Good Luck Guys

Today the students of the Java Design Patterns class are writing the final examination. Yesterday I found a one page summary of all the patterns covered in the class and I emailed it to them. I know it was a bit late to send the summary sheet but I felt it could come in handy. This morning, I sent text messages to the students in both classes wishing them all the best in the exam. After having prepared and delivered this course for the first time, I have found areas where it can be improved. I can only hope the work I did was enough to ensure that the students understood the concepts well enough to pass the exam. Two students from one class dropped the course and it’s my assumption that the course material may have been too programming intensive for them. Some students found 15 design patterns to be quite a lot to cover in one semester and it is something I will take into consideration when delivering the course next year. A mock examination as well as some online multiple choice questions were created to assist the students with exam preparation. Even though 2 students out of both classes completed the online questions, I hope the mock examination was enough to help them prepare. I included 80% of the topics from the final examination in the mock examination, changing question structure where needed. I provided as much assistance as possible to the students with their examination preparation as no past papers were available. As I write this blog post, the students are writing the exam, which should end in about 80 minutes. I’m quite excited to see how they performed in the exam as this would not only reflect how well they grasped the topics but how well I presented the information to them.

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A Lighter Load

For the May to August semester at the University, I will be taking a lighter work load. This semester there were weeks I lectured 5, sometimes 6 days but next semester my maximum will be 4. So far I’ve had discussions to lecture for 2 days for the next semester and I’m awaiting feedback on further courses. A lighter work load will also give me the time to focus on developing the iOS Application Development course for the Bachelor Degree programme for the September to December semester. Since I’ve been spending so much time with Martin and I now refer to him as my boyfriend, he’s encouraged me to take some time for me, to rest, to reflect and focus more on personal relationships than giving my all to work. His life is a bit more balanced than mine and I admire how he makes time to call and visit his family and friends and how he prioritises rest. I can definitely take a page out of his book for the next few months and take some more time to relax and focus on myself and my personal relationships.

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.

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.

I think I found a Mentor

One of my colleagues Ian Alleyne at UTT, lectures courses on business and entrepreneurship. He has his own payment company Paywise and he has experience in the financial sector as well as other industries. We initially met through a mutual friend early on this year and we have maintained contact since then. As we’re both on campus these days we’ve had the opportunity to meet up more often. Yesterday we chatted a bit before I started work on campus about what I’m doing now and what my intentions are and he offered to be of service to me. He asked if there was anyone I can currently talk to about getting my business off the ground and while I had one friend I may bounce ideas off of once in a while, I’m very weary of his advice as his vision of how business should be run is quite different from mine. For a while now, I have been hoping to find a mentor but finding someone in Trinidad and Tobago who has a similar vision to mine on how to run a business was the challenge. The business culture in Trinidad and Tobago is slowly changing but there is still that “grassroots” mentality towards business that is quite predominant in certain industries. I really admire Ian’s way of doing business. He believes in me and he has high hopes for me which is a major boost to my confidence and I hope to learn a great deal from him in the future.

A helping hand

Yesterday during my Java class, I took a water break and a walk down the corridor. Not too far from my class, I met 3 students from my C++ class who were working on a presentation for their Health & Safety class on Health, Safety and Environmental Hazards at one of the University’s other campuses. They were sitting in the corridor trying to complete this assignment, so I invited them to use the computers at the back of my Java class to complete their work. When my Java class ended, I enquired about the nature of the project and if they needed any assistance. I know they are not extremely proficient in Microsoft Powerpoint so I offered to help them put the project together. While working on the presentation, we noticed some grammatical errors in the main document which was initially submitted. I suggested they correct those errors and submit a printed copy to the lecturer before the presentation. While I had work scheduled for last night after my class, sometimes it’s good to be a bit selfless. I knew it would have taken them a lot longer to complete the Powerpoint presentation had I not provided some assistance. They were indeed grateful and I hope they do well in the presentation this afternoon. I’ll take a few minutes away from my Java class and pop in their class for a few minutes to see how the presentation goes.

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