Poll: Who Deserves an Insta-Fail?

The mid-term exam that i ran yesterday during the college-level Flash course i’m teaching was an absolute slaughter. Limbs flying, computers exploding, babies endangered … just an action-packed mess. It served as the perfect rationale for my recent articles on What’s Wrong with Ontario Colleges (Part 1 and Part 2).

These are the notes for the mid-term that the students followed. They had to build this game:


[SWF]http://www.untoldentertainment.com/blog/files/midTerm/test1_sampleGame.swf, 550, 400[/SWF]

To date, the students have received 20 classes (60 hours) of Flash instruction. i’ve taught 6 of those classes. i haven’t marked the assignments yet, but i have the distinct feeling that very few of the 30+ students, if any, finished with a working “game”.

An End to the No-Fail Generation

i mentioned in another post that these students are the No-Fail Generation. They have been given breaks and second chances left and right. Since they were completely inept at emailing files, at least one teacher took pity on them and would pass around a keydrive for them to upload their finished exams. i decried this as so much spoon-feeding. i was bound and determined to require the students to email me. Here were their instructions:

HANDING IN YOUR MID-TERM EXAM:

Add ALL of your files to a zip archive file. This includes your fla, your swf, your .as files, and your FlashDevelop .as3proj file if you have one. Name the zip file using your first inital and last name.

Example:

My name is Ryan Creighton, so i would name the zip file rcreighton.zip.

Use your own name. DO NOT send me a file called rcreighton.zip.

email the file to profryan ~at~ untoldentertainment ~dot~ com. (i had the actual address available – obscuring it here to foil the spiders.) If you want to be sure it reaches me, add your own email address to the cc (carbon copy) line. If you receive the email, I’ll receive the email.

Failure to email your properly-named zip file to me by the end of class at 6PM will result in a zero grade – no exceptions, no extensions.

Read that last part carefully for me. i wanted a properly-named zip file. That’s all i asked. One simple thing. And screwing that one simple thing up would result in an Insta-Fail, and a loss of 20% of the final class mark.

So! What did i receive in my inbox? A number of students sent me zip files that were called “monsterGame.zip” or “midTermExam.zip”. Those students, i’m resolved to fail. i have to. i will mark their exams and show them the grade they could have earned. But despite the instructions being clearly stated, and despite having spent 20 minutes on how to zip, name, and attach a file to an email in the previous class, i still got monsterGame.zip from some students. If that’s not a fail, i don’t know what is.

Oh – So You’re a Hard-Ass?

No, i’m not a hard-ass. i’m a realist. i want these students to succeed. And if the most careless students want to waste their time and tuition money learning how to follow a simple instruction and send an email attachment, and that’s the ONLY skill they possess when they emerge from college, then at least i’ll have taught those students something.

The LAST thing i want is for these students to embarrass themselves in the workplace by being completely useless, telling everyone “Ryan Creighton taught me Flash!”

Your Opinion Required

My dilemma is what to do with a student like Bob Smith, who emailed me a file called bsmith_monstergame.zip. Technically, Bob Smith did not follow the instructions. i did not receive a file with ONLY his first initial and last name. i got a file with his first initial, last name, an underscore, and some other nonsense that he thought might be helpful.

i haven’t checked all of the files, but i know there are at least three Bob Smiths in the class who messed this up in a similar way. So i open the floor to you, dear readers: knowing that i am going to award a zero grade to students who did not follow the naming convention, what do i do with the students who named the file properly, but appended some extra jazz to the end?

Take the poll and let me know!

[poll id=”5″]

And if you’re one of my students and you decide to vote, please identify yourself in the comments! :)

98 thoughts on “Poll: Who Deserves an Insta-Fail?

