Student feedback 2004

In the Friday lecture before the midsession break, I gave you all the opportunity to give me feedback on the course.  Here is a summary of the feedback I received, with my responses.
(Note: you can always e-mail me if you have additional comments during the session).


Weekly assignments are a good idea, and are relevant.

Yes, I agree. Computing is one area where it is absolutely essential to get hands-on experience.

I wish the assignments were better defined so that we knew exactly what to do to achieve maximum marks.

The slight vagueness in the assignments is intentional.  There is no "correct" answer for an assignment. Since the assignments are worth so much of the course's assessment, I need to structure them so that the full range of scores are exercised: i.e, you should be able to pass an assignment (5/10) by doing a fairly minimal amount of work to satisfy the bare minimum requirement; however, if you want to achieve a mark in the Distinction/High-Distinction range (8-10/10) then you will have to be quite innovative.

Tutorials, computer labs

It would be nice to have a computer lab that we could use.

There is the Microcomputer Lab on the first floor of the Newton Building.

It would be nice to have a tutor. It would be good to have tutorials occasionally.

I agree, and will see what I can do.

On-line notes

Notes on the web are very good.

Thank you!

Notes on the web are not very helpful.

Yes, I can see that they do have deficiencies. I am trying to improve them, and would welcome specific suggestions. Note that there are other resources that you can use (e.g., textbooks, other on-line notes).

The online notes are hard to find.

Yes, this was a deliberate decision since I didn't want web-crawlers to track them down while I was creating the notes. I will ask the Physics web-guru to make a prominent link.

The online notes are a bit difficult to quickly browse for relevant information.

Yes, they are getting a bit unwieldy. I will see what I can do.

It is hard to determine from the notes what we are meant to know.

You should know everything apart from the text that is in the lilac colour.

An accurate description of each week's content would be great.  The online notes list the content of last year's lectures.

Yes, I have been meaning to do this, but haven't kept a good record of each lecture. Could someone who has such a record please see me?!

It would be nice to have more example programs (e.g., put all the programs that are developed in lectures on-line).

OK, I will see what I can do to increase the number of examples.

Notes on arrays are too short.

Yes, I agree, will remedy.


The first few weeks moved very slowly.

Yes, but this was essential to cope with the wide variety of computing familiarity amongst the students. In 2003 I skipped over bits, bytes, hexadecimal, etc, and some students were left behind.

Lectures could do with more structure. Lectures jump around a lot.

Yes, I agree that there are deficiencies here.  I will try to improve.

Too much assumed knowledge. Those with previous knowledge have a distinct advantage.

Certainly, if you have a lot of C programming experience, you will find the first half of the course very easy. But this is true of any course (e.g., if you have a lot of experience with advanced quantum mechanics, you will find such courses quite easy). There is not much I can do about this.  We don't have the flexibility of having two courses: one for those with no programming experience, and one for those with lots of experience. The idea behind this course is to bring everyone up to a minimum level of computing ability.

Explanations in lectures are good.

Thank you!

The course seems to be largely on computing, why can't we do some physics?

Unfortunately, it is difficult to move directly into physics applications without spending a considerable amount of time on learning the fundamentals of computing. In 2nd session and in subsequent years you will be able to use your computing ability for other courses.

Real-world applications are interesting, but it would be nice to have some outside the astronomy field.

Yes, astronomy is obviously my own personal bias. I would welcome suggestions for specific areas of physics that you would be interested in exploring.

I like the Antarctic stuff.

Thank you!


Wireless access in the lecture room would be nice.

Sorry, I can't do anything about that.