Tuesday, September 27, 2005

The U of C Sucks

The only thing that interferes with my learning is my education. - Albert Einstein
I've only ever gone to one university, but I find it hard to believe all the other universities are this bad. If you've gone to another university, please comment: how much better is yours?

In high school, grade 12 was a peak for me in terms of my grades (94%) and what I learned (although, admittedly, I've forgotten the majority of it.) Then came the University of Calgary, and it was quite a shock.

Here's why the U of C sucks:
  1. The number of students per class is huge. Whereas in high school, classes had up to 30 students, some university classes have over 100 students. In first year, class sizes seem to range from about 45 to over 100; in fourth year, classes have 20 to about 70 students, averaging, say, 45. (Disclaimer: I never actually counted, but gee there's a lot.)

  2. In most classes, nothing but lecturing is used as a teaching method, and student-teacher communication is kept to a minimum. This makes it very difficult to learn things in class. It's worth noting that I almost never had to take notes in high school. In fact, it was very rare that I studied outside class time. Instead, I was able to learn by listening to the teacher, asking questions and by doing assignments, quizes and so forth. But in university, this is impossible for several reasons. In some classes, I spend so much time copying stuff from the chalkboard that I miss everything the instructor says (I can't write and listen at the same time.) Then, outside class time, I have to try to figure out what my notes actually mean.

  3. The school year is too short. In high school we got 10 months of class time at up to 6 hours per day. If you take 5 courses per semester at the U of C, you get only 8 months of classes at 5 hours per day, including labs, at which the professor is rarely present. Instead, we get "T.A.s", which are even worse at teaching than the professors, and often have worse English skills. Some T.A.s are indistinguishable from students, and thus hard-to-find in the lab room. They don't wear name tags or anything.

  4. Most university professors are poor teachers. (and even the good ones can't do their job properly, due to lack of class time.)

  5. The majority of the professors (in Engineering, anyway) have a strong foreign accent, which can be difficult to understand. 1st-year students are the hardest hit; out of my 11 first-year classes, only one or two professors sounded like native English speakers.

  6. In the Computer and Software Engineering programs (and, I suspect, also the Computer Science program), the curriculum teaches too little real-world knowledge; for example, the entire university offers only one web programming course, SENG 513, and less than 25 students are taking it right now (because it is only part of one program, Software Engineering). As far as I can tell, there are also no courses that teach the following important programming languages: Python, PHP, Perl, C#, or Lisp. In Engineering, they have an attitude that all programming languages are equivalent, so it doesn't matter which one is taught. This is false. Some courses even expect students to learn a language on their own! What in the world are we paying them for? That reminds me:

  7. If you want to get credit for a course without taking it (except for the exam), you have to pay full price. $500 for one exam? Gee, I wonder what the profit margins are!

  8. Assignments are too few and too difficult. In high school we were given many small assignments, which tested every aspect of our knowledge, and gave us enough practise to become confident in our knowledge and skills. In University, we are given a small number of very difficult assignments. These assignments usually don't cover the entire curriculum, and most of our knowledge and skills are not tested more than once. Instead, most of the work we put into assignments goes into pointless endeavors. For example, in an analog engineering class, we spend most of our time doing complex algebra, and punching long numbers into our calculators, when we should be learning the principles behind the math, and the formulas we are using. In courses that involve programming, we spend copious amounts of time on code-writing that is minimally related to the course material. Also, many professors create incredibly unclear assignments. Often assignments are self-contradicting and/or very vague and/or contain many spelling and grammar errors. One particularly aweful professor in this regard is Dr. Smith, who not only writes gibberish, but refuses to tell you what it means, or doesn't understand your questions--I never quite figured out which. He should be banned from making lab assignments.

  9. Mid-term and final exams usually don't cover all the course material; sometimes they cover just a small part of it. Often they are poorly planned, badly written and/or full of errors. Frequently students are asked to make corrections on an exam right before it starts, or in the middle, when some student is the first one to point out an error.

  10. Students are not normally informed of their final exam grade, and must pay $4 for a mere photocopy of their own exam. That adds up to $40 for 10 courses. Perhaps the university wants to discourage students from contesting the way their exams were graded?

  11. The university makes no effort to ensure that we retain the knowledge we've gained. I find that I've forgotten almost everything from the past three years. I think refresher courses ought to be mandatory, provided that a certain standard of quality is met. Which is not likely, of course.

  12. In many rooms, especially in the Engineering building, the chairs are small and uncomfortable, with tiny "desks" that are smaller than a single sheet of paper. The desk surfaces in SA 104 and 106 are tiny to the point of absurdity, at about half the size of a sheet of paper. If anything we need more desk space in university, not less.