  1. Loren Brody

    Ryan just want to start saying that I strongly agree with everything that you have said . the school system is royally #%@% out the @#$ and I for one have suffered first hand. I am not saying I a star student I procrastinate a lot. but I do put my all into everything I do. I guess I’m sending you this because I feel like voicing my opinion on the matter. I was told I had a learning disability when I was a kid hell I did not have to take French I was so stupid. they put me in ESL (English as a second language) WOOT for #%^# babying me all thru my life. witch I really wish they didn’t because now that I’m older I regret it I wish I new French so I could go travel places and be able to get around. I do not feel pissed off or angry at anything you have said. actually I embrace it all with an open mind and a new outlook on life now. and I would like to say thank you for bringing everything to the light.
    And as a side not your right I did not study any of your notes I am not going to lie and say I did. but the amount of work that is piled onto of us is retarded. I for one went to a shitty high school and learned nothing from being there. hell my grade 12 math class I had more skips then actual attendance and I passed with a 86. and now I am royally suffering for it. I have not learned how to properly study. I never even studied one time during high school. and I deserve everything i get for that. I’m starting to wish i listened to my dad who always told me to work first play latter. at least I listened to him when it came to getting a job and how I have a kick ass resume.
    and on a personal not I walked out of your test because of personal reasons that affected my studying. .(drinking and smoking to much)and I am for shere not blaming it on my stupid decisions I take it 100% accountability on myself for being irresponsible and stupid. some of my classes had to suffer from all my stupid mistakes and it just happen to be yours. but over the past week I have change and I have bin putting in 110% into everything I do and I will be someone someday I am going to put my all into everything I do and not look back Study as much as I can.

    Well that my 2 cents. hope it counts for something. hope it helps.
    I salute you sir and I respect you as a teacher. I just wish I was a better student.
    Brody.

    Reply
  2. matthew

    JP won’t can him he seems to know his stuff, I just think he lacks people skills; but that’s me assuming so but this is someone with a blog site…… I joke, I personally have mixed feelings for him and i don’t have him as a flash teacher.

    Reply
  3. LuminaryXion

    I currently work in QA for the game dev industry. It’s essentially my job to pass or fail the submissions of the design team. Provided that the project files contain the information that I’m looking for- including extra information is acceptable.

    I voted- fail those who didn’t include their name. Don’t punish those who Included extra data.

    Reply
  4. Mike V

    If I gave it a good, rational amount of thought, I’d probably err on the side of not being so extreme and harsh, but given the inevitability of a harsh scenario, I’d err on the side of “Of the successful senders, Insta-Fail only the students who sent a zip file that did not have their first name/last initial (ie monsterGame.zip).”

    Reason being, your instructions weren’t completely explicitly exclusionary. A student may very well have been trying their best to do the responsible thing, and interpreted your instructions as: “Please make sure to include your email name in the name of the zip file.” This is responsible, helpful, and in the spirit of your instructions. Otherwise you may as well fail anyone who added a note in their email stating “Here is my homework zip file” also.

    Reply
  5. Sparky

    So yes i did fail.. but really i know something is lacking and it cant just be that i’m completely retarded. During the midterm i felt the same thing that has plagued me every time i open the actionscript window, i know exactly what i need to get done but i cant communicate that into actual syntax that works. I have a suggestion, what about if you start an actionscript after school club! Where students can come by for extra help, perhaps get to experience the basics from last semester using your teaching method, etc? Everybody wins and that would help weed out the people you think just completely don’t give a shit. Id definitely be there, considering i just spent the first saturday of our reading week watching flash tutorials online! Extreme Loseur, i know. It just pisses me off i’m so crappy at this. Get them to pay you as a peer tutor or something, haha.

    Reply
    1. Ryan

      Sparky – failing doesn’t necessarily mean you’re retarded. i mean, don’t count it out or anything … ;) But it’s possible that programming may require you to think and act in a way that’s completely new to you. We’re going to talk much more about that new way of thinking in our first class back. And instead of just feeding you the steps to re-building the mid-term exam Monster Game, i’m going to talk at length about the thought process behind putting something together from scratch.

      Your program head is working hard to make peer tutoring available. Your “everybody wins” scenario is great for everyone but your overworked part-time teacher, who’s already losing one day a week to teaching this Flash course. When i meet with your program head, i’ll get the straight dope on what kind of extra help is available.

