CS373 Fall 2021: Mason Eastman: Final Entry
How well do you think the course conveyed those takeaways?
I think the class covered the takeaways exceptionally. Learning how to write efficient, effective, and organized code is an important skill to have and will always be useful. Professor Downing covered each topic in detail and I’m definitely more knowledgeable in them than before I took this class.
Were there any other particular takeaways for you?
Communication is key. That goes without saying, but I was reminded once again just how important it is to be on the same page with your teammates, and ensuring that key updates and setbacks get shared so that everyone can react and determine how to move forward.
How did you feel about cold calling?
I didn’t mind it. It helps me to pay attention in class, and Professor Downing is understanding and helps work through the answer if it’s something you don’t know or understand right away.
How did you feel about specifications grading?
I can see it’s uses, but I wasn’t the biggest fan. I like how it eliminates competition, but I didn’t like how your grade (overall and on projects) is determined by the lowest component. I don’t think it’s very fair that you can get E’s on all the projects, but miss one too many in-class-quizzes and you automatically get a B. I found myself needlessly getting in my own head about the quizzes because I was worried about potentially getting one too many R’s.
How did you feel about the help sessions and office hours?
I personally didn’t go to any, but I have heard from peers that they were helpful.
How did you feel about the support from the TAs?
I think the TAs went above and beyond in their support, which I was incredibly thankful for. While I didn’t particularly find our weekly TA meetings very useful, my team and I constantly referred to the articles and grading specifications the TAs released — particularly the ones that weren’t over programming (like setting up various AWS services).
What required tool did you not know and find very useful?
Docker. While I had dabbled in docker before, this was the first time I was constantly using it and had to write my own dockerfiles for use. It turned out to be incredibly useful for us, and I will definitely use it in any project I can in the future. The power and inner-workings of it still baffle me, but I’m grateful to understand it and its use-cases better now.
What’s the most useful web dev tool that your group used that was not required?
Reactstrap was really nice — it let us import and use custom React components with built-in CSS so we didn’t have to spend a ton of time writing our own CSS to get the looks we wanted in our website.
How did you feel about your group having to self teach many, many technologies?
I think it is a useful skill and experience to have, but has the potential to a lot of stress. I was very thankful that my team and I each had some experience in various areas of web dev, so for most of the technologies we needed, someone had used it before and was able to help everyone else out. Some, like AWS, we hadn’t used and gave us more trouble than we were hoping, but in that case the self-teaching was effective, albeit kind of stressful (especially when things broke!).
Give me your suggestions for improving the course, but apologies in advance; specifications grading will remain.
I think having even one or two intro lectures on some of the technologies would be useful. React and Flask come to mind, as those are the main frontend and backend technology the teams used, and a little guidance in a classroom setting would’ve been good to get those without much experience some pointers to get them on their way. I also think the weekly TA meetings could be fleshed out more or eliminated entirely for another progress check method, as the majority of weeks my team answered a couple simple questions about our progress on the current phase and were all said and done with the meeting in <5 minutes.