  13. The grading systems are not standardized, and the university does not inform students how their grades were computed. As far as I know, there is no way to find out. Also, the U of C uses a stupid letter-based grading system. So the number grade computed by the professor is quantized to a letter, and then converted back to a number, the GPA. There are only 11 distinct passing grades: A, A-, B+, B, B-, C+, C, C-. A lot of resolution is lost in this system, for no reason.

  14. Students have to deal directly with the bureaucracy. The departments themselves don't seem to communicate with each other, so you often have to go running around the university to different departments to get your questions answered. Also, many departments have limited business hours. For example, the Engineering Undergraduate office is only four days a week, 9AM to 4PM.

  15. Course descriptions are very poor; typically, only a couple of sentences are provided to describe each course. This makes it difficult to select electives (options). Shouldn't we be allowed access to complete syllabus information?

  16. The organization of the University's web sites are piss-poor. I say "sites", because every faculty (and some departments) has an entirely separate web site, with different visual appearance and different organization. The web sites I visit are the main web site (observe the "mystery meat" navigation), the engineering site and the Computer Science site. All of them are ripe for criticism, but the Engineering site is maintained particularly badly. Here's a challenge for you: find the course requirements to obtain a Bachelor's Degree in Computer Engineering. If you succeed, you did better than me. The only way I could find it was through Google, by inputting the a few names of courses in that program which I had already taken. Even Google can't be used to find some pages, because there are pages that are not linked to from anywhere else and thus missed by webcrawlers. I believe the 2005 course websites for CPSC 349 and ENCM 503 are examples of this. To be fair, the university does offers a one-stop-shop for the most crucial non-faculty-specific information: the infonet. On the other hand, much of that system goes down every night, and during busy periods you may be put on a waiting list. Update: I just discovered a service called "myUofC" which offers "single signon" for many different services. So that's good.

  17. A lot of information that ought to be on the web sites, isn't. For instance, there is no listing of the locations and phone numbers of staffs' offices.

  18. "Blackboard", a lame password-protected information store for students. The University is encouraging professors to use this system, which requires students input their username and passwords in order to access information such as course outlines, schedules and assignments. I presume this system is intended to protect the university's Intelectual Property--heaven forbid that a non-student should obtain educational materials online!--but it is inconvenient for students, who must always enter a password, and who cannot bookmark pages on the system.

  19. Communication between the university and students is poor and haphazard. Although the registrar's office keeps email addresses on file, for instance, some departments (e.g. Engineering Internship) will ask for e-mail addresses separately. Also, some important financial correspondence, it seems, only comes by email. For instance, during my Engineering internship, the university charges about $1,200 for the priveledge of being in the internship program. But it charges the student in installments, once per semester. I forgot that the university has two semesters during the summer, not just one. Thus, I didn't realize I'd been charged at the beginning of the second summer semester, and I didn't pay the bill. Because my payment was late, I was charged a $60 late fee. The university sent a reminder, but only by e-mail, to an account that I rarely looked at. Thus I got dinged $60 for a semester I barely knew existed. On an unrelated note, many emails are targetted poorly; 4th year students will receive some email pertaining to 1st-year courses and vice versa.

  20. Hey, what's with that $60 late fee anyway? I bet they'd charge you $60 even if your outstanding balance was only $60. Or $1.
By the way: this article explains that bad engineering education abounds in the U.S., too.

I want to also make a few comments about The Money.

Tuition is high. I expect this trait is common to most universities, but at the U of C, recent increases have been particularly bad: tuition is four times as high as it was in 1990. My living expenses are about equal to my tuition; foreign students must pay twice as much as me. But I've always said that I'd be willing to pay this much if the quality of education were proportionately high. It is not. I marvel how much money is going to the university, considering how little value students get for it.

I've had trouble finding numbers. Two numbers I want to focus on is the amount of government spending on "education" per full-time student (normalized to consider only students taking a normal full course load, which is 5 courses at the U of C), and tuition per full-time student (again, with 5 course per semester). I can get the second number from my own tuition bill, but unfortunately, the first number is hard to find. Here seems to say that students pay only 26% of the cost of their education, but that seems wrong. I recall seeing a figure of about 33% in a graph in high school, although that was six years ago.

Assuming philanthopic donations are neglegible, the sum of these numbers indicates how much money the university should be spending on education for students. I emphasize "should", because I'm very skeptical that the university is really spending that much on education; I think the university is diverting a lot of funds from "education" to things like "research", which it considers more important. And it wouldn't surprise me if the executives could afford a new car every year.

Let's assume, for sake of argument, that tuition makes up 30% of total education-targetted funding. Based on my own tuition, a full yearly course load of 10 courses (over 8 months and 2 semesters) costs $5,220. That means the government is paying $12,810, for a total budget of $17,400 per year. This doesn't include textbooks, which can cost up to $1000 per year (though much of that can be reclaimed by re-selling the books.)