      – Ryan

      Reply
  6. Arthur

    Learning how to program is like learning a new language. It’s not as easy as people see it to be. I strongly belief that whoever didn’t look at their notes or at least attempt to study should get an automatic fail. If everyone failed the midterm, the cause is based on the teachings of the prof and the study methods of the student. Obviously people who didn’t send a correct email should fail, seeing as they cant properly name a file and email it correctly. I very well hope people start to take this course seriously.

    Reply
  7. Jonathan

    Having decent peer tutoring available would be wonderful. Unfortunately, that continues to be difficult for the school to have set up for our program. I don’t really know the details as to why, so I am not going say anything else on that.

    I personally found that I did not do well on this test at all. I even told you so right when I finished it. That being said, I look forward to getting better at action script as the term progresses. I look forward to the focus of next class. I hope it helps all of us who are trying but still having difficulty.

    Reply
    1. Ryan

      Jonathan – your program head can provide more details about the tutoring situation. i don’t know if i’m at liberty … i’m not sure i even understand the challenges they’re facing myself.

      Reply
  8. Jonathan

    I am aware of that you can’t really provide information on peer tutoring. I am not looking for that information from you either. Personally, I just have a few vague ideas as to why there happens to be problems going on with it right now, based on what I’ve heard, but I rather leave that unsaid. If all else fails, the students who want to learn will just have to band together on their own time to try and figure it out together.

    Reply
    1. Ryan

      Jonathan – to tell you the God’s honest, i was a little let down that the gaming club your classmates assembled was concerned with playing games. i thought they were going to make games, so i was all for it! Maybe that’s the kind of club you should think about putting together? As an official club, you may even be able to scrounge a little cash from the college (i think that’s how it works?) for some sound effects, some Lynda.com videos, or something else to help you out?

      Reply
  9. Jonathan

    Actually our club is concerned with all facets. We just have yet to get the ball rolling on the “making games” part. In general, our club was formed with the goal to create a community amongst the game students of our school and enhance student success. It’s a lot to go for, and for now we are still picking up momentum. So far we have just had casual hang out events and game tournaments on Fridays.

    I am actually on the executive of this club, and we are in the process of innovating new ideas that will change the club’s role in our school’s game development program. At this point it is just a matter of time. We are open to any suggestions as well. If you ever want to talk about our club with me, I am all ears. As far as money from the school goes, the club is on a rather tight budget, at least for now, the school doesn’t supply us with a whole lot.

    Personally, I want to see the club have more involvement with the industry and enhancing the student experience in general. I know its not all on the school itself to make sure that the students are successful after graduation. It’s also the responsibility of each individual student. I want the club to be something that can help those students who want to learn and gain experience and be ready for the industry after graduation.

    Reply
    1. Ryan

      Jonathan – sounds like you’ve got really solid goals for your group! i’m willing to come in and give you an Actionscript enrichment talk if you’re ever up for it. Maybe bill it as “all your questions answered!” We’ll fire up some computers and just have a group tutoring session – kinda like a mini-class. (IF you’ll have me … i think i’m persona non grata around there now.)

      Reply
  10. Mathew H.

    Don’t worry Ryan, I imagine anyone who is taking enough interest to attend this mini-class wouldn’t regard you in such a way. I for one will be in attendance. To be honest I’m rather disappointed in myself for not completing the game, especially considering that programming is the area of development that I’ve been thinking of focusing on. Perhaps I was a bit overconfident with this exam… I had a perfect 100% on every assignment and exam with (Horatio), and I guess I underestimated this one. Lesson learned. Regardless, the whole experience has instilled renewed vigor. I know many of the others are doing it cause they have to, but I personally love learning new languages, and intend to take myself further than AS3 in the future. I’m looking forward to next class!

    Ps. I voted “Of the successful senders, Insta-Fail only the students who sent a zip file that did not have their first name/last initial (ie monsterGame.zip).”

