Summer 2015

COM 205 Research Methods

Instructor: Arun Vishwananth

I wouldn’t say this course is easy to get an A, but doable, though I know of people who missed the A by 1 or 2 marks and got an A-. Although the questions may be a little challenging, all the answers can be directly found in the textbook, except the answers for application questions, which you have to think by yourself. Hence, while you are doing your test, just flip through your textbook for the answers. What? Wait, I’m not encouraging anyone to copy, but the fact is, the tests are online, open-book. What’s even better is that the tests are done at home! Yay!

To tell you the truth, our first test was also open-book, but in-class. However, you know, SIM’s Wi-Fi is sooooooooo good that halfway through the test, many of our computers lagged for eternity and later disconnected; many people did not complete the test! Hence, that was why Arun decided to switch to take-home test.

There will be 3 tests, 30% each, and 10% for attendance. It’s ok to miss a few classes, but if you miss half of your classes, he will start deducting marks for attendance. He takes attendance from your presence during group activities, individual short exercises, etc. and they can happen at any time of the class. I found the tests ok, I got 29/30, 27.5/30, 27.5/30. Usually people get around 26-27 for each tests, so try to aim to get as many questions correct as possible. There are a total of 60 questions for each test. Anyway, taking an open-book test doesn’t mean that you’ll definitely get full marks. In his second test, one of the chapter that he tests on is the Survey Research. In that chapter, the textbook stated that whichever survey method that we choose to use is up to our own preference and goals. Many people get all the questions wrong from this chapter, probably because what Arun thought was the best survey method for the scenario in the question was different from what we thought it was. Also, the way Arun sets his questions make you misinterpret what the question wants. There is no extra credit for this class.

Arun doesn’t test anything from his lectures, even though he always say he will do so. He won’t upload his PowerPoint slides, so you’ll have to copy everything down. Actually, I feel that Arun is a nice guy, I just don’t like his character a little. Also, he is the type that maintains professionalism between lecturer and students. As such, he doesn’t chat or jokes with students. Like a really serious teacher. Also, when interacting with students individually/in a small group I feel that he sees us as small and insignificant people. Not sure why I felt that way though. Even then, he is witty during lectures because he knows that learning about research methods is boring and he wants to ‘entertain us a little’. He is also very knowledgeable about other fields such as astronomy, botany and incorporates his knowledge about these fields into his teaching.

What I don’t like about Arun is that, he always rushes off after class! If you are thinking about asking him any questions after class, forget about it; he will one of the first few to leave the class. I don’t know, but he is probably very busy. He also does not encourage students to email him questions unless it’s urgent. Instead, he wants us to ask during lectures, which can be quite scary for the majority of us. Fortunately, we have a Teaching Assistant, Jay, who is friendly and approachable!

My grade for this course: A

 

COM 492 Sexual Health Communication

Instructor: Lance Rintamaki

This may be a level 400 class, but it is really very easy to get an A for this course; Lance even says that the majority of our class got an A/A- (not including extra credit)!  The assessment components might differ in future, but we had 3 tests, the first 2 either weighing 33.3% each or 50% in total, and the last is either 33.3% or 50%. Lance will take whichever weightage that will benefit us. We supposed to have 4 tests initially, but he said it didn’t make sense that our 4th test was 3 days away from our 3rd test, so he combined the content for test 3 and 4. The number of questions he might give varies from 50 – 62. Anyway, I got around 32%+ for the first 2 tests and around 30%+ for the last one.

Lance gives extra credit for this class: letting him interview you or doing an assignment also allows you to get  1 (1%) extra credit. Also, after all our tests, he allows us to send video links that are related to the content; every 5 videos for an extra credit of 1 mark, max 15 videos. I think he gives extra credit freely probably because he saw the disappointment on our faces when we “didn’t do well”, or whine about our results (actually more like we were disappointed because we didn’t get full marks for such easy tests! So if you are taking this class in future, just whine or act disappointed and get everyone to do the same too! 🙂

I think a lot of people are wondering what this course is about. In this course, you will learn about the bio-physiological aspects of sex, such as what are the biological processes that makes us attracted to the opposite gender, socio-cultural aspects of sex, such as sexual health communication between parent and child, physician and patient, and also sex and the media, and social attraction.