At this rate, the funding for just two students per class should be enough to pay the salaries of professors ($34,800 for 8 months' work, which extrapolates to $52,200 for a full years' work.) A couple more students would pay for the T.A.s. How, then, can one explain the enormous class sizes?

This is much greater than the funding to high schools. Again, I wasn't able to find a number, but here I find that grade 1-9 students get $4,453 per student from the government, and parents pay a couple hundred bucks on top of that. Certainly, I would expect that government funding per high-school student is well under $10,000. How can this huge cost difference be explained, considering that university education is worse?

I'm in my fourth year now, and you might wonder, if I hate the U of C so much, why I don't switch to another? I certainly would have liked to, but there are a couple of reasons I didn't.
  • For the first couple of years, I didn't know how to figure out what universities are good. It would sure suck to transfer somewhere else, only to find out it was just as bad! After two years I found out that Maclean's magazine does university rankings across Canada; Calgary is located in the "Medical Doctoral" section and ranks 14th out of 15. Rightfully so.
  • As far as I know, every university has a slightly different curriculum, and a different way in which topics are arranged into courses. I therefore expected that a significant portion of my credits could not be transferred to a new university.
  • I figured that universities would give less scholarships to out-of-towners.
  • Laziness. Moving across the country would be a lot of work, and considering how difficult it was to figure things out in the U of C's hopelessly disorganized bureaucracy, I didn't want to figure it all out again at another university.
Whew. I finally let it all out. Thanks for listening.


Anonymous said...

Yup - you pretty much summed up University of Calgary. Profs who could careless about you. "Mandatory Classes." No interaction... I could go on but you pretty much nailed it.

Although I might add that the U Of C registrar is retarded too. They lost my transfer transcripts from another college twice. I phoned and some stupid retarded bitch had no idea what I was asking her to do for me.

Yup U of C blows...

Anonymous said...

I agree. I went to UBC for my undergrad and it was a million times better. Calgary is full of hicks. You can usually tell how shitty an institution is by counting how many fat middle aged women work at admin- in UofC, all of them.

Anonymous said...

I don't believe by any means that it is fair to compare high school with university. Though they are both educational institutions, they are also meant to teach different things. Grade school very rarely promoted independence and granted our autonomy as students. If done well, Grade school should have equipped us with the tools to learn on our own; university should only be a secondary resource to our learning. University is there to be a recognized source that grants us our accreditation with their "stamp of approval" and unfortunately that is the only purpose they serve.

Nonetheless, the University of Calgary absolutely sucks. Their administration system fails to keep up with the "reputation' they want to have as a post-secondary institution. It is impossible to make a flexible timetable that works with having to work 1-2 jobs to pay-off one of the most expensive tuitions in the country. Further, it is impossible to make a schedule to finish a 4 year program within 4 years without sacrificing spring and summer.

I have learned that universities are businesses not insitutions. Learning is not the emphasis. The empahsis is profit and their own sustainability, their reputation, and the by-product of ruined lives and piss-broke students that they have littered this city with.

Anonymous said...

Calgary blows, everything in Calgary blows. The University is horrid, how I am going to survive putting up with its shit for another 3 years? No idea.
Better go to Waterloo, Electrical Engineering is much better there and you don't have people with down syndrome working in registration there.

Anonymous said...

I couldn't agree more.

I used their "calendar" system to register for their 11 course requirement, oh what an experiance!

Get this, the max course load per year is 10 and on top of that their system failed to inform the first year business students like me of a core course needed in order to pass all of the year 2-4 courses.

Having followed their shitty "plan", I got fucked over, didn't take a very important class and am now possibly fucked out of the whole 4 year idea - make that an additional year because of their stupidity.

Anonymous said...

The U of C is horrible. I transferred from the University of Lethbridge (awesome school), and that was probably the worst decision of my life. Its just that U of C is the only place that offers my program and I didn't want to go far from home.

What sums up the U of C registrar: I once had to apply for a U of C scholarship. I needed to submit a transcript for this. I wasn't told about this and assumed my school would have my transcript with their courses on it. I had to fill out an online application and pay 4 bucks with my credit card so the UofC could send my UofC transcript to the UofC... WTF

Another story: UofC introduces a $200 deposit needed to remain in the courses you've applied for 4 months before classes start. UofC does not tell you about this and expects it to be paid before an unposted deadline. UofC sends you an email after this deadline has past and says you must pay it... they've given you a 15 days "grace" period because "a notification was not sent out." Well how the hell am I supposed to pay you if "a notification was not sent out".... fuck you Uof C

Anonymous said...

