A quick qualification: I usually associate failures in a class with it being my fault, like a lack of studying and such.
Background: I am on the last few courses of my degree. I work full time and have a job that requires me to think a fair amount, so these days I usually limit my class load to 1-2 courses a semester. It can be difficult to have the brain power to study after a long day of work, but I try to shift things around at work to have easier tasks on days leading up to an exam...etc.
Issue: This semester I am taking a course on DSP (Digital Signal Processing). I have had this professor before, and while he was a little disorganized previously I was able to get a good understanding of the previous courses material and get a B in the course. I feel the previous course was more technical and difficult mathematics wise, but I am struggling this semester. I feel like I understand the lectures, which if I had to estimate I'd say I'm 90% confident in. However, when it comes to the actual use of the material, I'm more like 20% confident. The source of issues this semester are:
- No syllabus. I'm used to a syllabus at least containing tentative scheduling, this semester the "syllabus" is just a copy and paste of the ABET requirements.
- Professor doesn't appear to have any known plans for how many exams we'll have, when we will have them, or how exactly the material will be split up among the exams.
- We have projects. Initially the projects were supposed to be due at the end of the semester. He then randomly changed his mind and made a project due with only a few days noticed. The projects can be completed in a day or two, but that is assuming I can immediately respond to a change in schedule.
- Similar issue with the exams, he'll randomly tell us we will have an exam a week before.
- There was initially some review homework problem assignments for background material, but since then there have been no homeworks.
- We have lecture notes we can view, but they're a bit disorganized. Even worse, I didn't take many notes in class because he said they were available online. Some were, but he waited until after the first exam to release some of the notes, some of which were required for the first exam.
- He has no grader this semester, so what is graded has no feedback. I did poorly on my first exam, partly because I didn't know exactly what I needed to study, but all of the "feedback" I got was my grade. We submitted the exam online, so I don't get any feedback for what I missed. For me it's quite helpful to know at least where I went wrong, was my error a small error that cascaded out? Things like that help me learn and improve. The feedback I received for my last project was "50/100 output incorrect"... which of course I knew by the fact that the output didn't work, so it didn't assist me in knowing how it was incorrect or where I went wrong.
- He has provided his past exams, but no solutions to the exams. Since I have no feedback from anything else, such solutions can assist in me attempting the problems, knowing where I have an issue, and looking at the solutions to understand what and where so that I can resolve my misunderstandings. He previously stated that he held back solutions as he felt it would hurt those studying (how I am not sure), but stated he would upload them since I asked... he has yet to upload them and I have an exam tomorrow.
- The provided past exams only vaguely match the given exams. No direction is given as to what will be on the exams, like what class of problems...etc. Last he said in class is, "It's difficult to give information on what to study for the exam since it's cumulative." Which I understand, but a class of potential problems to study would be quite helpful. If I practice those but lack the needed cumulative knowledge, I can proceed to brush up on that knowledge before I continue. For the first exams I was relegated to printing out the past exams and marking problems that sounded familiar or something I should know, so that I could study those.
- He mentions that the past exams won't match our new exams anyways since he is trying to incorporate more Matlab. Which is fine, but I feel he doesn't cover Matlab enough to give us an exam on it. We've only covered Matlab material in two lectures, and the feedback from the projects is too lacking to be of use as a study aid.
In summary, I feel like there is a lack of organization leading to me feeling lost on what to study, how to study, how to improve on things I missed, and in general feel more lost than if I were doing an MIT OCW class and teaching myself.
It has been suggested to me to complain or report the professor, since I paid for this course and feel like I am not getting much, if any, support. However, I am not a person that likes to do this, and on top of that, normally I prefer to blame myself for my lacking achievements rather than the professor. I see a lot of people blame professors for their own failings, and I try to avoid doing the same. Though, his last emails wording suggests that he is getting frustrated with the class as well and annoyed that "very few" (out of an 8 person class) failed to get the project working.
Some extenuating circumstances, maybe. He mentioned that he had to cancel class one day due to an unexpected medical appointment, for a place that is a few hours away. Normally you don't do this unless you're visiting a specialists in my opinion. Recently he canceled two other classes, and assigned another project and said we'll have another exam ("take home", which I'll simply do at work during what would be normal class hours). Though he didn't provide a reason for this absence, I'd guess perhaps the same reason.
Bottom line, do my grievances seem legitimate, or are some of my expectations out of line?