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uml story

note: all info here is as of 2018 
 
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##  UML 
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University of Massachusetts, Lowell campus (aka UML) offers second bachelor of science (BSc) degree in Information Technology thru their online platform. 
the term "second" here means you must have a previously completed bachelor degree. so they let you skip foundational courses so that you can focus on technical courses relevant to your major. the total cost is approx $11k. 
 
the quality of the courses are hit and miss. some are too rudimentary, some continuously impose purely time consuming grunt work, while others are interesting in intellectual depth. it's overall very positively practical. if you want a BS degree in IT from umass which is a legit state school, $11k is a good deal. in my case, i wanted a degree from an American school for my resume as i started working in the US, and also wanted to get some hands-on refresher of some of the programming languages (like C/C++) and cs fundamentals (like OS, network, data structures and algorithm, etc). 
 
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##  admission 
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no TOEFL, no SAT/GRE, no letter of recs needed. but you must submit an official copy of your first degree diploma plus transcript, which if obtained from a school from a non-english speaking country, you must use "WES" to have those docs translated to english / evaluated into the US equivalent academic records. 
WES (world education service) is one of those education record evaluation vendors that does translation/evaluation for a fee. there are a few well known vendors that provide the same service, but somehow UML specifically requires WES, as of 2018. 
 
one caveat is you can register for courses as non degree seeking student. they even suggest you take a course for a semester to see if you really wanna commit to the entire degree program. so technically, as a hypothetical extreme, you can take all the required courses as non degree seeking student status, without ever being admitted. then at that point, admission is just a formality of paperwork because you satisfied the requirement for the degree already. 
or another realistic example of someone taking only a few courses as non degree seeking student is if he/she just wants to take a few fundamental courses to apply for other degree program, like CS masters. I've seen people do this. 
 
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##  UML course infra 
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blackboard - commonly used in many universities. manages resources (lecture notes, discussion forum, schedules, assignment submission, grades, so on) 
email - there is MS outlook enabled student.uml.edu domain addr. 
quiz - done on blackboard. 
hw - submit to blackboard. 
exam - often just a take home format. so you submit your code/report to blackboard. 
 
instructor usually holds weekly office hour / chat session. 
 
note: one pet peeve i had was how every class releases the content weekly on Sunday 24:00 (i.e. 00:00 on Monday) - i believe this was how blackboard was configured by default for each class. 
i understand if the instructor wanted to revise contents until the last minute, but in many classes they just reuse the material from previous semesters. so i wish they just released it all at once, so students can study at their own pace. 
 
 
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##  UML course review 
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[C programming (part 1)] 
- covers all the basics: syntax, data types, flow control, IO, functions. 
- assignment: 5 coding assignments. basically due every 2 weeks. plus one final exam. I thought the exam was hard, but since it is open book you can get your IDE ready and test out the code snippet. 
- textbook: kochan c book. to be honest, C has so many good free resources online, so you can do without this. 
- instructor : bryant moscon - he is a good man. fair grading. reasonable difficulty of assignment. 
 
[C programming (part 2)] 
- pointers, structs, memory management, file IO handling. some basic data structure and algo implementation also touched. 
- assignment: 5 coding assignments. due every 2 weeks. one final exam. same structure as part 1. 
- textbook : same kochan book. unlike the part 1 class, the instructor actually started using the textbook, as in "this week's homework, use the formula from page 190 of the textbook" 
- instructor : bryant moscon - see my prev comment. 
 
[Survey of Programming Languages] 
- covers the basics of programming language, compiler, linking, object code, machine code, virtualization, so on. C/C++, java, sql, html/xml, js, C#, ruby. 
- assignment : a quiz and a coding hw every week. plus midterm and final exams. lots of lots of grunt work. but a lot of give away template code. partially due to the nature of the course plus the style of instructor maybe. sometimes a quiz (worth 1.82% of your course grade) takes 5 min to complete, while an assignment (worth 2.0% of your course grade) takes 2 hours. not difficult, but a lot of work overall. exams are essentially all homeworks combined. 
- instructor : tim niesen - reatively lenient grading. 
 
