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There is a general tendency of students (master's or less) to rate highly those courses that create a value for them at the industry. For example, in CS, networking or OS courses are found to be attractive by many students simply because these are (almost) indispensable for most job interviews. It is difficult to find the same kind of enthusiasm for say, an optimisation course.

Another example from ECE will be courses pertaining to electromagnetism. Students generally love VLSI-based or telecommunication courses and ignore or dislike the ones on EM. Similarly there could be subfields in many areas where research has stagnated and relevant courses do not carry industrial value, but it is impossible to exclude them from the syllabus.

How does a professor teaching such a course sustain the interests of the students? How does he/she make the best out of a bad job?

  • 16
    The enthusiasm that students have for particular courses is heavily influenced by the instructors of those courses, and varies significantly among departments. Networking and OS courses are not popular in every department. – JeffE May 17 '12 at 11:16
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    I worked so hard trying to get out of taking OS when I was an undergrad. – Artem Kaznatcheev May 17 '12 at 21:18
  • I had a Electronic Devices and Integrated circuits course which was highly dependent on the Professor teaching it. – Naresh Nov 23 '12 at 7:08
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There are many ways to motivate students, including but not limited to

  • showing practical relevance of the course
  • explaining what makes the teacher passionate about the subject
  • linking the course topic to their own experience
  • actively engaging the students in discussions
  • giving the students adequate tasks and providing them with rapid and positive feedback (adequate = not too difficult and not too easy)

Some tips and tricks can be found on http://serc.carleton.edu/NAGTWorkshops/affective/motivation.html

  • +1 - for showing practical relevance of the course. If the student knows "Why" they need to learn something (other than in order to get a good grade) then that will motivate a lot more of them. IOW, make use of "I worked on a project at company X where we had this problem and we used this equation and give some details." – Dunk May 17 '12 at 20:06
4

I hate to resort to youtube but:

http://youtu.be/WgWNQVdhE9A

Channing Robertson at Stanford teaches Intro to Chemical Engineering which is essentially a glorified way to say Mass Balance and Stoichiometry. It is literally a course on converting values from Metric units into English units. It is literally a course about realizing that what goes in a box must come out of the box. It is dry and boring material.

As described in Why do so few universities offer OpenCourseWare videos of their lessons?, not every class is worth making an OpenCourseWare video but they did for this one. He kills time with stories and lots of them. He goes into the history of chemical engineering. He teaches use the Socratic method. They do problem sets and then go on field trip to see what their problem set was about. It may be dry stuff but at least it would be entertaining.

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