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UT Class Commentary

It’s my tenth and final semester at the University of Texas at Austin, so I thought I’d rage a bit comment on which classes I enjoyed the most and least. This will be a random discussion, and won’t exhaustively include every class I’ve ever taken. Perhaps some current UT students will find this of use.

I’ve separated them into three major tiers. “Low tier” are the classes that I despised or were an absolute joke. “Middle tier” are the classes that were helpful, but not particularly impactful. “High tier” are the classes that I felt were definitely worth my tuition.

Low Tier

CS 391L Graduate Machine Learning (Spring 2019)

Those who know me know exactly why I rant about this class so much. The teaching was poor – lecture quality is one of the worst, even in the low tier. I mean “copy paste screenshots of Wikipedia into the slides” bad.

Homework assignments were relatively easy but the exams were ridiculously difficult (helped by a massive curve).

Our TA that year was also a huge jerk, including writing “get rekt” as some sort of cruel joke during the exams in response to valid student questions. If you want more details talk to me in private. :P

CS 331H Algorithms Honors (Spring 2017)

Our professor was talented and insanely smart, but didn’t know how to teach a group of awkward sophomores. Many times we would get dearly lost and no one had the nerve to say anything, or we would go on random irrelevant tangents to the topic at hand. I can’t say I learned much of this very important subject as a result. I’ve heard he’s gotten much better recently, so that’s good.

CS 386 Graduate Wireless Networks (Fall 2018)

This class was 3 hours on Monday afternoon, which means it was basically weekly naptime. The lectures were also pretty uninspiring. If you’re very interested in this kind of stuff, it would probably be a good class though.

CS 386L Graduate Programming Languages (Spring 2020)

A joke. We are literally working through an online textbook that the professor reads to us (sometimes verbatim) in class, so it’s one of those classes where you could have saved the tuition and just done it yourself.

CS 395T Graduate Datacenters (Fall 2019)

Purely a paper-reading class, which I found made it quite monotonous. Sprinkling some programming and quizzes in would have been the class more stimulating.

EE 382V Enterprise Network Security (Fall 2019)

How to write config files, the class. The “coding” portion of the midterm was literally writing SELinux policy files. Overall did not learn much from this class, but there was the occassional one or two interesting topics otherwise.

Middle Tier

CS 356 Computer Networks (Fall 2017)

In my opinion must-have knowledge for every CS major in the internet age. Presented a bit dryly, but not too badly, and easy enough. A recommended chill class.

CS 349 Contemporary Issues in Computer Science (Spring 2019)

The only non-technical CS class I’ve taken. Even though it was just for a writing flag, the discussions we had in this class were pretty interesting and insightful. I feel that some sort of ethics flag should be required for all CS majors, just as is required of our friends in Engineering. As more and more of our world comes to rely on software, the lackadaisical attitude of programmers and software engineers towards safety and reliability is increasingly inadequate, but that’s a topic for another post.

CS 314H Data Structures Honors (Fall 2015)

The introductory class for Turing Scholars. I used regard this class quite highly, but lately I feel like it isn’t as good as I thought it was. True, it was an equalizer class, the projects were interesting, and we met many of our first friends here, but the lectures were not super helpful and the reports are agonizing to do (for no reason). Solidly a mid-tier class for me now.

High Tier

CS 378H Graphics Honors (Spring 2018)

The ability of Dr. Vouga to distill a massive and complex field down to its essentials, then build us up to the point we are able to create nontrivial graphics programs is remarkable. Thinking back, the raw amount of knowledge gained from this class is probably the highest of all the classes here. A recommended (but challenging) class for all UTCS students.

CHI 326 Business Chinese (Spring 2019)

Hands down the best (and probably most difficult) Chinese class at UT. For languages, the harder the better, because you don’t want native speakers of said language to be going easy on you when they talk to you, you want them treating you like you’re a native speaker yourself. Chen Laoshi is quite tough, but grades leniently given appropriate effort. A must-take if you are interested in furthering your Chinese skills.

CS 439H Operating Systems Honors (Fall 2016)

My number one class from the past 5 years. Dr. Gheith is 110% invested in the success of his students, and always aims to inspire critical thought about system design. This class gave me an interest in and immense respect for low-level and systems-level programming. It also teaches you to truly reason about what your programs are doing – blindly programming without thinking first is a sure path to failure in this class. Dr. Gheith also teaches non-honors sections nowadays, so I strongly recommend choosing him if you are able to.