in the class did”.
I know I don’t like having to explain to my husband about why I have to spend every waking moment of my life on one class while he lectures me about how he went to college full time while working a full time job and making straight-A’s…(I usually tune out and nod at this point).
Again, don’t mind doing the work. I just wish that the credits or something would accurately reflect the amount of work required to succeed in the class the first time through. I don’t need the class to be watered down by a lot, just want something to reflect the amount of work I put into the class rather than have it be worth the same amount as a history class where you only have to show up twice a semester and take a multiple-choice exam.