    Reply
    1. Ryan

      Mathew – that’s so encouraging! It was never my hope that every single student would become a programmer – it IS an art-based program, after all – but those of you who DO pick up a bit of programming along the way will probably be in a much more marketable position when you get out. Then you can answer those really weird job ads that say “3D programmer wanted, PHP knowledge preferred.” (wha … ??)

      As i mentioned, (Horatio) said that things weren’t all rosy with the other classes. i’m wondering what went wrong? It’s possible that the classes were too dense with new material, or that there’s a better way to do it than to type-along-with-teacher.

      – Ryan

      Reply
  11. Jonathan

    That sounds like a great idea! I would love to organize a peer tutoring session like that. I think the others would be interested as well. We just have to figure out a time and a place and we’re set. Let me know what works for you.

    Reply
  12. Mathew H.

    Yes, well I’m sure many other student fancy themselves ‘artists’; I however do not yet consider myself to be at a sufficient enough level of skill – despite my leading edge… I’m not really sure where I’d like to focus my skills yet, but I get the most enjoyment from programming… Certainly more so than gesture drawing. Ugh. I’m sure I’ll be filling one of those ads you mentioned in due time.

    Well, with Horatio (lol, nice one) things in class were a little tighter… That is to say that with him, type along with teacher involved him leading and everyone following silently. Perhaps the fact that your class is a little larger, and I’m sure filled with kids who have now decided they don’t care about coding, means that the teacher and handful of dedicated students are made to suffer from their utter disregard for classroom etiquette. I wish Unreal, etc. weren’t on the computers. I can’t count how many times I’ve had to bark “USE YOUR GOD DAMN HEADPHONES” at people. Though, aside from that fact, I actually preferred Horatio’s teaching style… I believe that with most of the people you are teaching, the analogies, comparisons and jokes make programming class much more enjoyable. But I, as an often berated egghead, find myself missing the straightforwardness of Horatio’s lessons… I find the departures quite distracting, and it makes grokking the material significantly more difficult.

    Reply
  13. Sparky

    Hey!! can you keep us posted on if this mini class happens. Im not a game club member because playing magic the gathering wasn’t really my thing, but id definitely be interested in joining if some form of mass study session/ learning orgy occurred. Im so glad i just used the term learning orgy. Um yeah.

    Reply
  14. Jonathan

    I’ll be sure to get the word out once a date and time is confirmed for the mini-class/group tutoring session. Also, note that even for the Games and Design Club casual hang out nights, its not all about Magic the Gathering. The casual nights are just a gathering of gamers playing games and getting to know each other. We also plan to have a lot more going on than just playing games.

    Reply
  15. RussianChatRoulette

    Well, why you do want bsmith_monsterAssignment.zip

    Every assignment that term would have the bsmith.zip name.

    The longer you teach, the more files you will have by the same
    name.

    like having a million main.as files

    Reply
  16. Andreas Renberg

    I don’t feel like sifting through all 83 comments, so forgive me if I restate a lot of previous opinions. :)

    To get the easy part out of the way, “bsmith_monstergame.zip” should definitely not be punished, in fact, he did something quite wise. He likely keeps (or should) all his projects in one directory, so keeping track of which “bsmith.zip” is which would be quite annoying after a while. He kept the requirement of including his name in the filename, and that is all that should be asked.

    As for the other students, when it came down to finally zipping the project, I don’t believe they made a concious effort “Hm… Our teacher said to rename it to be our name, but I don’t like my teacher, so I’m going to do the exact opposite! Take that Mr. Creighton!! Stick that zip up your pipe and smoke it.”

    The actual reason they didn’t properly name their zip files was that they simply did not remember. The reason they didn’t remember, is because it’s just not important to them. It’s very difficult following an order or even remembering it if you don’t even know the reason behind it. They probably didn’t think it was even a big deal.

