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Good things from my Java class.

I’ve taken the Intro to Java class three times at SUU. The first two times I took it I had surgery and I wasn’t able to finish the class.

The first time

The first time was absolutely awful. The professor showed up to class the first day, told us to go to his class files and download his customized version of Wordpad that included a few batch scripts and other hackery to set the CLASSPATH correctly and open a terminal to the right directory for compiling.

Our book was about working with multimedia in Java. It wasn’t a “learning Java” book. We were assigned reading every day, it didn’t match up with what we were actually doing. We were also assigned reading of the Appendices that actually did match up with what we were doing.

Each class period we would spend 40 – 45 minutes writing code that the professor was writing on the overhead projector and 5 minutes finding out what our homework would be. Mostly the homework was taking the code we had written in class and modifying it in some way, basic script kiddie shit, not actual programming.

There were no quizzes.

The exams were in this format:

50 minutes:

  • 20 term definitions,

  • 15 multiple choice questions, and

  • 3 – 5 coding problems; no computers allowed.

The coding problems were written on paper, from memory, syntax and compile time errors counted as missed points. The midterm was 3 programs, each of them more than 25 lines of code.

It was total bullshit.

The second time

The second time wasn’t too bad, there was quite a bit of homework but I didn’t attend long enough to take a quiz or exam.


The class was set up so that we would spend the maximum amount of time practicing writing Java rather than learning about syntax and how compilers work. We got a 50 minute presentation on Java’s basic syntax, data types, and an approximation of how the compiler worked. It was just enough that we could use it as a reference when actually writing Java code.

We didn’t start out with Eclipse or Notepad like some classes do. We started with BlueJ, it’s just functional enough that you don’t have to worry about setting up a CLASSPATH for compiling or using the right Java SDK but it doesn’t give you too many hints about the code.

After we learned the syntax and some data types we went into a workshop format. We would show up to class and spend the time writing the different programs on the worksheet list; each of them designed to teach us one of the concepts we learned. After a couple simple exercises the difficulty would increase usually by using multiple concepts at the same time or combining multiple data types.

Once finished with each of the assignments we’d have to compile and pass them off for the professor.


Each assignment assigned as part of a workshop was worth from 1-8% of our grade, each quiz was worth 6% of our grade, the midterm was worth 20% of our grade, and the Final project was worth the rest of the remaining percentage. Nothing else mattered as long as you could write the code.


Each quiz, there were three total, was a programming problem. We had 45 minutes to code a solution to the problem listed on piece of paper that was handed out. The problem was usually one of the harder problems that were assigned during the workshop with information changed. They were pass/fail, a full 6% or 0%.


The midterm was 5 parts: part one, multiple choice question set about Java syntax and data types; part two, accreditation question set (2 questions); parts three – five, the programming question from each of the three quizzes IF you didn’t pass them the first time. If you passed the quizzes the first time the midterm was about 6 minutes long.


The final was just a final project. Pick something that is interesting or that you want to learn more about then discuss it with the professor and code it. We had about a month to build the final project with each class period being a workshop with the professor and tutor able to help with anything in the project.

This was the best, by far, of the programming classes I’ve taken. It allowed me to not show up to class as long as I understood what was going on and I was able to pass off the assignment which was a huge incentive to me. It was definitely worth the time I spent on it.

Switching up my life and educational goals.

The back story:

When I first started University (Fall 2006) I had declared Business Management as the thing I wanted to spend my life doing. Business people made lots of money, business people drank expensive liquor, and drove nice cars what teenager (I was 18) doesn’t want that? Before I actually started school I had gotten a job at a call center (Convergys Corporation) and was working at, for Southern Utah, a good wage $8.50/hr that had awesome benefits like tuition reimbursement. After about 2 months I got promoted to a Training position where, since I was staff, I was only able to get reimbursement if I was “majoring” in a business field. I quickly saw, after being a middle manager, that business management was something I completely did not want to do.

At that point I changed my “major” to Economics because it was interesting, it was a business class so I could still get my tuition reimbursement, and people with BS or BA in Econ get into Graduate/Law schools really easily. Economics was fun and I would still like to get a Graduate degree in Economics but at this point in my school career it is completely pointless to stick with it as a major. I started University wanting to learn stuff with a degree as a “happy accident” so I didn’t immediately start taking the Math classes that I would need for graduating to make room for classes I wanted to take. This and the 2 semesters I took off for work at Convergys have come back to haunt me. Instead of graduating at the end of April I am a Junior with at least 3 more semesters to go with the number of math classes needed for a degree in Economics I would end up being at University for 3 more years just finishing the math classes because they have to be taken in order.

The now:

That has led me to this latest change: I am changing my “major” to German and keeping the “minor” in Philosophy. I will get done 1.5 years sooner than I normally would and that should be enough liberal art education to get into Grad school for almost anything. The department I am going to is made up of the language teachers and the Philosophy professor. Since I have worked very closely with the German professor before this is like going back to an old friend’s house after a long, awful trip. My excitement for school has been replenished and I am feeling up to a full work load for the Fall semester. Knowing there is an end and liking the way the end looks is a very comforting thing.