How NOT to teach a computer language
By Mike Griffith on in learning, Opinion, Programming with 63 Comments
For the past year or so my wife has been taking online classes to get a computer science degree. For most of her classes she’s done great, she’s been flying through HTML and SQL, even up to the point where she can handle multilevel joins and optimizing through indexes. That was until she hit her vb.net class. I had no idea why she was having problems with a language has easy as vb.net so I started helping her out and find out why she was having so many problems. I’ve also added some recommendations in case you have the same problems, hopefully these will help you out. (Names have not been mentioned to protect the guilty.)
The first big complaint that she had was about her vb.net teacher. Whenever she had a question about an assignment she’d send an email to the teacher, but the teacher would be extremely late in getting back with her, sometimes not even getting back to her until a week after the assignment was due. This usually led to me having to help her out through the assignment and led to some of her classmates actually dropping the class, so they didn’t ruin their gpa.
Recommendation if you have a bad teacher
Before you take a class from a teacher make sure you check to see how many people drop their class and to check out why. It may be because they are a tough teacher or because they aren’t being bothered to do their job. So you need to be sure on why and if its because they aren’t doing their job then take the class from someone else and yes that may mean going to another college.
The other real complaint that I noticed was the book that she was learning out of. Since her teacher wasn’t around to answer questions she had to learn more and more from her book unfortunately it wasn’t up to the task either. I took a look at the book and it went through the exercises by telling you what menu option to push and which option to select, but it never bothered to explain why you were supposed to do it and what it did. As a result she wasn’t learning anything from it at all. All the book was teaching her to do was to become a monkey pushing a shiny red button. If you want to be a programmer you need to understand the why and how of what you are doing, otherwise your not going to make it when you start coding in the real world.
Recommendations in case you have a bad programming book
Before you take a class make sure you take a look at the book that you will be using and make sure it explains everything and doesn’t just teach you to be a button pusher. If you have to talk to the teacher and see if they actually use the book, you may also be able to get another book that works better for you. Either way you need to make sure that you understand what you are coding.
The last thing that I noticed was that most of her grades were from taking tests on programming vocabulary, not on actual programming. My guess is that the teacher starting doing this because the class wasn’t learning how to program. This allowed the teacher to actually cover up the bad grades on programming with easy tests on programming vocabulary that aren’t going to matter when you get to the real world.
Recommendations in case you have this problem
Before you take a class find out what most of your grade will be based on, and if it isn’t coding for a programming class you need to find out why. Now some computer science classes are going to be based more on tests than actual coding, but if its on actually learning a programming language then you should be coding. Whatever the case, make sure that you are being graded on stuff that you will actually be working on in the real world.
As a result of this mess, I’ve been having to teach her how to code in vb.net and visual studio a job that her teacher should be doing. It’s also caused her to second guess going into programming at all. Fortunately she’s one of the lucky ones though, a lot of the students that tried to take the class have dropped out and the others are having an extremely tough time getting through the class and they’ll probably have even more problems when they get into the real world and don’t know how to code.
I’ve even had run ins with new computer programmers fresh out of college where I work that seem to have a general lack of understanding of basic language structures and I’m beginning to wonder if this may be one of the reasons why. So have you ever had similar problems before, or know someone who has?? How many others have dropped classes or stopped going into coding at all due to these problems?? Are some people getting ripped off by colleges that aren’t teaching them properly??