Many thanks to all of you who took part in the course, and especially many thanks to all of you who gave some course feedback! Overall, 10 students passed the course and 13 students gave some course feedback — see below for more details. I am very pleased that so many of you gave course feedback, and especially that many of you also took some time answering the free-form questions.
This was now the second iteration of this course in its current form. Apparently there were still some major issues left in the implementation of the course — not all students were that happy with the course or the arrangements. Apologies! Fortunately, we got so much constructive feedback that we can definitely improve the course for the next year. One of the main changes will be a better grading system that will hopefully provide more motivation for solving exercises.
Thanks again, and see you again!
— Jukka Suomela, on behalf of the whole course team.
We got course feedback as follows:
I am very pleased to see that all students who took part in the course actively also provided some feedback:
However, there is not that much data on those who did not complete the course:
(Note that the grading scale for 2014 was apparently a bit different, with e.g. 1 = poor, 2 = fair, etc.)
|1–2||too little time||××||×|
|3||right amount of time||×××××××||××|
|4–5||too much time||××××||××|
In addition to the feedback at the end of the course, I asked all students to give some feedback on the exercises and exercise sessions already in September 2015.
We got answers from 14 students. Here is a brief overview of the feedback that we got.
The grading system is clearly broken. Many thanks for the feedback, I understand it now. Much better incentives are needed.
We will have a different grading system next year. The current plan is as follows:
I hope this approach will give much more motivation for solving exercises. There will also be additional incentives for solving more challenging problems.
Based on my experience in the previous years, some students have found it difficult to understand the basic concept of a distributed algorithm. Therefore I have tried to work hard to make sure that everyone gets the basic ideas right.
Based on the feedback, I have apparently overdone it. The lectures were too elementary, with too much time spent on simple things. The students would have probably got more out of the lectures if we had spent more time on slightly more challenging material. I will try to adjust the level a bit for the next year, and in particular I will try to make sure that the lectures are also interesting to those students who already understand the basics very well.
That said, I do not think there is need for major changes — participation in the lectures was fairly good in comparison with e.g. the number of students who took part in the exams, so apparently most students had the feeling that they are getting at least something useful out of the lectures.
There was at least one student who was apparently very unhappy with the fact that this course is about the theory of distributed algorithms. I do not quite know how to respond to this.
I think the name of the course (with the word “algorithms”), as well as the description of the course in Oodi and in the course web page (“…an introduction to the theory of distributed algorithms…”) are already fairly explicit. In the study guide this course is listed under the theory-oriented track of Algorithms, Logic, and Complexity. Therefore I think the nature of the course should not be a surprise.
If students are interested in more practical courses related to distributed systems, there are already plenty of options available, e.g., Scalable Cloud Computing. Our course is the only course related to the theory of distributed algorithms, and therefore I do not have any plans to change the topic of the course.
This year there were 26 registrations but only 10 students took part in both midterm exams. Students who completed the course gave plenty of useful feedback, but there is little information available on the reasons for not completing the course. I will try to find ways to get more feedback from those students next year, but apparently it is not going to be easy. Students who have lost interest in a course seem to lose interest in providing any course feedback, too, and it is difficult to come up with incentives that would help there.