    Either, you need to explain to your students WHY you want the zip named a certain way, how it helps you when checking who didn’t submit. Or better yet, if you can find some way of how it would benefit THEM, for instance, telling them what a good idea it is to properly name zip files when they start uploading projects into the internet, so people who have their zip laying around on their desktop know where it is from so they can get more information, and the reason you require them to do this now is so they can practice that (or some story along those lines)

    As for your relationship with your students, I’m still so young that I remember (vividly and with shivers) how it was being in school listening to teachers all day. First of all, I find it REALLY hard respecting a teacher that DEMANDS respect from students. I feel that this respect should be earned, which is actually quite difficult, and only a handful of teachers actually accomplish. (In fact, that’s an entire topic I have discussed to others with the difference between public school and teachers in Sweden and USA)

    Don’t take me wrong, I’m still respectful and polite to all my teachers, but I can name several teachers which I really look up to and who I am really glad I learned from. Some subjects which I loved I dreaded attending because the teacher really wasn’t the best. Others, I wasn’t much into the subject, but I came to love those subjects thanks to the teachers.

    I’m not sure if you realize it, but how well you do as a teacher won’t only affect your student’s knowledge in that subject, but also their willingness to succeed and motivation to continue moving forward in that subject after they are done with your class. You have a VERY important role!

    I still haven’t figured out exactly what makes good teachers. I would say things like “kindness” and “forgiveness”, but I know a few teachers who despite having those qualities had no respect given them, and people took advantage of how non-strict they were and slacked off and really didn’t care. Though, I guess there will always be students like that in a class.

    Perhaps the key is trying to distinguish between and grade based upon a student’s motives and efforts. If they put much effort into the actual project, the naming of the zip shouldn’t matter, however, if it’s obvious they don’t really care, feel free to dock of points.

    Though, to be completely honest, it’s a bit ridiculous failing based on something so silly as naming a zip (and that is definitely how your students feel) but I do definitely see your side of the argument, and understand the thought behind this seemingly strict order.

    Again I wrote out a lot more than I had planned, which I tend to do when bored at 1:30AM. I have to stop getting bored. :-P I also just realized, you have a lot more experience in teaching then me, so it might be “backseat driving” (couldn’t find a better description) on my part telling you how to teach. ;-) Meh, I’ll submit it anyway.

    So, what did you end up doing? It’s been at least a week, so I’m guessing you have confronted the students about this.

    Reply
    1. Ryan

      Andreas – some excellent insights here. In my defense, i feel i made a very good case for the students naming their files. In the class leading up to the exam, i told them the way i’d mark their papers: i’d take the class list, and go through the files i received. i would put a checkmark beside the name of every student who submitted a named file. i didn’t want to have to figure out who sk8rboi_69@hotmail.com was. i needed a named test so that i could mark the papers properly and efficiently. i wouldn’t just throw a completely nonsensical, unfair “gotcha” on the exam for the purpose of tripping up my students.

      i really take umbrage with the Don Cherry-esque credo “respect is earned.” Respect, in our polite Western civilization, should be extended by default. If anything, disrespect is earned. The quality you’re thinking of is closer to admiration, not respect. Admiration is earned. Respect is expected.

      In all of this, across these three articles, i’ve been struggling with the issue of motivation. i had success as a teacher when i worked with elementary school students. i was successfuly when working with high school students, and with my industry colleagues. In all three cases, the students were motivated. That motivation really fueled me, like the positive energy of a crowd supercharging a rock star or a sporting team. In this case, apathy bred apathy. i really resent the fact that certain students put the burden of their own motivation on me, as if i was responsible for making them avid learners.

      Here’s what one student emailed me:

      “i suggest having the planned teaching for the first 2 hrs and then an hr of troubleshoot and experimentation time. I could do this at home but i do not have the motivation.”

      Er … not a bad suggestion for structuring the class, but srsly? Your motivation is not my problem.

      During the exam, one student ran into a problem and asked for my help. i told him the solution he was looking for was in the notes. “Which notes?” he asked. i asked him if he could try to recall what we’d learned during the semester, to get a rough idea of which week’s notes he should search. Him: “Well, you see sir, i smoke a lot of pot, so i’m having trouble remembering.”

