Algorithms’ Class Notes – an Important Improvement in the Quality of Teaching
Hello Professor Linial,
My name is Sella Rafaeli. I am a second-year CompSci student (also majoring in Psychology) in your Algorithms’ class of this year. I approached you this morning for the second time regarding what I view as an important subject – having the lectures follow organized and comprehensive notes.
I think the class and students would benefit immensely if the material was adequately provided in a written format, alongside the frontal lectures. In the current situation, each student is left to the quality of his own understanding during the singular explanation for each topic (by you), which even at peak teacher performance (which shouldn’t be assumed, ever) would be no match for a carefully prepared, reviewed, and updated work of text. Indeed, students spend much of their energy and attention during class just copying from the blackboard – not just a waste of energy but also counter-productive, as better explanations can be written (and supplied to students) ahead of time.
It is true that students’ notes from previous years (and this year) are available. The quality of these is unfortunately (and unsurprisingly) nowhere near an organized presentation of the material. They are what they are – class notes, taken “live”. My basic premise is that “every single word said in class, should be written down” and available to students who wish to review the material before, during, and after class. I am not suggesting video-taping or other technological feats; A textual (and illustrated) transcript would be the minimum to make a major difference, bringing the text equivalent to the class itself. The qualities of a text containing the material are immense; I could describe several right now, but I think the implications are obvious – people study from texts, not from memory. Either they will prepare the texts themselves ‘on the fly’ or they can be supplied with quality texts, in Hebrew, pertaining to exactly the material they studied in class (Which would be one major improvement over other public texts relating to the material). This is not hard to accomplish, and in my view, is as close to ideal as one can get.
If I – myself, personally, speaking as a student – had a transcript of every single word said in class and written on the board, I would benefit greatly. I believe most other students are in the same situation. Most importantly, I believe this is quite feasible and could be done within the scope of a student’s job, perhaps over the summer. It is worth pointing out that I am personally undertaking a similar project of the scope of Linear Algebra 1, which is another reason I believe the idea is practically feasible.
I would be happy if we could continue this discussion in person. Relatedly, I have addressed this issue (and am continuing to address it) with several other members of the faculty (CompSci and Math professors). I believe this is a major issue, which at an extremely cost-effective rate would improve the quality of teaching.
Thank you for your attention. I realize a class of hundreds of students presents its own difficulties, especially concerning responding personally to students. I hope the matter I have presented above could go a way in helping administer such a large course.
Sincerely, and Shabbat Shalom,