Ah yes, I have been putting this off since I am lazy, but now with Semester 2 in full swing, I thought I’d better get to it before I forget it.
I do the Professional Software Development (PSD) course at Swinburne and this is my first year. I had four subjects in Semester 1, so I will review each of them, one at a time.

Algorithmic Problem Solving

This subject involved learning the very basics of programming: how to write code, and how to solve problems using standard coding structures eg if, while, for etc. The subject used Pascal as a syntax simply because Pascal is a good teaching language. One of the advantages of this subject is that it doesn't throw the student straight into object oriented programming from the get go and gets them used to procedures and functions etc first.

It was very easy for me since I have done lots of programming before, but that didn't stop it from being the best subject of the semester. It was taught by Andrew Cain, a very good lecturer who brings his enthusiasm for programming to every class. He also does away with bullet-points in lecture slides, and uses more graphics and animations to convey his concepts, which helps alleviate the boredom that most lectures entail.

The exam for the subject was very easy but it did, however, cover all the work that we had done that semester so I think it was justified in being easy. The fact was, if you could do what was on the exam, then you had done the work during the semester and that’s what counts.

Rating: 10/10

Database Analysis and Design

This subject was a simple introduction to databases. It taught the student how to properly design a good database in third normal form, and also how to program databases using SQL. The lecture slides were incredibly detailed, which made this subject very easy to learn since you could just look at the slides if you needed answers.

The tutorials, however, were not so flash. The guy who took our tutorial obviously spoke English as a second language so it was clear that he often had trouble answering questions not because he wasn’t good at databases, but because when questions were shot at him in English he got easily confused. The result normally ended up with a “chasing your own tail” situation where your question didn’t get answers. That said, the guy was extremely helpful when I needed my assignments to be remarked.

Which brings me to my pet bitch about this particular subject. I had to have two out of three assignments remarked because they had been marked incorrectly. This really annoyed me because is showed lack of care on the part of the markers and/or incompetence. I really should not have to teach the subject to them.

The labs for this subject were particularly useless, again not because of the work material, but because of the lab tutor. She was pretty useless. All she did was sit there until someone asked a question and when they did (at least whenever I did) she invariably either didn’t understand the question, or got the answer wrong.

However, the subject on the whole was good and I learnt some very useful database design techniques which I will be putting into use soon.

Rating: 8/10

Computer Logic and Essentials

This subject strove to give a shallow understanding of the mathematics behind computers. So it taught things like binary, hexadecimal and normal base 10 number conversions, encoding schemes, predicate logic, set theory, relations and functions and graph theory. The way the subject skimmed over these topics was ultimately the thing that made it hard for me. In mathematics you need a full understanding of how things work to be able to get things right. Because we only skimmed the surface of topics in this subject, we often didn’t know whether something was right or wrong. This was especially evident in the predicate logic section where we were taught a loose notation that resulted in a lot of different correct answers. This made learning a little difficult. That said, we did need to skim over the subject materials because otherwise there would not have been enough time to learn it all. So this really was more of an awareness subject.

CLE was taught by Raj Vasa, another good lecturer who has a great style where he can talk about a subject in a very casual and informal way, dropping in funny comments and opinions all the time. This meant, even though the subject material could be a little dry, the lectures were never boring.

What annoyed me most about this subject was that it didn’t give us many exercises to practise on. You should take that statement with a grain of salt, since I am not your average student and in maths subjects I like to have lots of exercises to learn from. The exercises that we were given did not come with answers, which is my pet bitch about this subject. This made it very hard to verify your work because you had to manually go and see Raj to get answers instead of just checking an answer sheet.
Raj said this was because he didn’t want people just looking at the answers rather than doing the questions. However, I feel that since this is university and supposed to be a self-learning environment, anyone who scuppers themselves doing that can deal with it themselves. Their stupidity should not limit others.

Rating: 8/10

Introduction to Business Information Systems

There always has to be one crappy subject, it seems, and this is it. Introduction to Business Information Systems (IBIS) attempted to teach you how IT integrates and is used in business. Sounds good, but it wasn’t.

To start with, the lecture content was a mish-mash of topics, which would switch around in a lecture making it very hard to figure out what was going on. The lecture slides were bad, barely explaining the content of the lecture and full of diagrams that meant absolutely nothing. One of my friends only turned up to four or so lectures and still got a good mark for IBIS. That’s how useless the lectures were.

The tutorials were also bad. I didn’t get a single thing out of the tutorials. There were no exercises to be answered, nothing. Just discussions on seemingly irrelevant topics. The labs were also useless, teaching us how to use Excel and Access. Things like: to open Excel go Start menu -> Microsoft Excel. I’m sorry but this sort of thing is taught in school, we don’t need it again. I finished all the lab work for the semester within scant weeks and didn’t turn up to any subsequent labs.

The textbook was bad. It was boring, full of diagrams that made absolutely no sense, and seemingly expected us to know what the world had been like before computers so that we could see the impact. I’m sorry, but I wasn’t alive when that time passed into obscurity, so how am I supposed to relate to that. It made a big deal about things like portals and transaction processing systems etc things that people my age take for granted. Trying to look at those from the eyes of someone who never had that stuff is impossible for me, because I don’t know what it was like to not have it.

Luckily, for those PSDs taking the course next year, our bitching about how bad this subject is has caused this subject to be removed from the course, which is brilliant.

Rating: 3/10

So all in all, Semester 1 was pretty good, with the exception of IBIS.