      Let’s be crystal clear about the division of duty between teacher and student. The teacher is responsible for disseminating the curriculum in a clear and organized fashion, and for helping students parse and absorb the material. Motivation, drive, effort, interest, and damn-giving are on the student.

      – Ryan

      Reply
  17. Randy Orenstein

    Ryan, I agree with you about motivation not being solely the teacher’s responsibility, but it is not something absent from the job either. There is nothing you can do to help the people who don’t care, and won’t care. When it comes to those of us who are putting in the effort and still struggling, I have to say that being lumped in with the rest and publicly humiliated and berated on a forum like this is not helping with motivation.

    I wrote to you privately about my concerns about the impact of this and other similar posts made before industry professionals on our potential hire-ability, regardless of skill sets. No matter what strides I might be able to make in this program, I’m still going to run up against the fact that those employers who read this blog may well turn their noses up at any Hernando Velasquez School for the Digitally Inclined graduates on the assumption that we are incapable. Add to that that your commentary is only based on a half-semester’s worth of impressions, during the first year of our 3 year program.

    You have said in others posts that you worry that we are not getting our money’s worth from the program. I share that concern. But at the same time, you need to realize that by publicizing our worst elements, without highlighting anything positive in anyone else, you are actively working to lower that value per dollar for all of us. When I raised this to you personally you responded with sarcasm and a heartfelt chunk of advice, that part of which I am grateful for, but I’m still really concerned that this is hurting us professionally, before we even get to the starting line.

    On a more constructive note, you mentioned earlier a frustration that not enough of us are asking questions, and so you feel like you are addressing the wall. The main reason for that, I think, is that you go so fast and move from topic to topic so swiftly, that we are all feverishly trying to both type out the code, type out notes, and read the notes you provide and so we have no time to actually process anything until after class. We can’t ask questions, or even test our own comprehension, because if we take 30 seconds to reflect on something or try something out, we have missed crucial code and notes. I know I’ve had that situation a number of times, where I get an error or don’t quite understand something, and by the time I’ve figured it out, we are onto topic three, and I missed topic two entirely. By the time we realize we should be asking a question, it’s usually too late.

    As far as our note-taking speed and skill is concerned, I really don’t think this one is on our shoulders. I know I take good, thorough notes, and do so quickly (years in university lectures proved that ability). But it is impossible to do so while also copying out code line-for-line, stressing about perfect form. If you were simply lecturing our notes would be stellar, but normally you explain the code lines as you type them, so we can either type the code, or type the explanation, but not both because you are onto the next line and we will be screwed if we miss it, since you haven’t been providing copies at the end of class.
    For core concepts, you take time and try to make sure everyone is caught up. But then you race through the implementation, which is just as important, if not more so, because we don’t know the coding language at all. The theory is only going to get us so far on its own, and I know I was one of the people that asked for theory at the start of the semester, because our previous class had none. But now, I understand the ideas behind how things work in flash far better than I can implement them, because I don’t know the code to make those ideas function practically.

    Randy

    Reply
    1. Ryan

      Randy – i’m tickled that people tend to think this blog is some massively influential beacon that informs the opinions of the entire industry. If only. i think i use too many fart jokes in my writing for that to be the case.

      Find me one person in the industry to say “i read Ryan Creighton’s blog about Hernando Velasquez School for the Digitally Inclined, and because of it i refuse to hire any of its graduates”, and i’ll eat my hat. My articles don’t center out any one school – this problem is symptomatic of all the Ontario colleges i’ve been involved with, not just HVSDI.

      The suggestions you make (and have made before, and i’ve heard you) are very helpful. i think i either need to find a faster way to reach my point, or to cut material from the curriculum. i made the mistake of requiring the students to go through the whole process of setting up a new file and document class every week. i should have given this as a homework assignment in week 2: “now that you (should) know how to set up your file, create a folder for every week in your course and set up a separate project for each week.”

