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I'm taking a machine learning class at a school in South Korea. I've heard some good and bad things about this professor in particular, but I didn't really know until I actually took his course.

I've noticed that my instructor is literally following the exact course of the well-known online machine learning course taught by Coursera co-founder Andrew Ng. The print-outs he uses in class are also taken from the online course, and the examples and jokes he uses are also the same to the T. There are other print-outs he takes from Youtube which I happened to find which he seems reluctant to address when I asked him about it.

Perhaps I am thinking/acting out of my place, but I just don't think that it's appropriate, and maybe I feel a bit cheated because many students (including myself) have to work several jobs to come up with tuition money, and it doesn't feel good that I'm paying a large amount of money for a potentially free online course.

How should I feel about this? Is this more commonplace than I feel?


EDIT

I haven't mentioned the quality of education I'm getting through the course.

The quality is low, which is what led to my initial frustration. I honestly couldn't care less what material instructors are using as long as they cite the source and are able to use it to everyone's benefit. This instructor is not only not citing the sources, but is reluctant to tell me where he got them when asked about it.

Regarding the class itself, I've found myself in situations where asking the instructor of this particular class a question is often either not answered in a clear manner or is answered with "Just email the TA's," which has led me to seek answers either online or elsewhere.

Perhaps this is my prejudice, but when I ask a professor from an internationally accredited institute of higher education a question on machine learning, I am hoping to get a detailed explanation on the mathematical or conceptual reasons to how certain algorithms were formed or how we can prove they are sound. Not just an answer that goes along the lines of "Hmm well when I was working on this project this algorithm worked best, and you can find the proof online."

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    You haven't said anything about the quality of the instruction you are getting. If it is high, then what is the issue? If it is low then you have something to complain about. – Buffy Nov 13 '18 at 2:03
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    I think the quesiton is twofold: 1.) What to do about the plagiarism? See this and this and 2.) What to do about a lecturer who seems to not understand the subject he is teaching? – problemofficer Nov 13 '18 at 2:29
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    I will then also extrapolate, that you are an exchange student of some kind? I "dare" not writing an answer, because I am not that familiar with asian culture, but my guess would be that you will have to suck it up and just learn from own sources. Japan, China and South Korea afaik all have a saying analogous to "Well, thats how it is, we just have to live with it", thus being more OK not changing anyhting that bothers them and accepting hardship. Secondly, be careful with accusations, especcially in public, so that nobody "looses face". Google it in case you are unfamiliar with this. HTH. – problemofficer Nov 13 '18 at 2:49
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    To me this smells of "Our professor teaching ML theory [left / isn't available / retired]. You use ML, right? That's what I thought! You should teach it next semester, which starts in a couple of weeks. Never mind that you're an application guy, and not a theorist. I'm sure you can handle it.". The instructor might be in over their head, but without much of a choice - especially in a "don't make your boss lose face" culture. Unfortunately, it's the students that tend to get the worst of it. – Anyon Nov 13 '18 at 3:01
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    @problemofficer, oh the westerners who think they know everything about Asia :) The OP should look into whether there's a way to deal with it within his/her university - confidentially and without risking his/her grades. It depends on the institute, but the last years plagiarism in South Korea can mean a_lot of trouble. – Helen Dec 9 '18 at 11:21
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Copying an entire course from Coursera is definitely not commonplace. Some parts of ML courses are fairly 'standard' (there are only so many ways one could define linear regression), but lifting material without proper credit can range from annoying, unethical to outright plagiarism. It's fine to take some examples and use them (with proper credit), but it's generally expected that an instructor adds some value of their own.

I don't know how you should feel about this. Sounds like you already are feeling pretty annoyed (I would!). I can answer what you can do about this.

The minimum I would do is report this in the student course evaluations. Write a detailed report of everything that went wrong. If you school's administration cares in the least about their teaching, this will get someone's attention.

The best thing you can do is rally the entire class. If it's just you - well, you're just an angry student who's not getting the material and is trying to squeeze a good grade. If a significant number of complaints come in (even 10 students is a good amount), that's going to get people's attention. Does your university have a student union? An ombudsman? If you go through them this will also get people's attention.

You can also try to (discreetly) reach out to the person in charge (professor in charge of curriculum, the department head etc.). I would not confront the lecturer directly if I were you, unless you don't mind getting a bad grade. It is very unlikely that this instructor will be removed from the class, and if they find out you reported them they may be very biased against you: reporting paints a target on your back (this is another reason to have more people complain, the instructor can't fail all of them and get away with it!).

The likeliest outcomes here are that the professor will not be teaching this class in the future, and that's about it. Alternatively, they'll be required to stop this bad practice in future iterations of the class (say, if your department is understaffed). I don't foresee them facing disciplinary action, unless this is not the first time that this has happened.

Good luck!

  • I don't think rallying people is a decent way for addressing something you find to be an issue. It's better suited for use by politicians or when all else has failed, which is not implied to be the case here as far as I can tell. – matt Feb 19 at 12:05
  • To be "outright plagiarism" requires the offender to publish the work in some sense. The professor gains nothing, not even school credit, for using someone else's slides. – A Simple Algorithm Jul 1 at 6:54

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