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In which I am unimpressed - Tactical Ninja

Jan. 9th, 2012

07:15 am - In which I am unimpressed

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The course I'm doing has been notable by its absence from Blackboard in the leadup to it. However, I'm the eternal optimist and so this morning before heading up there I had one last look to see if there was a textbook I needed and what the assignments would be. And lo and behold, there it was!


OK so I've never done a block course before and therefore had no idea what to expect. Maybe you're supposed to just know because it's common knowledge or something. But I didn't, and the timetable for the course that's been up since October last year did not mention that there were tutorials at all, never mind compulsory ones.

Each lecture is followed by a one-and-a-half hour tutorial. 30% of the course mark is based on attendance and participation.

To which I go "What are we, 12?"

Well, maybe we are. Maybe you'd be wasting $900 by not attending because you couldn't possibly absorb the stuff enough to pass if you didn't. But making it compulsory really rankles with me, especially because I arranged time off work for the course based on an assumed finish time of 2:30pm which would allow me to do a half-day of work after school each day. Now I can't and I had to do some fast talking with my (luckily understanding) boss in order to avoid wasting my money. I now officially have the next three weeks as study leave.

But really, that kind of requirement should be made clear before you sign up. Frankly, if I'd known this about the course when I enrolled I would have signed up for something else, like Pop Psych 101, to get the points - because it's going to leave me a week or so in the red for annual leave and three weeks behind at work. Some forewarning to help make an informed decision would have been nice.

So I wasn't in the best frame of mind when I wandered up there. Turns out the lecturer had an excuse for being so late with the course details - he'd been stuck in Antarctica. However that doesn't excuse the university for not providing full disclosure months ago.

Anyway, what did I learn today?

Lecture 1 was about climate systems and the things that are associated with climate change, including a definition of what climate change is. We looked at 'external forcings' such as our wobbly axis, volcanoes and sunspots, and 'internal forcings' such as greenhouse gases.

In the tutorial we brainstormed topics for research posters and ended up in groups to do them - yes, my final mark is partly dependent on other people. Two of the mature students sought me out because "You seem engaged." Alrighty then! Anyway, we're doing green tech (or greener tech), and will be focusing on what the hell that even means, along with NZ's attitude to it and our government's policy approach to it. Because I'm a wonk and damnit I'm interested in that.

Lecture 2 was about long term climate change (as in, thousands of millions of years' worth) and the various cycles the earth's gone through naturally, with a particular focus on the last 34 million years. We looked at the various ways that climate change can be measured, and a project in the Ross Sea that involved drilling down into the seabed using tech developed at Victoria University, and what information that gleaned.

In the tutorial we took a bunch of global figures for CO2 in the atmosphere, land surface temperature, deep sea temperature, and sea level, and calculated the rate of change over 34 million, 20,000, and 200 years, then the projections for these into the future. It's kind of depressing, with the exception of sea level which seems to be less of a big deal than the other things even though it's more in the news. Hmm.


So that's what we learned today. Don't worry, I won't be doing a blow by blow account of the whole course.

I was home by 5 and am still somewhat disgruntled about the lack of information (and about bloody compulsory tutorials!) - but I think it's probably a good thing overall that I'm not trying to work and do this at the same time. I suspect it will be quite intense.

Also, the delectable Dr Wheel should be almost in Hong Kong by now. Every day he's there is a day closer to him not being there. <3

Comments:

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From:tatjna
Date:January 9th, 2012 08:04 am (UTC)
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Yes, that's one of the ones that was discussed today, complete with diagrams and photos of smug-looking boffins. ;-)
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From:pythia
Date:January 9th, 2012 09:09 am (UTC)
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I've been getting a lot of my uni marks based off 'tutorial participation' and group assessments, lately. It's total bollocks, and makes me feel like I'm in primary school again. In one of my courses, over 60% was based on group exercises, and we weren't given any time to work with our 'group' in class time - we had to organise it between ourselves, outside of class. Trying to organise a group of five students who all have different uni timetables, different work expectations and who live in different areas of the city was not fun, least of all after a major earthquake which disrupted almost all of our public transport systems.
UNimpressed.
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From:tatjna
Date:January 9th, 2012 09:12 am (UTC)
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We are getting class time, and the groups are limited to three or four people, so that sounds better. And I can see the point of making sure people learn to work collaboratively as well - but I can't help but wonder if it'll affect my final mark to be relying on how much work others do. ;-/
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From:pythia
Date:January 9th, 2012 09:16 am (UTC)
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I can understand it in a first year course, but in third year I find it utterly ridiculous. By that stage you should be more than capable of working in groups, but should also be heavily narrowing your focus to areas specific to what you intend to study, and focusing on your own work. I found it infuriating. Hah.
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From:pythia
Date:January 9th, 2012 09:17 am (UTC)
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Although ONE of the courses I had a group assessment for did it all online, so the lecturers could see exactly how much work etc each individual put into the assignment, and everyone got marked seperately, which wasn't so bad.
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From:nessaneko
Date:January 9th, 2012 12:29 pm (UTC)
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I haaaaate compulsory tutorials. And group work. In large part because I dislike the requirement to show up to a thing that (generally) half the class haven't prepared for at all and which often winds up being a waste of time. I've also found that Vic can be rather slack about providing all the proper information. I suspect it will be ... interesting seeing what their Masters stuff is like. TWO MONTHS until I start, whee!
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From:tatjna
Date:January 9th, 2012 06:21 pm (UTC)
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You're starting Masters this year? Am I losing time or have you had a year off brain stuff? If so, please let me know your thoughts on doing this - it is relevant to my interests!
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From:nessaneko
Date:January 9th, 2012 09:25 pm (UTC)
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Yep, I finished my undergrad in February last year, graduated in May, and will have worked full-time for a year by the time I start Masters. I think for me at least, it was a really good idea - I had a bit of study burnout after five years of work, and wanted some time to earn money and be frivolous and not have the pressure of assignments All The Time. But by around October I was getting a bit antsy, and it doesn't help that I don't particularly love my current job. I like it, but it's not enough to keep me going as a career path - and nobody seems to be hiring currently. So going back to school was the next best option, and I get to study neat things like human rights law and international environmentalism.
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From:plantgirl
Date:January 9th, 2012 07:16 pm (UTC)
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I may be weird, but I would love a blow-by-blow of the whole course as it sounds fascinating. Minus the group work & mandatory tutorials. I wouldn't object to the mandatory tutorials if they had been made clear in the original course description, but to spring them last-minute is beyond lame.

Have you read Hot: Living Through the Next Fifty Years on Earth?
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From:damnitnicole
Date:January 9th, 2012 08:57 pm (UTC)
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Thanks for reminding me to check Blackboard for my upcoming classes. :D
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From:tatjna
Date:January 9th, 2012 09:00 pm (UTC)
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Hopefully yours will actually be there! ;-)
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From:heartofawarrior
Date:January 10th, 2012 04:13 am (UTC)
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That class sounds like one of my personal versions of academic hell. Even worse? Required group projects FOR AN ONLINE CLASS. Part of the reason I take online classes is so I don't have to deal with other people and have them be responsible for part of my grade! I like only having myself to answer to if there's a screw-up. *sigh*
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