Student Opinion

I have mentioned before my desire to help create a course at the University which focuses on iOS Application Development as well as a few other courses. This week I received confirmation that the iOS Application Development course will be taught in the semester from September to December later this year…this makes me very excited. Before I received confirmation, I have been asking students for their opinions about courses and service at the University and unfortunately the responses have been more negative than positive. One of the main complaints with the programming courses is that there isn’t enough actual programming done in the classroom. As a result, every class I lecture focuses mainly on practical work. The theory is touched on as an introduction but I rely on the students to do additional reading after the concept is grasped from the practical work done in class. This is more so with the Design Patterns Course I developed for the Bachelor’s programme this semester. Yesterday I spoke with the second Design Patterns class about the iOS Application Development course and I asked for their opinions. Most of them were not pleased with the way the Android course was delivered so it was important that I find out what exactly disappointed them to ensure they feel contented after completing the iOS Application Development course. This conversation with the students left me with a lot more information than I expected. It reminded me of my time studying and how I saw so many changes that could have been made to the degree programs I did to help improve the service the students received. I will continue to ask for students’ opinion while developing the course over the next few months and also try to find out what other courses they would like to see as part of the Degree Programme. I am now able to create the change I wanted to see many years ago, so it’s important that I do as much as I can to improve the learning experience of the students while I’m lecturing at the University.

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An Opportunity to Design

As I mentioned in a blog post a few weeks ago, I have been given the privilege to create a course at the University that teaches Programming Design Patterns using Java. In Software Engineering, a Design Pattern is a general repeatable solution to a commonly occurring problem in software design. It is a description or template for how to solve a problem that can be used in many different situations. One of the first things I did in designing this course, was decide on the appropriate Course Structure. Design Patterns are categorised according to the groups below and the patterns listed are covered in the course.

  • Creations Patterns – These patterns are all about class instantiation.
    • Singleton
    • Factory
    • Abstract Factory
  • Structural Patterns – These patterns are all about Class and Object composition.
    • Model-View-Controller
    • Composite
    • Adapter
    • Bridge
    • Facade
    • Decorator
  • Behavioural Patterns – These patterns are all about objects communication among classes.
    • Observer
    • Strategy
    • Iterator
    • Interpreter
    • Chain of Responsibility
    • Command
    • Template
    • Mediator

Secondly, I acquired soft copies of reference texts for the students to be used throughout the course. So far, I’ve been using Design Patterns Explained Simply by http://sourcemaking.com/ as well as the Design Patterns in Java Tutorial from http://www.tutorialspoint.com/.

Thirdly, I focused on assessment preparation. I’ve completed Creational and Structural Design Patterns with the students at one campus and I should complete those Patterns with the students at another campus by next week. Finally, we would complete the Behavioural Design Patterns and prepare for the final exam. While I do wish I had more time to prepare all the material for the course, things are going great. For each pattern taught, I will give multiple examples in class for the students to grasp the practical side of it with the hope that they’ll read the notes from the books to solidify the concept with the theoretical side of things. This course has three assignments, one for each Design Pattern Category, a Mid-Term Exam as well as a Final Exam.

This morning, I submitted the final draft for the Final Exam and I hope it’s approved. There are some changes to be made to the Mid-Term Exam, which will be given in two weeks and the assignments for the Structural and Behavioural Design Patterns will be issued within this coming week. I hope the University is pleased with the work I’ve done and will be interested in delivering this course again at the Bachelor’s level next year. Since I’ve been back at the University part-time, I’ve seen opportunities to deliver more courses at the the Diploma and Bachelor level and I hope I’ll be given to opportunity to do so in the near future. Currently, the University teaches Android Mobile Application Development, so it would be indeed an honour to develop a course teaching iOS Mobile Application Development at the Bachelor level. Until then, I will make suggestions for the courses I would like to deliver, that I think would be of value to the students, with the hope of it being approved.

Burnout

Since I started working in the city of Port-of-Spain in my country from May 2014, I’ve been pushing my body. From my mom and my aunt being in hospital, to lecturing 5PM-9PM three to five days a week in addition to my 8AM-4PM job, to focusing on my business as well as trying to make time for friends, family, spirituality, health, fitness and even love, a lot has been going on and I can officially say that I’m exhausted. I started to notice that I’m forgetting simple things, my mood isn’t as great as I would like it to be and my motivation for things I know I’m passionate about is dwindling. For the month of February, arriving at the office before 8AM was no longer a priority, I decided that a bit more sleep was necessary. It’s not something I’m proud of but it was something that was necessary. According to Wikipedia, Burnout is a psychological term that refers to long-term exhaustion and diminished interest in work. Burnout has been assumed to result from chronic occupational stress (e.g., work overload). Psychologists Herbert Freudenberger and Gail North have theorized that the burnout process can be divided into 12 phases, which are not necessarily followed sequentially.

