Monthly Archives: April 2008

Course catastrophe

So my course ended on Friday. It didn’t go as I had planned.

Although I had stressed out about the course for six months, only a small amount of that had resulted in useful preparation. Many of the lectures and some exercises were last-night wonders, and … um … let me say, far from perfect. One important lecture I just couldn’t prepare in time – so I skipped it completely, much to the frustration of the students when they later actually needed that stuff.

More importantly, I seriously overestimated the amount of things I can teach in thirteen days. I had to do a major rescoping after the first few days, cutting to about half of the original goals.

And the feedback from the students? Almost entirely positive.

Feedback average 4.4. (very good = 5, very bad = 1)

Kathy Sierra was right: what the students do is important – what the teacher does is not.

In this case, the students spent most of the course working on customer-oriented projects. Aside from technology (Ruby on Rails), process framework (very lightly enforced Scrum), customer requirements (user stories they could prioritize with the customer), and the working environment (classroom TC217) the students had the power to choose their manner of working. They had the power to make choices, the power to make their own mistakes and the power to learn from them.

And they loved it.


Thanks to prof. Carsten Bormann (from University of Bremen) who gave the idea for this course, helped a lot in the preparation and gave a wonderful guest lecture on Ajax. Thanks to everyone whose material I used on the course. Thanks to the professors of the Deparment of Software Systems at TUT, who gave me the chance to teach this course, and to my boss at Atostek, who let me have the days off to do this. Thanks to the people of Tampere.rb for their help and support. Thanks to the customers for their time and effort.

Most importantly, thanks to all the students. It is you who made this course a success.

“There is a better way to do this.”

There are three wrong reasons not to use this sentence.

  • You haven’t considered any alternatives.
  • You are certain that the current way is better than any alternative.
  • You think talking about alternative solutions is a waste of time.

There is a good reason: when your audience already knows that none of the above is true.