This class is a joke

This class is a joke

Next week, I’ll be finalizing the syllabus for my fall classes.  I am again teaching the university studies classes for the electrical engineers.  My goal in teaching last year was to help my students develop good study skills and awareness about their learning preferences.  I also attempted to teach them some STEM specific skills, like keeping a lab notebook and learning some basic programming, along with helping them try to understand what they were getting themselves into by pursuing a major in engineering.

However, in the past two weeks, I’ve been inundated with requests from various people around campus.  “Can I give a presentation on X?” where X may or may not be of interest to campus students, especially engineers.  I have to admit that this is getting rather annoying as I have a mostly full curriculum.  There are times here and there where maybe I have 15 minutes where I could fit in a presentation, but not often.

I’m also bristling because of the few comments I got from last years class, there were definitely a few who thought the class was a joke.  My goal was to try to make the class useful, not turn it into a place for people to advertise or propagandize their particular department or issue.

But perhaps I’m wrong in thinking it’s not helpful to turn my students into a forced audience for this kind of presentation.  I know this is definitely a leading question at this point, but if you were a new student, what would you think of a class which featured presentations of several non-major related topics?  On the flip side, you’re always welcome to comment about what things you wish you’d learned as a freshman in college…


Personally i’d hate it!

… A term is short enough already for the things which need to be crammed in, although I’d probably attend something extra-curricular – that’s a real option I would’ve said – lunch time or after the last lecture if its a worthwhile topic (ie not a sales pitch)

I’m guessing its not part of your course but have you considered the need for presentations & PowerPoint as a key skill? … Yes, engineers are bad at them & shouldn’t do them but in the real world you will have to!

Actually, I have them pick an activity they enjoy. Then I have them keep a lab notebook on it, write a lab report, and make a powerpoint presentation. Part of being an engineer is being able to communicate, whether or not they like it, and I try to get that across to them right away. 🙂

Then you’ve proved me wrong! 🙂

Whilst at uni I did many things I’d consider BS but PowerPoint & presentations weren’t one of them & yes I hate them but they are the norm!

Do you do feedback on ways the presentation could be better or just let the row of sleeping people give them the hint!

I was always really, really annoyed by presentations in the engineering fundamentals class that were clearly only of interested to <10% of the students in the room. And every time, they were scheduled for 15 minutes and ran 30…

On the flip side, being from a small department, I appreciated learning about the smaller disciplines within engineering. But frankly, that's relevant information for a large fraction of the students in the class, who may not know what most types of engineers actually do. However, since this is a class targeted toward incoming EE majors, maybe only have presentations from departments where they are likely to take electives?

The problem is that these are all over the place in terms of topic: things like ROTC, study abroad, sexual assault and alcohol use on campus. I’m not saying they aren’t important, but I feel like I’m going to lose their good will if I keep subjecting them to these things.

I have one class where they talk about different sub-fields in EE…but that’s about the extent of it. They do have to take 3 or 4 electives in other engineering fields, and I figure that’s a better way to explore what other types of engineers do.


It sounds like there’s a group of speakers looking for a captive audience. They couldn’t get on the agenda during orientation and so decided to seek out all the “Intro for ___ majors” classes.

If they’re going to do ROTC, I’d at least make sure they send a Corps of Engineers person or a current ROTC student who is an engineering major and can realistically talk about conflicting time demands, benefits, what is different for him/her as an ROTC member vs other engineering majors (summer military training vs internships, maybe?).

On Study Abroad, it would be better for the students if there were some engineering majors who came and talked about their experience studying abroad, what they had to do to their schedules to make it work, and who (and when) to contact at the school to get the ball rolling.

I can’t really think of a way to tie sexual assault and alcohol use to an intro to engineering class in any kind of meaningful way.

I’m of the opinion that if it is something that you wouldn’t mind putting in a detailed course description that your colleagues at other places read, then it’s probably fine. If you’re embarrassed to admit that this is occurring during your engineering class, then that’s a sign.

I think these classes are mostly a waste of time. If a student is interested in taking something outside of a STEM field, then take the class, but don’t waste everyone else’s time. Likewise, I disliked those general engineering classes that taught you a little bit about each discipline in your freshman year. I came in to school knowing that I wanted to be a mechanical engineer. If I wanted to be a civil engineer, I would have majored in it.

If you already know your discipline, it’s better to get on with the classes and then save those credits for when you’re a junior or senior and you can use it for another STEM elective.

Back in my day… after walking to school for miles in deep snow… (etc. etc.)
well, as Freshmen we were required to start school one week early and attend these classes / presentations that were not major-specific or about our new college lives. I would have been irritated if I found these topics in a required engineering class that I was paying for and spending time on. Sounds like somebody in upper management cannot schedule well, and has lost focus upon the customers (students).

Comments are closed.