I work at the U of C as an instructor, and I agree with many of your comments. However, university IS different than high-school, and there are new skills to be learned. Unfortunately, one of the skills you will spend a lot of time and frustration learning is how to cope with the laybrinth of bureacracy and all that goes with it. I could go on, but to keep it short, the U of C really is a Kafkaesque institution, having spend over 10 years of my life here. If you want a truly enriching unversity experience, go somewhere else if you have the resources to do so.

Anonymous said...

I agree. I'm in 4th year chemical engineering right now, and although my 4th year profs are better than the 1st, 2nd, and 3rd year profs, they are still egoistic jerks! I'm thankful I'm in 4th year so I don't have to deal with them again! There's this one prof called Marco who lives like a coward and tries to please everyone he meets! What a joke... They're finally gonna renovate the ENGG building though...

Anonymous said...

I agree with most of this stuff too. I'm a third year Geology student and am in no way pleased with the school. There is no effort by most who are employed there to truly help students get all they can get out of their university program. It's a survival of the fittest where you're all on your own. You have to research and dig around to find any answers, and most of the staff (including many [but not all...] professors) seem to feel that your questions are just a nuisance. Sometimes it seems like they would rather just fuck you over than help you, just to get you to leave 'em alone. I find that many of the teaches, whether it be TA's or professors, are most focused on their research than to help students. Fine - they are there to do research; however it is there duty to help students progress and become something. Is that not what university is for?

I personally would recommend students to look elsewhere when searching for universities to attend. This one is not worth it.

Anonymous said...

I completely agree. This place is a business first, business second, and business third. They don't care at all about the student experience. They frustrate you at every turn. They want your money and to turn you into a number.

Anonymous said...

If the U of C sucks as hell, then why do they still have 24,000 undergrad students. I am considering if I should go to the U of C this fall and all those comments scared the shit out of me.

Qwertie said...

I don't know. I went to U of C because I didn't know any better, but I know some people actually liked it there.

Qwertie said...

By the way, my post was mainly about the Faculty of Engineering and is almost 5 years old now. YMMV with other departments.

Also, if you're going to U of C, it will help a lot if you have good friends to study with, since you can investigate things together and figure stuff out when your crappy professor can't explain the way out of a paper bag. I had very few friends, which I think is why the crappiness of the university hit me hard.

Anonymous said...

oh my God...im a first year student and experiencing this right now...i feel like a total failure, and my hate for the institution is climbing exponentially

Anonymous said...

the only thing u of c is good for is: hunnies, free transit, and gym

Qwertie said...

hunnies, free transit, and gym? Man, I didn't use of those during my time at U of C. Well, I used transit one or two years. Still. Maybe this is why I'm so down on U of C.

Anonymous said...

This makes me kind of angry. To address some of your points:
1. Yes, classes are big. It's like that at all universities. I wish they were bigger, because sometimes the classes I want to take are full before I can even register for them. A lot of people have this problem. If the classes were even smaller, we would have even bigger problems.
2. Are you really complaining about having to study in university?
3. All universities have an 8-month long school year. And if you can't recognize your T.A.s, maybe you should actually go to the first lab/tutorial of the year and listen when they say "Hi, I'm your T.A., my name is..."
8. Professors don't have the time to mark "many smaller assignments." After all, they have huge classes.
If you want to learn the mathematical theory instead of the applications, you should have become a pure math major. Engineering professors don't have time to teach you theory because they're busy teaching you actual engineering, or as you call it, "pointless endeavors."
11. This is because the university assumes you'll retain the knowledge yourself. Of course, if you cram before every exam, it's less likely that you'll remember the material. If you feel so strongly about mandatory refresher classes, why don't you go and sit in on current lectures of classes you've taken in the past?
13. All universities use this. I actually love this system because it makes anything that was an A or A+ into a 4.0. Oh, and if you would take a look at the course outlines, they almost always tell you exactly how your professors compute grades.
15. I have found that every time I've wanted or needed more information about a class, all it takes is a simple e-mail to the professor. A lot of the time, though, you can access past syllabuses on the UofC website by searching for the class.
16. Have you ever heard of the Degree Navigator? Because it's only a few clicks away from the main page, and it will tell you exactly what you need to fulfill ANY degree.
18. Oh, the inconvenience of typing in your password every single time! Even though you can set your computer to remember it, you STILL have to press tab twice!
19. Maybe you should tell the university to send you emails to an account you actually look at.
All in all, it's completely unfair to compare the UofC to a high school. They're completely different, and you're in a different world now. Get used to it.

Qwertie said...