Lance also invites guest speakers for this class. We had 2; the first was June Chua, founder of the T Project; I don’t know who the second speaker is because I had to go for Arun’s class.

Anyway, Lance is a really entertaining teacher. He teaches quite informally and likes to give interesting and funny examples, and cracks a lot of dirty jokes too lol. So far, he is the only teacher that openly says the f word in class haha. I think he is the most friendly and approachable teacher that I have had so far and he loves teaching as his job. He is also an extremely nice and generous guy. Once, there was a girl in my class who spilled her water on the table and her notes, etc, all became wet, Lance went out of class to get toilet paper for her. Also, as there was a last minute change and the guest speaker would only arrive at 10 am, Lance bought tarts for us to thank/apologise to us for coming to class at 8.30 am and having to wait till 10 am.

You’ll regret if you don’t take Lance’s class! And please don’t drop this class, unless you are going for a round-the-world trip, or interning at some prestigious company. Many people really want to get into this class!

Spoiler: Anyway, do come to class on the last day and bring food for everyone too! Lance hosts a pizza party for his class!

My grade for this course: A

 

COM 240 Survey of Mass Communication

Instructor: Helen Hua Wang

This course is a little challenging, but somewhat easy to get an A because Helen grades everything leniently and also makes the final test easy. There will be 4 assignments consisting of 400 marks in total, a group project worth 400 marks, and a final exam worth 200 marks. Helen says she does not usually give extra credit for this course, but she gave us an opportunity to earn an extra 10 or 20 marks by writing 1 or 2 journal reflections (10 marks each) on something that we have learnt in class.

To me, the assignments are the most challenging part of the course. Why? Because you need to use an example of a TV/movie/music that you watch/listen to to answer the questions in the assignment. For example, one of the questions was how we can use the example of TV/movie/music (chosen by us) to tell a story. In other words, what elements of the TV/movie/music can we use for storytelling? Another assignment asks us to give an example of a media that we have watched/listened/used/played that has some elements of transmedia storytelling (don’t worry, Helen will teach you what it means). While the assignments were challenging, I not only gained new perspectives on my favourite movies/song, I also enjoyed doing the assignments, and I hope you will too. 🙂  Each assignment is divided into an individual and group section, 50 marks each. The ‘group’ part of the assignment is not easy either. But fret not! From what I have seen, she usually gives full marks for our assignments unless you/your group didn’t explain your answer clearly or properly. I got full marks for all of the assignments except one, where I lost 4 marks because our group did not explain their answers properly.

The group project is slightly easier. It is about coming up with a transmedia campaign for a particular issue (chosen by your group). The main idea of this project is to showcase or explain how the media platforms that your group has chosen help to carry out your campaign (Due to it being a transmedia campaign, your campaign will be carried out over multiple media platforms). But of course your group will still need to write out a proposal stating the reasons for campaigning about the issue that your group has chosen, objectives of your campaign, the storyline for your campaign, and also design a logo for your campaign. Find someone who can draw or design! There will be about 7 – 8 members in a group. The group project will be divided into a few components: topic proposal – 50 marks, draft pitch – 50 marks, draft portfolio – 50 marks, final portfolio – 100 marks, presentation – 100 marks, peer evaluation – 50 marks. Almost everyone will get the full 50 marks for topic proposal. The average mark for the rest of the project goes as follows: 40, 40, 95, 96, 48. Add all these + the 50 marks for topic proposal and you get 369/400 as the total average marks for the project. In order to get an A, you can only lose a maximum of 70 marks in this course, or get at least 930/1000.