  • A compulsion to prove oneself
  • Working harder
  • Neglecting one’s own needs
  • Displacement of conflicts (the person does not realize the root cause of the distress)
  • Revision of values (friends or hobbies are completely dismissed)
  • Denial of emerging problems (cynicism and aggression become apparent)
  • Withdrawal (reducing social contacts to a minimum, becoming walled off; alcohol or other substance abuse may occur)
  • Behavioural changes become obvious to others
  • Inner emptiness
  • Depression
  • Burnout syndrome

When my classes end at 9AM, I would usually be home by 10PM. I’ll spend at least an hour preparing for the next day, which takes me to 11PM, then bed time will be between 11PM and midnight. I’ve even pushed my waking time to 5AM to guarantee 5 hours sleep as I know I can function on this bit of sleep for a few days, but this does not always happen. I enjoy my lecturing immensely, so it’s something I will always work into my schedule even though the classes end at 9PM. I have some ideas for making changes to my work schedule for the May to August semester to ensure I get more rest, so until then I’ll try my best to find little ways to curb the burnout I’m currently experiencing.

Back to Lecturing

The new semester at the University began last week. For this second semester, I’ll be lecturing three courses, one on Design Patterns using Java, another on Databases with MySQL and lastly the programming language C. This will take four classes with a total of 16 hours per week, with four 4-hour classes, for a period of 12 weeks, with an additional week if needed. I’m most excited to lecture the Design Patterns course as this is the first time it will be delivered by the University. I know that my ability to successfully deliver the content will affect the likelihood of  the course will be delivered again. Thankfully to sourcemaking.com‘s book on Design Pattern and James W. Cooper’s book on Design Patterns in Java, there will be no need for me to prepare course notes. I’ve also been fortunate to find a C Programming Tutorial from tutorialspoint.com which also eases me up from preparing notes for the C Programming course. I’m yet to find the perfect handout for the Databases course. The students in the class have no database experience and very little database knowledge, so finding notes with very simple explanations is proving to be a challenge. For the next 11 weeks, I will be managing my full time 8-4 job and my lecturing. This will be an exciting challenge as this schedule is a 6 hour increase from the lecturing I did last semester, so it will definitely test me and take me out of my comfort zone. Seeing that my classes end at 9PM, Monday to Thursday and I usually go to bed after 11PM, I’ve decided that it would be best that my morning wake up time be moved from 4AM/4:30AM to 5AM to allow some additional time for sleep. On weekdays, I aim for 5-6 hours sleep but that never really happens, so hopefully this can be attained with my 5AM wake up call. The next 11 weeks will be quite busy but it all contributes to a greater plan and purpose.

Goodbye Miss

Yesterday after my last C++ class, I chatted with 3 of my students for a little more than an hour. It was really an enlightening conversation. Since I started lecturing in 2008, I noticed that most students form an opinion about my upbringing, the schools I would have attended and the area I live in, most times being completely wrong but interestingly assuming an improved version of the life I lived and currently live. This is all based on the way I interact with them, the way I dress and speak, my knowledge of the topic area I’m lecturing and in essence, the way I portray myself. Last night I spent some time with these students and we all shared details from our lives and our upbringing. We talked about so many things but it was important for me to share some of the things I learned in life. I sent them an email this morning thanking them for the little chat after class and wishing them all the best in their exams. I also took that opportunity to remind them of some of the things we discussed last night.

  • You are the average of the 5 people you spend the most time with. (John Lee Dumas – Entrepreneur on Fire)
  • Everything in life is energy.
  • Anything you can think about you can bring about.
  • In life, you get every thing you want. Most people just don’t know how to want. They focus on the things they don’t want, which draws that thing closer to them.
  • Where attention goes, energy flows and things grow. Focus your attention on the things you want to see grow.
  • Form a mastermind group with individuals of like minds with a common goal.

From one semester to the next

Today is my last C++ class as well as my last class for the semester. It is indeed a bitter sweet feeling. I’m sad it’s over because I really enjoyed this class and the interaction with the students but no classes for the month of December means a little additional rest for my body even though I’ll be busy marking assignments and papers. I look forward to classes in the next semester. I haven’t finalised my courses just yet but I’ve discussed lecturing Design Patterns with Java and Computer Logic. I’ve never lectured these modules before so I’m really excited, more so for the Design Patterns course as I’ve covered these in my MSc using C++ and Objective-C. It’s going to be so much fun teaching design patterns using Java next semester.

Just one more class

For the past three weeks, I’ve held make-up classes in addition to my regular classes, which meant I lectured from Monday to Friday either 5PM to 8PM or 5PM to 9PM. This has been a crazy schedule more so because I’m still maintaining my 8AM-4PM job. Yesterday should have been my last C++ class, however, a few of my students requested that we have an additional class. There are two days next week assigned for revision by the University that I will use to give the students who missed assessments, an opportunity to come to class to submit their work and also review any concepts covered throughout the semester that was not fully understood. Most students are usually happy for classes to end but it felt really great hearing students say I’m their favourite lecturer…not sure if they’re trying to get extra marks lol, request that I teach them other courses as well as ask for an additional class. These are the moments that make lecturing so worth it.

Check out this book – Lecturing: A Practical Guide