1. Yet somehow high schools don't have this problem, even if they have smaller budgets.
2. No, I'm complaining that the "teaching" methods couldn't be any less effective, and that the University can't teach as effectively as a high school.
3. Well, that sucks. And I attended all my classes.
8. They could use computerized marking. Or the university could use smaller classes. And no, I didn't feel they were teaching "actual engineering". Instead, there were a lot of pointless endeavors.
11. You haven't been listening. Most lectures were very hard to understand. That is why it was so hard to learn the material in the first place. That is why I had to "cram" and memorize stupid facts instead of actually understanding the course material. In high school I actually learned and understood what was being taught. University teaching methods were bad so I couldn't do the same thing. That said, I have also forgotten most of the stuff I learned in high school and it would be nice to have refreshers on that stuff too.
13. You're welcome to your opinion, but I think the quantization is crazy.
15. Do you mean the one-sentence course descriptions?
16. Maybe. When I was at U of C I remember some terrible Java program which kind-of presented the course requirements in a graphical, but hard to follow, way.
18. And of course open access to information, or the ability to bookmark pages, doesn't matter to you. I also prefer the higher security of not having my browser remember my password; plus I tend to forget the password if I never use it.
19. Most email came to the account I wanted. But not the payment request. Why can't the university just use one address for all communication? ... Oh right, it's unfair to compare a teaching institution to... another teaching institution! How dare I compare something better to something worse!

Anonymous said...

Want to switch from UC? Don't switch to University of Toronto engineering. It sucks in too many ways to describe. And it's a rip ... 2011 tuition + fees = $12000. If you want shitty, find someplace cheaper.

Anonymous said...

LMAO, Some typical cry baby engineering student who couldn't cut it. Get through the degree and continue on. It's ok if you can't do it, but at least admit it to yourself that you can't.

Anonymous said...

Its funny that when someone gives a review on something people automatically assume it is ranting or complaining. You sound like you aren't an engineering student, I recommend you try it out before you criticize. We pay more tuition than most other departments and yet have the most dated infrastructure and arguably the worst teachers. And yet we are faced with harder tests than in any other faculty. The language barrier is a real issue, almost all of my professors have thick accents, and the TA's are worse. I'm in my fourth year and graduating this year, I've interacted with a lot of engineers across a lot of dfferent faculties and they would agree with what I'm say

Qwertie said...

Actually this "cry baby engineering student" graduated "with distinction"... just not thanks to the U of C. Thanks for backing me up Mr. Anonymous, but sorry to hear that U of C Engineering it still sucks.

I got an email from U of C recently that said:

"Paving the Path for Tomorrow's Engineers: A major announcement that will transform engineering education at the University of Calgary."
.... "Please join us to celebrate this transformative announcement."

What grand plan could they have to finally transform "engineering education" at the U of C, you ask? Oct. 9 the answer came in my inbox:

"Thank you to everyone who attended our event, “Paving the Path for Tomorrow’s Engineers.”

"Today’s announcement of $142.5 million by the Government of Alberta for the Schulich School of Engineering (SSE) Expansion and Renovation Project is a turning point for SSE and a major milestone for the University of Calgary in its Eyes High goal of becoming a top five research university in Canada. It also transforms engineering education in the province, creates capacity to graduate more highly-skilled engineers to meet industry demand and drives innovation in Alberta and beyond.

"The project will provide more than 18,000 gross square metres of additional space and more than 11,000 gross square metres of renovated space in the engineering complex, enabling SSE to increase its capacity by at least 400 additional undergraduate and graduate students. New and renovated teaching, learning and research spaces will enhance student experience and create exciting research opportunities. Construction will begin immediately and the building will open in 2016, a major milestone to celebrate the university’s 50th anniversary.

That's right. They actually claim that building a few new buildings (thanks Government!) will "transform engineering education".

Yeah, um, I lived through one of those transformations already, when they built the ICT building. It was built between some other buildings and had an enormous construction site, so students had to walk, like, half a kilometer between classes. Then when the building was completed, it was a nicer building than Engineering, sure, but it had no drinking fountains anywhere, and the educational experience was pretty much the same.

I cynically predicted this when I got the first email. "transform engineering education," huh? "aha," I thought, "so you're building some buildings then?"

Anonymous said...

All you were doing is comparing university to high school.

Qwertie said...

That's inaccurate, but why shouldn't two educational institutions be compared?

Anonymous said...

You have a LOT to complain about. I attend UofC, and so far it has been awesome. I feel bad for you );

Anonymous said...

You may have written this five years ago but I didn't realize that till I started reading the comments. Not a singe f***ing thing has changed! I'm not in engineering but Im here dealing with the same 'old' s*** you were. Cheers to that!

TheScienceEnthusiast1130 said...


Could you sign this petition: change.org/petitions/board-of-education-and-all-educational-facilities-and-municipalities-reform-education-so-that-it-s-fair-for-all-and-not-for-the-elite-few-or-the-dull-many-no-child-left-behind

Qwertie said...

Uh, I found the petition vague. I'm not sure what it is asking for, it is not well written. And since teaching is a difficult job to do well and requires expertise, the number of signatures on a petition is not, in my mind, a good indicator of the value of whatever technique the petition might advocate. Educators will investigate computerized teaching (which I support) with or without petitions backing it. Finally, the petition has very little to do with this blog post.