[LAN/WAN Technologies] 
- it should be renamed "L1/L2/L3 layer computer networks". 
- it is a looooooooot of contents, covering all the basics in meticulous detail. i was surprised how much L1,L2 details the lecture notes touch on. i mean it in both positive and negative ways. in a way, the instructor just dumped the entire content of an encyclopedically thick textbook. tbh, i was at times bored by the endless details of wave length of various laser types and fiber optic cabling technology and electrical signal encoding/modulation methodology and so on. maybe more suited for EE major. sometimes you spend an hour reading up on pages and pages of notes to reach a conclusive remark "this technology is no longer used, as replaced by XYZ which we study next", sure that's still relevant to study but the amount of content is of biblical proportion. 
- assignment : 8 hws (30% total, a hw consists of 6 quizzes), midterm/final (30% each, open book). 10% participation in the forum - i personally didn't like how the instructor mandates at least 3 "substantial" posts to a blackboard discussion forum per week for the total of 10% of the class grade, but i understand his intention, it is a matter of teaching style, otherwise an excellent class overall. quiz/exam was hard enough to force you to check back on the lecture notes plus additional googling, but easy enough to ultimately let you answer most of the questions (but not all) correctly as long as you study lecture notes. if you wanna slack, i think you can get away with a lot of googling and ctr-F. there was really no meaningful distinction between weekly hw quiz and exams. an exam was just another hw. 
- instructor : edwin barnes - he seems to know what he is talking about. i'm not sure what his background is. other instructors often talk about their background extensively in the first week on blackboard discussion forum. i googled his name but couldn't find any academic/professional background. 
 
[TCP/IP Architecture] 
- focuses on L3/L4, IP/TCP suite in particular. again a lot of content to digest. but probably 35% of LAN/WAN class in terms of the volume of lecture notes. it turned out to be a good combo to do both LAN/WAN class and this TCP/IP class as they really complement each other. 
- assignment : same structure as LAN/WAN. 8 hws (30% total), midterm/final (30% each), 10% blackboard discussion forum participation. 
- instructor : edwin barnes 
 
[Project Based Information Systems] 
- a 6 credit course. this is really a business school class. information technology driving innovation in business is no news. but this class really tries to offer systemic analysis, from various perspectives and frameworks, with lots of lots of example case studies. one case study that was interesting to me was how mandarin oriental hotel keeps track of customer preference (room type, temperature, tv program, newspaper, so on) in detail. 
- assignment : i really liked how most of the asisgnments are released at the beginning of the semester. so you can work ahead. however, you need to purchase a Pearson online e-textbook for approx $110, and 51% of the grade is based on solving stuff on this e-textbook (you can finish it off in one weekend. takes only several hours of effort). 12% is blackboard forum discussion participation. and the rest (37%) is "term project" which is just writing reports and creating powerpoint slides, which shouldnt take more than 10 hours. so overall, this class is less than some of the other 3-credit class. 
- instructor : jon forsyth - 
 
[Linux/Unix Operating System] 
- it was a bit of hassle to go thru setting up specific configuration of vpn, mfa (multi-factor authentication), temp unix account on uml server, etc. otherwise this class is a piece of cake. 
- assignment : 8 weekly quizzes (25% total), midterm (35%), final (40%) 
- instructor : fred vegliante - 
 
[C++ Programming] 
- unlike other classes, they dont go crazy on code style enforcement, just a very reasonable basic set of guidelines. i liked it. this class expects you to know C well, and jumps right into the nitty gritty of C++, which is good. 
- assignment : 5 assignments (12% each), 1 project (20%), final exam (20%) 
- instructor : yelena rykalova - among the profs at uml, according to ratemyprofessor.com, she has the worst reviews of all. but luckily, for this class, she was just running the class created by someone else. so she was just there to grade assignments and exams which somebody else created. so i didnt see any problem. 
 
[Data Structures] 
- a decent programming course. i dont say that lightly. lots of nice coding assignments. coding takes less than half of the time you spend on assignment. the rest of the time is referring to the mammoth spec doc about where to insert page break and blank page and what kind of test case and documentation and annotation in what format, etc etc. so you end up submitting 20+ pages of PDF every week in which probably only 7 pages are code. 
- assignment : 9 assignments (60% total), midterm (20%), final (20%) 
- instructor : thomas kostizak - super hyper ultra picky about the format of submitted material, probably to a point where it gets a bit disruptive to actual learning. but bearable, sort of. he is a serial complainer (like many talented people are). if you give him $1000 for no reason in 50 dollar bills, he will complain he would prefer them in 20s. but i mean it in both good and bad ways. i was surprised he added various comments (some of which are actually very constructive) on tiny tiny details of code and docs i wrote. so i realized he actually reads the bloated PDF from every student, that's committment. 
 
 
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###  misc 
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- some cources are 10 weeks while others are 14. this actually translates to a huge difference in terms of overall workload. sometimes even one same course may have both 10-week version and 14-week version. 
- be very careful of which instructor is running your course. rate my professor dot com was very helpful resource for pre-registration research. 
- how many courses can you take on per semester? it obviously depends on how much time you can afford, and which courses you combine. i say 2 or 3 if you have a full time job. it's not just the sum of the hours, but all the context switching makes it hard to juggle. usually you have other stuff you wanna study too. 
- some courses have significantly heavier workload than others. especially network courses are heavier than programming courses. 
- i felt many classes are designed in such a way that you get out what you put in. i.e. grad school style classes. 
 

  1. 2018-10-13 22:16:43 |
  2. Category : uml
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