I am into my second semester as a part-time graduate student in Information Science. I work full-time as a web developer, so juggling work and school is hard but manageable. My first semester I found to be okay, and I had a 4.0 at the end. I take 2 classes at a time, as that is all I can take on with a job right now. However my second semester is halfway through now, and one of my classes is fine, but the other is very difficult.

The difficult class is a computer security class. On rate my professor, I saw before the semester that he had bad ratings (1.0 across the board and rated for hard tests). I wanted to avoid him, but he is the only professor who teaches security courses at my school. So I tried it, and within the first weeks of class, he cancelled two lectures in a row! He wanted us to study the material on our own, which for me is difficult as I typically learn better with a teacher in front of me.

As the semester went on, I found the material getting so hard that I couldn't even understand most of what he was talking about. He reads off of a powerpoint slide and doesn't explain further. He is the kind of professor that doesn't answer emails and pushes any questions off to the TA. So I have to email the TA for help, but the TA only offers help 2 hours a week (and they are when I am at work!).

I have a C+ so far in the class, which to me is very bad. Are computer security classes typically harder? What should I do with this class? I am afraid to withdraw because I will just have to retake it with the same guy, plus my job is paying for these classes and might have an issue with it. Does anyone have grad school advice in general with what I've said?

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    That depends too much on your particular case to be able to give an answer. I'd hazard dropping the other class and concentrating on the hard one; or dropping the hard one, but continue attending and collecting material for self-study, and take it again later (perhaps on its own). – vonbrand Mar 3 '16 at 17:11
  • I assume the course is required for your degree, or you would just withdraw... right? – ff524 Mar 3 '16 at 18:42
  • I would suggest you ask a couple of focused questions instead of a single narrative. Right now I see questions about working full time and being a part time student, a bad professor, canceled classes, unavailable TAs, computer security classes, ... Way to much for me to consider tackling in an answer. – StrongBad Mar 3 '16 at 18:44

You can:

  • Ask around and try to find someone who has done well (or is doing well) in the course, who you might be able to hire as a tutor.
  • Form a study group with other students in the class.
  • Look for recorded lectures on YouTube from another professor at another university covering the same material.
  • Buy a copy of the textbook. Study it. Ask good questions about things you don't understand, e.g. on Computer Science Stack Exchange or Information Security Stack Exchage.
  • Drop the class, do some self-study, and then take it again later after you're more comfortable with the material (as suggested by vonbrand).

You haven't said how much time you have to study outside of work and lectures, but it may not be enough. You can't expect to grasp all the material you need for your graduate coursework just from sitting in class for a few hours - real learning requires time, and independent work.

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  • In addition, if retaking the class maybe do only one course that semester, freeing up more time for study. – Patricia Shanahan Mar 3 '16 at 22:19

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