      Each week should really build upon the last, instead of starting from scratch every time. That would have saved a chunk of time in each class, anyway.

      i’m still torn on the issue of just handing over completed code, because i really don’t want students to rely on copying and pasting. i want to teach the thought process behind programming, and to drive a little smidge of rote memorization for some of the most frequently-used functions and keywords. Keep in mind that you’ve had access to your other teacher’s notes and website this whole time, and nothing’s stopping you from digging into his site and looking for any code he might have posted.

      Let’s agree to disagree on the motivation issue. Even if your teacher is the driest, most zombie-fied and unengaging lecturer you’ve ever seen, the onus to strive for mastery of the material he teaches is on you. i’ve been a student at thirteen schools in my lifetime, and i’ve seen the best and worst that teachers have to offer. The only issue you can really object to is the teacher not disseminating the material. Sometimes, even a verbally abusive or lecherous teacher can stay employed – go talk to the 3D animation students at a certain college in North York for more on that.

      – Ryan

      Reply
  18. Billy Monks

    Ryan, I am in awe after reading this article and the comments. I don’t think that any students should be insta-failed for failing to adhere to the naming convention you requested, particularly those students who followed your convention and then added extra crap on the end after an underscore. Maybe dock a significant number of points, but I feel like insta-failure should be reserved for actions that show a lack of integrity.

    What seems preposterous is that students are finding themselves unable to recreate the monster game on a mid-term exam, and that if a different professor was teaching the course this might be acceptable. I am very frightened and confused, is this the first programming course that some of these students have ever taken? Either way, show no mercy with the grading. My university’s computer science department switched nearly exclusively to Java, with only a few credits on C and low level programming being required for a degree (which is quite annoying for me, as most computer games are written in C++, but I digress), but we are expected to be able to be able to actually perform without being hand-held. If students are unable to make the most basic flash game possible after half of a semester, it is a discredit to the students to be told that this is acceptable. I mean, it is not like you gave an unreasonable goal, a few hours spent outside of class with the program and some notes should be more than enough to be able to prepare for the exam.

    I am rambling, but I suppose my point is that it sounds like there are plenty of non-nitpicking reasons to give failing grades on the mid-term. I feel for the students, I mean, they’re paying money for this, aren’t they? Aren’t they taking this course because they’re interested in the subject matter? I am beginning to feel slightly more comfortable about whether I’ll be able to find a job when I graduate…

    Reply
    1. Ryan

      Billy – My thought, as i said, was that you have to crawl before you can walk. i feel bad about the students who are operating at a higher level, and who can’t move at an appropriate pace because i’m constantly giving individual help to students who have case errors or type-os. These students slow the class down to an unbearable pace, and as a consequence, i have to rush through the material to fit it all into one class. And because i do THAT, i can’t leave an hour at the end of class for absorption/free swim.

      Given the chance to step back from the canvas and look at the whole painting, i think the class is filled with students operating along a very broad spectrum of ability. If it was a more tightly-knit group in terms of motivation, ability and experience, things might have gone more smoothly. Hard to say for sure, though.

      Reply
  19. Alexander Zammit

    This whole blog and the ordeal/ debate it has caused is very though provoking.

    The mid term for myself was a very interesting thing. I finished first term with the ability to understand flash for the assignments given that involved attaching movement to a character such. When it came to understanding how the code could relate to video game principles and creation I was able to see the link. Ill be honest for the exams of last semester and this I did not practice enough outside of class and that was the big problem. I believe with our class we didn’t have enough immediate goals to encourage practice of AS3 outside class. I see validity in the argument that we are paying for this course and the owness for the drive to practice material belongs to us. However being gamers/ consumers and now creators, we are still objective based thinkers in many cases. Even if there is an assignment only once a month actually for marks like first semester, to have something due on an honor system that is only taken up at the beginning of the next class with maybe somebody presenting their understanding of the code would be very useful.