Anonymous said...

You sound like that one first-year who peaked in high school.

Anonymous said...

I am in a boarding school in the USA and honestly seems like you're complaining a lot about stuff that is almost universal throughout North America. College is designed to be harder and it is only natural that the cost and number of students will be higher due to the low ratio of Universities to highschools. Prep school/College lifestyle doesn't work for everyone, some people adapt, others bitch. Honestly i could be wrong but what you are describing is "the real world" no one will every hold your hand or individually tend to your needs. U Calgary may be a bad school but its probably due to other reasons than what you listed

Anonymous said...

Just several facts:
A resolution passed in 1969 by faculty members in some UofC teaching units: maximum required lecture class size: 30 students. Fact in 2015: lecture class size up to 360 students. Many universities in Canada require each faculty member to teach up to 3 lecture half courses per academic year. UofC requirement: up to 8 lecture half courses per academic year. Perennial budget deficit solution at UofC: forceful retirement of experienced senior professors and their replacement by poorly paid junior instructors speaking fluently only foreign languages. Uncontrolled proliferation of senior bureaucrats drawing exorbitant salaries for flooding the space with political slogans. What do you expect?

Anonymous said...

In 2015, the Software Engineering program is a disaster.

Basically, you teach yourself everything with google and arrive in most courses without significant pieces of prerequisite knowledge that was never covered.

For example, you would imagine that by 3rd year we would have had a dedicated course segment on how to use our IDE (Eclipse)... hence, why last year we, the students, abandoned it for Notepad++ and other text editors because we could at least understand that. Yet Eclipse expertise is assumed in 3rd year... advanced debugging... didn't even know how to use a debugger until last month.

I'm actually ashamed to tell people where I went to school for my degree.

Qwertie said...

Yes... not only do they choose to teach Java as if it were the pinnacle of programming language design, but as a TA last year I was disturbed to learn that they actually TOLD students not to use Eclipse. I saw frustrated students writing programs that should be in a single .java file spreading out their program over three files; editing their code with Linux GEdit; repeatedly TYPING "javac Program.java" and "java Program" in the Terminal (because no one told them they could press "UP" on the keyboard to repeat earlier commands), manually matching the line number in compiler error messages with the line number in their editor, trying to figure out for an hour why their successfully compiled program didn't work (because they had no debugging tools)...

If they'd listen to Bret Victor, things would be quite different:

Anonymous said...

Well, regarding Java...

It's 3rd year and some of us have not taken a course on it yet. However, we are expected to be extremely fluent in it, despite the Java course not being a prereq to anything.

For people who pretend to be experts at designing complex systems with intricate dependencies... their program violates almost every principle of good systems design that they preach ;(

Anonymous said...

good link

Anonymous said...

I found your complaints about University of Calgary hilarious. I actually just gave up reading your rant half way through. Yes, it is very apparent that you've only ever gone to one university. I also suspect you haven't spoken to many people from other universities either (limited social life?) because what you have described about large class sizes, the need to study outside of class, the need to take the initiative to teach yourself much of the time and "large but difficult" assignments is completely the norm in every post secondary institution I've been too and every post secondary institution that I've ever heard about (except for maybe community college.)

You silly little fool. You found university shocking? I can't even imagine what you will think of the working world. You are going to be crying under your desk every time you are passed over for a promotion you think you should have gotten, but probably didn't because you're a straight up pussy who lacks understanding about how the world works!

Qwertie said...

No, I found the working world to be substantially easier and more rewarding. Luckily I worked at a place where people were nice, not like you, asshole.

Anonymous said...

I have waited over 4 weeks for a grade to appear in D2L for a 30 hour course. Why would tabulating that grade be so difficult? When I send an email to ask, I received two replies almost instantaneously: 1 noted that there was an internal issue and would be resolved within 1-2 weeks, email number 2 made reference to the instructor being given 15 days to submit their grade to the system and those 15 business days had not yet lapsed. Either way, they are a disorganized mess over there, I agree with you 100%.

Anonymous said...

I definitely agree with your idea that the U of C is very mediocre, unsatisfying, and unpalatable. They don't give one or even two fucks about student experience. The admissions office has some incoherent, and irrational idiots that can really destroy the reputation of the U of C. For example I have final average 5% higher than the faculty of engineering average and because of their unforgiving holistic admissions process, they told me "you need to wait, it's currently full". That means no spots are available and people with low average are filling up what is supposed to be a smart people environment. If you have the resources DO NOT GO TO THIS SCHOOL. Otherwise you will very likely deal with nonsensical admission process.

Anonymous said...

Is the University still this bad or has it improved ?

Qwertie said...

