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There was a subject in our university, regarding Web Designing. Under that, we were given a group assignment to build a website using HTML, CSS and PHP(we were allowed to use additional technologies as well if we wanted).

However,most of us felt like that we were not given enough practical guidance, because that was the first group project we were given with technical aspects in the university and though the lecturers tried to deliver their best the workload was too heavy even they failed to teach anything beyond the ones given in learning materials(textbooks). There were sessions to discuss the issues with the teaching staff, but the time windows allocated were not enough as there were too many groups. Under those circumstances, most of the groups were frustrated and it even affected the assignments in other subjects as well.

Eventually, the websites we built were evaluated in a VIVA and our website was unfinished at the deadline. (the marks given were never disclosed to the students).

When we were given the written paper for the final exam, after answering the questions as much as I can, I wrote a note to the examiner at the end of my answer sheet, criticizing the subject content being too heavy and the lack of attention towards the groups' progress. I got a good grade for that particular subject in the end, but have never received personal feedback regarding the note I wrote.

Now looking back at the incident, I feel like I should have tried harder for the assignment, but I am still unclear whether that piece of criticism was suitable or not as I believe someone should have made a point.

The issue is we keep getting more subjects with heavy workloads and low content organization like that as the degree is being progressed and there is no proper objection from the students.

My questions are,

  • Was my action appropriate?
  • How to tackle such situations if they arise in future?
  • 1
    Does your university have some sort of "course-evaluations" by students (a questionnaire about what you (didn't) like about a course you have taken, usually given after the course ends)? – user53923 Jan 25 '19 at 10:42
  • Note in your exam is a bad idea. You need to totally separate the issue of the course itself from your performance in it so it does not seem like you are complaining about the course because of grade. If you want to leave feedback, write a separate letter. – guest Jan 25 '19 at 16:13
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A note in your exam will most likely be disregarded. There are a number of channels for feedback, this will vary according to university. Feedback forms at the end of the course is the most common but you can reach out to your faculty administration and they should be able to provide you a form.

You can also try to approach your professor directly: be courteous and to the point. Remember that they're probably overloaded and they're doing the best they can in the circumstances.

Having said all this. I have to say that most university courses are meant to be introductory courses. That is the purpose is to give you an overview of the basic theory and the possibilities in a given subject. No course will ever be complete, even if you take advanced courses.

In practical courses such as the one you mention your best bet is practical experience: by yourself, through an internship, etc. This is something you can do (by yourself) now that you have been given the overview at the course.

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You are entitled to feedback. Keeping the marks secret is never a good idea - even if fairly given, it creates the impression that the university has something to hide.

If there is no formal feedback mechanism for course quality, you could have a group of student delegates (don't go it alone and make sure you have the support of the student body, or you alone will absorb all possible bad will of the department) and ask for more detailed feedback on performance; of course, always be polite, to maximise success chances.

Also, you could ask - already early in the future courses, where they still can fix it - to fix a situation that has arisen.

That said, I am usually in favour of technically demanding courses, and having the students stretch, but the students have to be put in a position where they can take the material taught and run with it. Whether it comes from books or questions answered by a teacher is secondary. I cannot say whether the course was ill organised or simply demanding and I found that tough, but well-organised courses pay off later at some point.

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I was a teaching assistant of a web technologies class for many years. We also run group exercises and then had a final written exam. The exercise helped the final grade, but they were not essential to pass the exam neither they influenced the grade too much.

Often it is hard to realise the actual workload of an exercise. There are many factors to consider and still this can vary from group to group. As TAs, we realise the amount of work a student has to put in, however, if the exercise is too easy or too small, nobody will learn anything, or the project will be done by one single team member while the others rest. So it is a trade off which is not that easy to consider all the time.

That being said, we always welcome feedback from students, especially if it is a specific criticism. If you come and tell the TAs "look, this part of the exercise is not very supported by anything and we needed most of our workload just to find a possible solution" or "look this specific part of the exercise is only tedious and time consuming but we did not learn anything" is better than saying "the workload was too heavy". With this last bit of information the TA can only do so much to understand. Plus, the exam is the very worst place where to put this information. I have seen students writing comments on the exam papers, and I did not like it because you are too biased in that precise moment. I do not know if you wrote it because you were frustrated or not. Plus, exams are not letters. We have emails, you can come to my office and discuss this in person, using the exam sheet is a very lazy way to deal with the problem. I usually just ignored these comments.

If you care enough, why don't you write an email to the Professor and the TAs by asking for a meeting to discuss the exam. Alternatively, you could directly express your feedback on the email itself. Just try to be polite and I am sure they will understand your point of view.

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