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For everyone, this year has brought many completely different situations than before and even more so for the students, with everything changing from on-campus to online.

From my perspective, as a student and student representative, I would like to present some views and advice from me or students on studying in the first semester of Computer Science Year 1 at the University of Birmingham.

These views are personal and, unless specifically named, do not represent the views of (First Year) Student Reps or anyone else. The following is also described in a more light-hearted and informal manner, but this content complies with CC BY-NC-SA 4.0.

Once again, a brief introduction, I, Harry Yep, am studying Computer Science at the University of Birmingham, one of the many student representatives who are trying to learn something about computer science and in August 2020 founded the charity website iUoB.UK, which has already served over 3,000 Chinese students.

For the first semester, which is actually unique for most students, moving from offline classes to online makes everything difficult, especially for new students, that is, those in their first year at the University of Birmingham, they face more challenges than they fear others.

First Semester Studies

For all new students

I created iUoB to reach more students who do not know what they don’t know (only serving Chinese students for now) or who want to know specifically. Although the University of Birmingham has Guild Of Students, with the aim of We exist to make sure students get the best from Birmingham, in general it is more like student support for current students and almost all new/upcoming students will not be able to find out what they want from Guild Of Students or its societies. And from the University of Birmingham’s perspective, some of the content already answered on the University of Birmingham’s official website, however, these are more official and not available from the individual student’s perspective, so individual students are not able to find out about content for specific questions they want, and when they want to find out about something, they need to contact the relevant University department by email, but it takes an exceptionally long time to get a response and therefore they don’t get one immediately. Although this is a downside to all universities, it is something that can be optimised. Here are my suggestions.

Suggestions / Feedback

These suggestions are not entirely my suggestions/feedback

Feedback from many new Chinese students is that emails take too long to respond to, whether it’s Admission, Studenthelp or other email addresses, besides, the wait times for Live Chat are also too long and all of these are preventing students from finding a way to get answers quickly.

Although we all know that the remote working during the school year has been difficult for everyone to get used to, these things can indeed be changed, but I won’t go into them too much here.

If you would like to speak to me about such issues, please email me hi(at)hiio.me

First Semester Studies in Computer Science

For LC OOP/SWW 1

In this course we study Java, which is basic and very useful, and this allows many students who have not been exposed to code to get started with it, and this allows many students who have already studied Java to consolidate what they have learned. Overall, the Student Reps questionnaire and Staff Student Forum (SSF) discussions show that OOP is the most highly regarded of all the subjects.

In terms of the following:

  1. Pre-recorded lectures
    • Content coverage is comprehensive
      • We can find out what we will study from the outline of what we will be studying this week (including what chapter section, videos and Slides with teacher explanations provided, other available extra-curricular content, chapter exams, etc.) and I and we all appreciate that these are listed in advance, reducing the number of questions students may have about the non-study categories for the week.
    • Different Java Editors used by teachers lead to learning difficulties for students
      • Thanks to all the lecturers for making the pre-recorded classes interesting. However, the Java Editor used by the different lecturers did make it more expensive for students to learn Java. For the first few weeks, the lack of uniformity in the Java Editor also made learning difficult for the students.
    • The content of the initial lectures was relatively fast, making it difficult for most students who had not been exposed to computer science to keep up
      • This situation improves later on, but in fact the initial learning are the most important, and it is a burden for students who have not kept up with the earlier ones and need to spend a lot of time later on to make up for what they have not caught up with earlier.
  2. Zoom classes online
    • Very satisfying, whether answering questions one-on-one or in each lecture-style Zoom class
  3. After-class assignments
    • After-class assignments are comprehensive, also as the answers
  4. After-class quizzes
    • After-class quizzes are comprehensive
  5. Canvas
    • Discussions
      • The discussion sessions were thorough that many students were willing to ask questions on them, and the teachers responded quickly, thoroughly and patiently
    • Announcement
      • The announcement was also comprehensive and covered a wide range of topics
  6. Assignment
    • Ample time provided
    • Clear description of the questions
    • Reasonable marks
  7. Others
    • A small number of students in this course were less willing to raise the problems they were experiencing

Suggestions / Feedback

  1. Teachers teach using the unified Java Editor
  2. Slow down the pace of teaching at the beginning
  3. Identify some fixed content, such as Java Editor, before the course starts

For LC MLFCS

For LC MLFCS, Maths is more highly rated and recognised than Logic.