I returned briefly as a grad student 2014-2015. My experience was limited, but it basically felt like the same place I left. Same people, same policies, same culture.

I became a TA (i.e. assistant teacher), because all grad students become TAs. As I had suspected as a student, the university requires no qualifications or experience for TAs to teach courses. I asked to be a TA for 4th-year courses because I knew I wasn't prepared to teach beginners, but I was assigned to teach the most beginner-level course there is (computer science for non-comp-sci students). There was no required training in how to teach and only a little bit of optional training. The main professor was experienced, skilled and fun (but not perfect), and I adapted fairly quickly and enjoyed the experience, but in the end, half the class recommended in their TA evaluation that I not be assigned to teach that course a second time. In the second course for which I was a TA, I didn't get along with the professor; I found him arrogant and lazy, and his grading scheme was unclear and haphazard.

Qwertie said...

So, I got the impression that the university was coasting along with a same-old-same-old attitude. They published a "vision and strategy" document called "Eyes High", which I read. I could summarize it as "U of C: Let's Do Everything We're Already Doing Anyway, Only Better!" It's an exceedingly shallow document with a lot of flowery marketing speak, but few specific recommendations, and in particular, didn't really acknowledge what what wrong with education at the U of C or what they needed to change in order to do better. It's the perfect pablum for faculty and administration that want to coast along and not change anything. Have a look:


Anonymous said...

Im in my first year engineering of 2016, and i have to say, i kinda dont like this school. My math 275 instructor cant teach shit, cant read my chem 209 instructor's writings half the time, a lot of the engg 233 lectures that count for marks take place online, which i find ridiculous considering the amount of tuition im saying i mean if i wanted to learn something online i could just do that myaelf, class sizes of roughly 200 students each make it harder to get to know other students, and overall the quality of education just doesnt meet my standards. Im in my first semester of first year and considering getting the hell out of here, but then its a lot of work to go to school across the country as you mentioned in your post...

Anonymous said...

Just got to do a department feedback session with he heads of seng and he third year class. The entire class had nothing but complaints about about half their courses. It took 30 minutes to finish with complaints about a single course, so they rushed through the others. They promised to do better... but if they really cared how could it have gotten to this point for so long?

Once per semester there is a good course with a competent professor. That at least is nice.

Imo, the seng program should be shut down until they can redesign it from the ground up with new teaching staff. Would never happen though.

Anonymous said...

Most of you guys are hilarious!! Ive been to two universities, Simon Fraser University and now, UCalgary for Engineering. All uni's are pretty much consistent. All your complaints would be complaints at most uni's. Honestly, I think UCalgary is superior to SFU and probably to other canadian universities as well.

Evan Fenton said...

hi, i found your post pretty funny. i just had my first calculus class at uofc in engg and the instructor could barely speak english. the first month was painful because everyone had a massive lack of respect for the prof. the majority of points you made are still very relevant but i have to say a couple of the points i disagreed with. but thats not the point, i mostly wanted to ask you (if you end up seeing this) what software/computer engineering is like, are all the classes about programming or do you still get to take other things? and how was finding a job after university? if i can get into software i think i would like it but im worried that my grades won't be high enough. what kind of work do you do and do you enjoy it? if you do see this can you email me at evanf347@gmail.com (i might have some other questions if you dont mind)

Qwertie said...

> are all the classes about programming or do you still get to take other things

As I'm sure you're aware the first year doesn't have much programming since all Engineering students take the same classes regardless of specialization. I thought I heard somewhere that the U of C got rid of Computer Engineering? or was it Software Engineering? To be honest, I have a poor memory and only vaguely recall what I took, but it's definitely not all programming. There was basic electronics, radio circuits, analog control systems, digital logic, FPGAs, "science and technology in society" or something like that, a math class with lots of partial differential equations, as well as a couple of options that can be anything. And that's on top of whatever non-programming stuff I forgot.

Honestly, I think that if you want a career in software, the Computer Engineering degree does not involve enough programming. I was programming since I was 11 so I breezed through most of it.

If you prefer more programming, take Computer Science. Or don't go to university at all and use online resources - because I think the U of C tends to teach outdated and/or less powerful programming techniques. And they had this funny attitude that it doesn't matter which programming languages they teach or in what order, because all programming languages are somehow the same. This is wrong. Plus I think it's an exploitative institution whose main goal is to make money through research, not teaching.

> how was finding a job after university?

No problem for me, I got a one-year paid internship through the internship program and got the same job after finishing my degree - the company, however, which used to participate a lot in the internship program, got bought out. I left Calgary a while ago, but the job market for software people and engineers still seemed healthy there the last time I checked.

> what kind of work do you do and do you enjoy it?