I am dedicating a section for the peer evaluation component because I think it is a very important part of the project: it can make or break your group. Basically, the peer evaluation works in this way: You can give a maximum of 10 marks for each component of the project, the total maximum mark you can give to any person is 50. The average of all the marks given by all the group members for a particular member will be that member’s peer evaluation mark. Also, there won’t be any criteria to aid in your grading (such as 10 marks for contributing a lot to the project, 1 for not contributing anything to the project). I got 49 for peer evaluation though. To be honest, I find it a little shocking that the average and median mark for peer evaluation is 48 and 50 respectively, which means that most people gave their group members the full 50 marks. Doesn’t seem right to me. I think that marks should be given based on the amount and quality of work someone has done as compared to the rest, but then that’s my opinion and everyone’s opinion is also different. No wonder I witnessed some groups fight over the peer evaluation marks, because apparently, a few members in a particular group emphasised more importance on contributing to discussions and giving suggestions than the actual written work itself, i.e. the writing of the portfolio. Naturally, quiet people will be at a disadvantage. I’m going to tell you a true story in the following paragraph; I promise it is interesting and everyone should read it so that you all will not commit the same mistake.

In a group that that I know of, majority of the group members gave one another 50 marks even though it is obvious that some people did more work than the others. One of their group members graded everyone ‘fairly’, awarding more marks to those who did more work and less for those who did lesser work or only gave suggestions but did not write anything at all. Unfortunately, this group member graded everyone  on the ‘low’ end of the grading range (7-8 marks on average for each component, with a few 6), and did not know that the rest of the group members will think it is extremely low. After two of the group members found out that this group member awarded low marks for everyone, they told the others to change their grades for this particular group member and most of them eventually gave this member a 6 for all the components. After all, they thought that this group member contributed the least to the project. Eventually this group member got a 33 I think, and the other members a 48. However, later the other group members realised that although this particular group member rarely contributed to group discussions, majority of the writing of the portfolio was done by this group member! I think the morals of the story are, firstly, you should always discuss as a group what grading range you want to give for one another (not tell them specifically what marks you are going to give of course). After all, everyone has their own standard of grading and a 7/10 might be low to some but might not be low to some. If you all don’t discuss, then don’t blame others for grading too low or too high because at the end of the day, grading is up to each individual. Secondly, before you grade others, always check properly what other group members have done, either by asking them directly or checking Google Docs thoroughly. Don’t check half only then grade other people a mark they don’t deserve just because you only see them editing at the end, but actually they already wrote a lot of things in the beginning. Thirdly, if you all happen to find out that some or one of your group members are giving everyone low marks, go and confront that person/those people, If you all are brave enough.

Ok back to the review. Where was I? Oh, now on to the final exam portion for this module. The exam is the easiest part of this module, because Helen thought that the assignments and project were challenging enough, so she made the exam easy. There will be a total of 50 questions, worth 4 marks each, total 200 marks. I got 1 question wrong. Helen will provide a study guide indicating which topics to study; those not listed will NOT be tested. She will also ask us to study from both the textbook and her PowerPoint slides, though I don’t see any difference between the two, except for the fact that her PowerPoint slides are like the super-simplified version of the textbook. I think as long as you study the main/general idea of each topic, it should be easy. You must know who invented what or who coined what and remember their names; she will test on this.

Her teaching is not boring, but she likes to show videos that are more informative than entertaining. She also likes to show a lot of TED talks by various professionals. She also tends to teach in a ‘touch-n-go’ way, so are her PowerPoint slides, hence you have to read the textbook for more details. However, one thing that sets her apart from almost all of the lecturers that I taken a class under is that Helen is willing to provide more help, be it in your assignments or project. For example, when I asked her about the assignment, she is willing to provide examples on how you can write it or what does the question mean. When my group asked about our project, she will tell us how we can improve on it specifically. Most teachers are reluctant to provide more help for their students; they will just rephrase the question or whatever they say. Helen is an exception.

My grade for this course: A