Tuesday, February 09, 2010

Graduate Level Courses

From my background in math I'm used to two types of graduate courses. There are qual-courses which have homework and exams and are designed to prepare students for their qualifying exam. And there was everything else. Qual courses were a lot of work. Homework took hours to do. Exams were designed to prepare you for the quals. Everything else had no assignments and no exams. The theory on the everything else classes was that if the professor couldn't get enough students to take his class on the analytic and algebraic topology of locally Euclidean parameterization of infinitely differentiable Riemannian manifolds, then he would have to teach calculus. And the grad students had a choice between signing up for the analytic and algebraic topology of locally Euclidean parameterization of infinitely differentiable Riemannian manifolds or for more hours of "directed research" under their advisors. Courses with assignments and exams weren't as popular as the ones without assignments and exams.

So this semester I'm taking two graduate-level courses. The CS class is a "special topics" class (rather than part of the core curriculum), which in my background would be a "no written work" class, but here has regular homework and even group projects. The homework is easy, but I suspect that the "projects" will be time-consuming and annoying. I've already identified some flaws with the methodology for the current project, but I can't be sure if this is a "learning experience" that we are supposed to realize (ways in which the technique isn't suited for the data) or whether it's just a flaw. I figure that I'll write about this problem in my write-up.

And I'm also taking a statistics course which is part of the masters program in the stats department. Had I known then what I know now, I should have gone into graduate school in statistics. I'm sure that my barely competent classmates in the stats class will go on to make real money with their masters degree in stats. The girl who sits next to me complains when the professor talks about any of the math (for example, what sorts of underlying distribution is assumed and what the implications are of the assumption), as her opinion is that you just put things in SAS and magically get the right answer. The homework due on Thursday is mostly meant to disabuse people of that worldview, but I'm not sure how effective that will be. In the homework, we're supposed to do all sorts of assumption-defying things and then get crazy answers. I'm pretty sure that the stats homework is not that difficult (I haven't gotten back assignment 1, so I don't know how hard it really was), but my classmates seem to be making it pretty complicated. But they have taken a lot more stats than I have, as they are mostly in their second semester of their second year of statistics graduate school.

Today is the eighth class meeting of the CS class. So far we've had five days of lecture, one day of the TA going over the homework, one day of the professor doing the actual homework for us a week before it was due, and today we're having a "quiz" which is really just an excuse not to cancel class because the professor has somewhere else to be.