Concerns about CS135

Concerns about CS135

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Stephanie Martinez started this petition to Stevens Institute of Technology

The students of CS 135 have gathered to write this petition with concerns about the course. 

We feel like that the exam we recently had was way too difficult given the material that was discussed in class and discussed in the class materials. The course instructors barely gave us any materials to study for the exam. We were given 3 problem sets (each with about 4 questions), questions in the textbook, and questions in zyBooks. We have realized that these resources are not at par with the difficulty of the exam. Although the problem sets are quite difficult, the questions on the exam are not relevant to the problems on the problem set. Studying the problem set will only take us so far, but there is still material on the exam that is not discussed in the problem set. The problems in the textbook and zyBooks are relatively easy compared to the exam. We understand that exams are not supposed to be easy- but they shouldn't be so difficult to the point where we fail. In order to combat this, we suggest that the course instructors give us more quality resources to study for the exams. At the end of each zyBooks section, there are numerous practice problems. We feel we would be much more prepared for the exam and much more knowledgeable about the topic if we had access to the answers for the questions in the zyBooks. The questions in the zyBooks are about the same level of difficulty as the exam. It also has problems with variation which will help us become better in solving all types of problems. In addition, it would be nice if the course instructors could provide us with additional optional worksheets so we can practice. Practice makes perfect and right now, we are not receiving enough practice for the exams.

In addition, we would find it helpful if the course instructors were less vague with the content that will be on the exam. Multiple students have asked the course instructors what was going to be on the exam, and the response was "everything we learned until last Friday". That is an extremely vague response and sets us up for failure. We as students should know what to study so we can do well on the exam. Again, exams are meant to test our knowledge about the subject, but how well can it really test us if we don't know what is on it? Additionally, the lecture slides and the lecture recordings do not have dates on them so we do not even know which slides belong to which date. Other classes (such as CS115, CH115, PEP 112, and the MA classes) write an announcement on Canvas with a description of what is on the exam. They are very specific which makes it easier for us to study. Other professors do not merely say "what was covered until Friday". Knowing what topics are on the exam and preparing for the exam by practicing quality problems is crucial for our understanding of the course material (which is the ultimate goal of any course).

Moreover we feel that the TAs should spend more time teaching us Scheme during lab periods. We are all new to the programming language Scheme and we are still learning it. Scheme is unlike any other programming language we have ever seen before because the syntax is very different compared to Java, Python, JavaScript, etc. We spend most of lab reviewing problems similar to the problems from lecture. Although this is great, this leaves us only about 20 minutes to learn new concepts in Scheme. Then we have to submit the multi-part lab 1 day later. We would much rather spend at least 45 minutes on learning new concepts and syntax about Scheme instead of reviewing problems that quite frankly will not help us on any exam due to the inconsistency in the levels of difficulty. 

We hope that you understand our concerns and hopefully we can reach a compromise to fulfill our needs. We are all working so hard in our classes in addition to tending to our other responsibilities during this pandemic and era of online learning. We are well aware that this class is extremely difficult (previous students have even described it as a "weed out" class"). But the ultimate purpose of any class at such a prestigious university should be to teach us the concepts, give us sufficient practice, and test our knowledge to make sure we understand. It shouldn't be that we are almost clueless about what will be covered on the exam and about the concepts of the class. We just want to have a better understanding of the material given the circumstances we are in.

Thank you,

       The students of CS135 Spring 2021

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