In terms of the following:

  1. Pre-recorded lectures
    • Logic
      • There is a weekly learning syllabus in advance, but there is generally more content to be learned each week
      • For the section on history, please tell us whether students just need to know it or need to remember it
      • The lack of full lecture materials provided in the early stages of teaching confused many students
      • Feedback from students. Much of the content differs from the quizzes/Assignments content
    • Maths
      • The structure is clear and students know what we will be studying this week from the outline
      • Feedback from students. Much of the content differs from the quizzes/Assignments content
  2. Zoom classes online
    • Very satisfying, focused on answering students’ questions and also having teachers available to answer questions by email after class
  3. After-class quizzes / Assignments
    • Feedback from students. The content of the post-lesson test is not well aligned with the content taught
    • Feedback from students. Weekly test marks are posted too slowly and it can be difficult to know if what was learned the previous week was correct before starting the next week’s study. This can cause students to make mistakes over and over again
  4. Teams
    • Discussions
      • Teacher patiently answers questions
  5. Others
    • Many students in this course are less willing to ask questions about the problems they are experiencing
    • I’m not sure if there will be an explanation of Past Paper in the future, but I’ll raise it here first

Suggestions / Feedback

  1. Uploading complete classroom materials simultaneously. This advice has been taken at a later date
  2. In the Pre-recorded lectures, please need to explain more about what might be tested in the quizzes/Assignments
  3. The content of the post-lesson test is closely linked to the classroom content
  4. Timely publish answers and marks to post-class quizzes

For LC DSA

For the LC DSA, it was actually the students who gave the most feedback, basically, for the first 7 weeks, it was hard to absorb the real knowledge. For students who had never been exposed to algorithms before, it was like listening to a double Dutch to all students.

Please see the following points:

  1. Pre-recorded lectures
    • The content of the first 7 weeks is not divided and classified, making it difficult for most people to learn, and even if it is classified later, it is still difficult to make up for what they did not learn in the first period
    • Feedback from students. No weekly study outline, The outline of the study has been classified and given at a later stage
    • Feedback from students. More knowledge is interspersed with Pre-recorded video, but some content does not appear in the exam
    • Feedback from students. Not enough time to explain the topics that will appear in the exam via Zoom Online
  2. There is no homework, only quizzes, and so much content is taught each week that it is difficult for students to keep up with the weekly learning
    • Some students are still working on what they studied in week 4, but lectures have already started week 8
  3. Others
    • Many students in this course are less willing to ask questions about the problems they are experiencing
    • I’m not sure if there will be an explanation of Past Paper in the future, but I’ll raise it here first
    • Feedback from students. Completely unable to keep up with the weekly learning content and fearful of failing a course
    • Feedback from students. One teacher may be overloaded with all Semester 1 DSA lectures

Suggestions / Feedback

  1. Slowing down the pace of lectures
  2. Reduced weekly lecture content
  3. Planning the weekly content and then unifying
  4. Multi-teacher teaching

Summarising the first semester of study in Computer Science

In fact, many computer science students are new to code world, and they have a lot of opinions or ideas about the teaching of the first semester online course, but they are not willing to speak up and share them with others, so I am just standing in front of students and telling the person who read this that I want to say.

As the first semester is now coming to an end, some of the suggestions made are no longer very helpful for the first semester, however, due to the pandemic, most of the courses are kept online, so for the second semester or beyond, all the suggestions made can be taken into account to make some targeted solutions to make the students’ weekly learning more clear and to simplify, so that the students can learn easily but still learn.

  1. The volume of lectures is such that many students are unable to keep up with this week’s learning and are already rushing to start the next, which can be the downside of online classes
  2. Many students have no place to ask questions, because they don’t want to ask them in class in Zoom or in discussions in Canvas or in Teams, they do not want their questions to be public, therefore, they like to email the teacher, but most students receive a reply from the teacher saying please ask them in Zoom class, Canvas or Teams, which leaves students’ questions unanswered at all times. But it does come down to the individual student.
  3. Many of the suggestions have been sent to the relevant lecturers by the delegates under the leadership of the First Year Student Reps and will not be repeated here

Thanks to

  • Staff Student Forum (SSF)
    • Although I did not speak, it was very useful to listen to so many teachers and students share their experiences and opinions, and I have learnt a lot from them
  • Teachers of all courses
  • Tutors
  • All students