    You have said that when you learned things for code it was often on a “do or die” basis. I am impressed and take motivation from the fact that you succeeded under those conditions. While sometimes in school the ability to rise up to that kind of a challenge is necessary. I still for as much as I felt inspired by you after class could not find the time to practice the code outside class. Its part of the juggling game for all 6 of our courses. When it is work time it does not seem practical to practice flash in comparison to the work due for an art piece due next week. The next best thing would be to practice flash in ones free time as a hobby. I wish I had been able to do the second option and with a bit more exposure to the material I think I will.

    I believe having only one project for term 2, while being very epic sounding was a bad idea. In a later year it could work I really was excited about this idea at first, however at this point in the game I think it was the not right assignment. If it were to be salvaged it should have been an assignment done in milestones. I have each of our class lessons organized into folders week by week, and essentially we learned # of lives, then Enemies, then Power ups, then Game screens, and in week 6 the card Game. This knowledge we learned should have been put to use so that we could test our understanding of it, rather than having a “wake up call” at the mid term. I understood the theory behind 90% of the notes we did, but like Randy Orenstein mentioned in an early comment it was the implementation that was missing. For the exam I found that I was thinking of a lot of the tools that I could use to make your monster game but I could not fathom how to put them into action.

    I just wanted to offer some ideas I had that could have improved the classes. I hope I have not come off as pompous or anything, I enjoyed the class genuinely even though some days I was dead tired and falling asleep in class I assure you it was not because it was programming class, I love the idea of “playing god” which is kind of what programming lets you do. I appreciate the passion you had when coming into the course, and think that there will be some genuinely good programmers who come out of this course, we just need a little patience. It would still be lovely to have a peer tutoring “all your questions answered!” session I would be happy to have you still involved in our AS3 learning, as I am also an executive of the Game Design Club.
    Sincerely Alexander Zammit

    Reply
    1. Ryan

      Alex – thanks! This is good feedback. i agree that the class needed smaller, more regular assignments. Keep in mind that i didn’t choose this direction on my own – the other teacher and i collaborated, and all of the other students in the other classes have the same syllabus for the course.

      “I would be happy to have you still involved in our AS3 learning.” <- Not to sound like a dick, but keep in mind who's doing who a favour in that instance.

      Reply
  20. Alexander Zammit

    I only meant to say that to re enforce the fact that after this blog and stuff I still respect you and would be honored if you took the time to help us out since I know our class alone was difficult enough to spare time for. I know who is doing the favor there.

    Reply
  21. scross

    Ok, from what I can see you’re not teaching file conventions here or how to upload a zipped file. Neither are you required to assess people on how they follow instructions. All your students needed to do was create a game for their exam and fullfil a certain amoung of assessments.

    I totally understand your frustration at receiving a load of zipped files with the same name. Your students clearly didn’t think things through (that’s what makes them students), however you haven’t said whether you had actually gone through the naming convention with your students in class.

    You should take marks off people for not following the instructions (no matter how difficult some students may have found them) but you cannot insta-fail them on that basis alone. It’s unfair. It’s not what the unit is about.

    Reply
    1. Ryan

      Thanks, scross. i spent a portion of the class prior to the exam teaching the students how to zip their files, name the zip, and email it as an attachment. i made it clear in that class that if they failed to follow that protocol, i wouldn’t mark their exams. i basically just didn’t want students squeezing extra time out of me by exploiting a loophole or pretending that there wasn’t a clear submission policy. A student who has one week to complete the exam will (hopefully) fare far better than a student who has three hours.

      i was also selfishly motivated. i didn’t want to chase students down. i just wanted to go down the class list, check off all the students who properly submitted an exam, flunk the rest, and then re-visit the successful submitters and mark their exams.

      In a strange footnote, the college didn’t even give me a class list. By week 6, the week before the exam, i requested one. i was told that they don’t give class lists to new teachers, and i wouldn’t get one until i had finished teaching an entire term. (You’re probably thinking what i’m thinking at this point.)

      – Ryan

      Reply
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