Cake or pie?

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Budget Cuts, Spring '10 First Impression

Budget cuts are in full force at my post-baccalaureate institution. To make up the difference, lab fees have been increased, tuition will undoubtedly increase in the next year, class sizes are larger, and the list goes on. One thing I noticed quickly last week, in the first week of classes, is that all of the physics recitation sections are now on Friday, and I think the same instructor has the 4 sections. Last semester, recitation sections were covered by several different instructors on several different days, and there were no more than 25-30 people in each recitation, which makes the recitation quizzes easy to administer in a pen & paper format.

This morning in organic lab, one of the TVs did not work, so two lab sections of around 50-60 people, some of which I think were hoping to add into the sections, which seemed full, crammed into one lab to watch the safety video from 1993 (yay protective wear/knowing what you are doing/asking questions if necessary, boo drinking/eating in lab/pouring waste down the drain/siphoning liquids with your mouth/playing practical jokes/doing your own experiment in lab). Someone should really update the safety video. Also, we were watching an informational video about NMR, which IMO was a colossal waste of time for the people not directly in front of the 25" TV. I'm sure the volume was all the way up and still it was hard to hear anything, and not just because I am getting older--hey! I'm only 29!--but because of the overall din of everyone's side conversations, texting, laughter, etc.

This semester, like I said, all recitations are on Friday, each recitation has around 70-80 students in it, and the quizzes are no longer going to be pen & paper but online, or via iClicker in class (multiple choice). MC kind of defeats the purpose of physics in my opinion. I thought the whole point of studying physics was being able to set up the problem correctly, drawing a picture if necessary, drawing out the vectors and then doing what is asked, i.e. physics is one of those "journey" not "destination" type classes, where you are learning how to problem solve systematically, but where you must have an understanding of what is being asked and what assumptions to make in setting up and solving problems.

I'm taking the second part of physics, organic chemistry, and plant biology. There's a new professor for the physics lecture which will be nice, having some new blood and a different lecturer. I have nothing against last semester's physics professor, but like I said it's nice to see a new face and get a different perspective. Another component is online homework that will be rolled into a quasi-participation aspect of our lecture grade (lecture and lab are separate grades in physics, recitation is rolled into lecture). Organic is the same as last semester as far as the lecture goes, I'm assuming that the class average on the exams will be uniformly low like the end of last semester, i.e. 9-10/21 correct on most of the exams, considering there is no "easy" part like nomenclature, acid/base strength, and so on, like the beginning of organic chemistry I had. Plant biology doesn't seem that bad, the lab looks like it should be interesting and not time-consuming, which is nice since I'm taking organic & physics together, I feel like the bulk of my time will be spent preparing for those, but I will have to be mindful to not neglect plant biology. Speaking of plant bio, the lecture is straight from slides, but there is still a participation component via classroom response system/iClicker so it will be fun to see everyone straggle in to maximize possible points.

18 days until Austin! That's two long runs, one flight, stopping in Chicago and switching planes before flying into Austin/Bergstrom, and 26.2 miles. Can't wait. I'll update pretty soon with an Austin-specific blog, and I'm still deciding if I want to live tweet/take pics during the Austin Marathon. We'll see.

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