I'm on a long-term sabbatical. I design programming languages and libraries - all open source. See http://ecsharp.net and http://loyc.net. No one is paying me, because as far as I can tell there is no company interested in paying for work like mine. I enjoy it, but would enjoy it more if I could figure out how to achieve my goals.

Anonymous said...

You guys are all lame. You whine because the majority of you transitioned from highschool to university and you can't handle it. You have to learn things on your own. It's not like there's some university out there that you would go to and be blown away by how awesome it is. You would whine about it either way. This is hard, they make me learn the language on my own, wahhh,... get over it. I know tons of kids from U of C in Comp Sci as my colleagues who all complain about how tough it is and think its some bs that I get good grades but I sacrifice for it. Not that i'm better for any reason, it just counts. You want to sacrifice 16 hrs a day for up to 2 weeks straight at times to kill it in a class? Then you'll kill it, otherwise take what you get and get over it. Bunch of soft little kids...

Anonymous said...

I have to be honest I didn't really read your entire entry but I feel like it was very unbalanced and kind of unfair. I am an engineering student and I agree about the bureaucracy part of you blog. It is frustrating. However I went to a private high school and there was way more of that there . I feel like bureaucracy is pretty part in parcel with teaching institutions. Secondly I think you may have been struggling with the course load more so than the teaching methods, because admittedly it is very heavy in first year. That being said I feel like I am having a pretty good time in the course. I find it interesting and I try not to fixate on "bad" profs because tbh I have a different learning style so some really popular profs are my least favourite and some of the least popular ones are my favourites. Although accents can be hard initially I feel like the diversity of the faculty is actually a benefit because you are getting taught by people with experience from all over the world.
Admittedly I didn't perform all that well in first year but I chop this up to the fact that this was the first time I lived by myself, and didn't have my parents emotional support all the time. I think you should do some soul searching and really pin point what YOUR mistakes could of been in the course instead of really just pointing to everyone else (profs,bureaucracy, scheduling etc.). I know people who are struggling or have struggled at UBC, Waterloo, U of A anywhere really. Learning is very specific to the individual so no one should get scared off by this blog entry. If there is a will there is a way. Intelligence helps but hard work is so much more important for success. Just keep chugging through There are really some wonderful profs at U of C as well. Some bad ones but for the most part you can always go to another lecture if you like that prof more. No one cares as long as there is enough room. Engineering has a great friendly atmosphere too unlike bio-sci or other hyper competitive degrees. The reason I think a lot of first year engineering students complain about the university is because they have been spoilt by good teachers in high school. I had a lot of shitty teachers that were harder to understand. If you left Calgary and looked at some of the universities in other parts of north America and even the world you would realize that we are actually pretty lucky.

NGL a lot of this sounds like privileged whining. If you don't want to sacrifice all of your time then take longer to finish your degree. It isn't that bad . Not to mention the engineering department provides you so many resources like DARC which is new but super super helpful and free. I understand the concern of working and scheduling but the fact of the matter is a full time student isn't supposed to be working that is why they are called "full time students" if you want to have a job on the side drop some courses and balance it out. Yeah it will take you longer but that is just how it works. You can't blame the university for that. If YOU want a degree you really do have to dedicate a lot of time to that. Also Canadian student loans are pretty easy to get and also not as hard to pay off as the ones in the US so really you are given a lot of options here.

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Anonymous said...

“Waaaa waaa mommy wouldn’t tell the teacher how unfair this all is!”

Grow up, man! The three universities I’ve attended all have the same issues. Large class sizes, minimal one-on-one time with professors, and a labyrinth of red tape. Get used to it. I had a laugh about the whole not-studying outside of class. What the hell do you think this is?

Qwertie said...

If you think the purpose of university is to be confused and spend as little time learning as possible, then I understand your support for the status quo.

SVB said...

Hello all,

I am a grade 12 Indian student in the CBSE(Indian) system of education, and I aspire to do mechanical engineering. I have sent my applications to university of ottawa, calgary, alberta and simon Fraser. I got into OttawaU in mech engg already, and am still waiting for replies from the other 3. In case I don't get into Alberta (which is my topmost choice) and get into calgary and SFU(which I am sure I will), which one should I accept and why? It would be great if somebody could help me with this because I am really confused at this point of time. Is University of Ottawa better than Calgary for mechanical engineering? Mechanical engineering is a direct entry program in Ottawa, unlike Calgary, which has a common first year for all engineering students. Thanks!

Qwertie said...

Sorry SVB, I only went to one university so I cannot answer your question. I know U of C sucks, but cannot say whether another university is better.

Anonymous said...

Sorry to hear from you. Something strange happened with my friend. She completed English for Academic purpose to get admission in Bridge to Teaching program. She spent CAD$7,500. As well, she has been trying to get admission for last three years. She met all the criteria including English but she could not. Even though, they don't explain why she is not eligible. Anyway good luck for you.