Phil's Blog

It’s that time of the semester again…

by on Apr.10, 2009, under SFU

Sit down and grab a beverage, this will take a little while.

It’s time (I say ‘again’ to make it sound like I’ve been blogging a long time, as opposed to a few days now) to give my impressions of the courses I took this semester.

Here they are, in increasing order of enjoyment (or decreasing order of annoyance, depending on the course):

BUEC 232 – Introduction to Statistics in Business and Economics

For those who don’t know, BUEC 232 is the Faculty of Business’ version of “intro to statistics”.  As a Computing Science major, you have the option of doing either STAT 270 or BUEC 232.  You have to do at least one of them.

Unfortunately, I took STAT 270 last spring.  I then proceeded to do the one thing I have not done before or since, also the one thing I always tell people not to do:  I didn’t go to class and didn’t do the homework.  I failed (in every way possible).

I found out that one can take BUEC 232 instead, and your GPA will be calculated based on the highest of either STAT or BUEC.  Reports from everyone I know who took BUEC was that it was quite easy.

As a science student, I have been hearing many stereotypes about business students over the years.  I chalked most of these up to elitism and competition amongst faculties.  I may have to reconsider that conclusion after taking this course.  The material was way easier than STAT 270 only covering maybe 50% of the material.

However, this came at a cost:  Extreme boredom.  Determined not to repeat my previous mistake, I attended every class and did all the assignments.  Unfortunately, most of the interesting part of STAT (and there isn’t much) is the math.  This was eliminated in this class by statements such as: “Why do we multiply this by x?  Well, there’s a mathematical reason for it, but I won’t bore you with it.”  Really?  That would actually increase the interest level.

My opinion remains the same as it did after STAT:  This is not a very useful course for Computing Science.  Obviously, learning how a normal distribution works is important.  This does not require anywhere near a whole semester to cover.

My biggest beef with the course:  The final is worth 55%.  There are already two midterms in this class.  Both together worth only 35%.  The homework is worth 10%.  There were only a few lectures (2, I think) between the second midterm and the final, so it’s not like there’s a bunch of new material.  So, you could have done real well on the midterms (I did), and if you screw up in the final, you can still fail/do really poorly (no idea yet, but I think I did acceptably well).

CMPT 322 – Professional Responsibility and Ethics

This is a new writing course that got introduced at SFU Surrey.  We are required to take one upper-division W (writing-intensive) course.  In the past, the only option has been CMPT 376.  There is now CMPT 322 as well.  The location and schedule for 322 worked much better for me than 376 did, so I signed on for the first offering of this course.

Let me first say that I am a big believer in requiring University students (at least, science students) to do more writing.  If CMPT 275 has taught me anything, it’s that most people cannot write English at even close to a University level (the reasons for this is better left to another, much longer rant). Universities are now in the position to have to solve the problem that people are graduating without being able to write a proper sentence in English.  Hence, the W part of the WQB program was introduced.

Back to the course subject.  The course is fairly well laid out.  The material is somewhat interesting, and can lead to many discussions.  The enjoyment of the course (or lack of annoyance) is mainly due to the professor.  Harinder Khangura has obviously spent a lot of time developing this course.  Instead of having just one major paper, there are a few minor papers first, a debate, a large research paper, and finally a final (this hasn’t occured yet, but it will be another essay or two, with possibly a few simple questions as well).

If you have to take a writing course, might as well have some good content (there’s material on hacking, privacy, etc.)

CMPT 307 – Data Structures

CMPT 307, where have you been all my life?  The name of the course is Data Structures but, really, it’s an algorithms course.  You cover data structures enough to analyze the algorithms these data structures enable.  Remember seeing Quicksort in 225 and analyzing it?  You didn’t.  Here’s the time to truly analyze it mathematically.  Why will all comparison sorts take at least (nlog(n)) time?  You’ll find out in CMPT 307.  This is the course I’ve been waiting for since I started CS.  It’s possibly the hardest CMPT course I’ve taken yet, but it’s by far the one I’ve enjoyed the most in my degree so far.  No one is more shocked than I am that I enjoy theory, but stranger things have happened.

I also recommend taking it with Joseph Peters.  His teaching style is one I enjoyed very much.  Hard homework (it is expected you most likely will not be able to solve the majority of the problems) and regular quizzes (easier than the homework, obviously).  The quizzes serve to prepare you for the final, so you are basically continually studying as you go along.  I like this.  A lot.  I’m hoping Dr. Peters will teach 405 before I graduate, as I plan on taking that too.

I know many people probably hated this course.  Basically, those who don’t like math.  But, really, this course represents exactly what the ‘science’ part of Computing Science is.  Also, I am doing a Bachelor’s of Science.  If you just want to learn to write code, you really will be better served at BCIT.  There, I said it.

What’s next?

I am dubbing this upcoming summer my “Summer of uselessness”.  I am taking CMPT 320.  The material will probably somewhat similar to 322, except for the fact that it is being taught by Stephen Pearce.  That being the case, I expect interesting lectures totally unrelated to the material, but with a large entertainment value.

I’m also taking KIN 143 – Exercise Management (Distance Education).  This will allow me to workout and keep track of my progress.  As far as I can tell, that is the largest part of the course.

CNS 210 – Foundations of Canadian Culture (Distance Education). Not much idea what this one is about.

The Summer of Uselessness will allow me to finish all my breadth requirements, all my required CMPT courses (except for 300, as I’m waiting for Bart to teach it again) and all my WQB requirements.  After that, all I have to take until I graduate are upper division CMPT courses and whatever math courses I want.



1 Comment for this entry

  • Ryan

    I took CMPT 320 with Dr. Khangura, he’s a cool guy. Unfortunately, it was still 320 so I didn’t get a lot out of it at the time. Since having more exposure to the Real World, I’ve come to realize that some of the things he taught were more important than I thought they were at the time.

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