Wednesday, March 14, 2007's always (most times) the same

Again, today are oral examinations to do. During the semester break, it's the time for most of the exams for the computer science diplomas, masters, or bachelors. I teach several courses that are relevant for students of computer science, as 'web technologies' or 'technical foundations of the internet (TFI)' (and of course 'semantic web')...
Most students come to get examines in 'webtechnologies' or 'TFI', and because these courses are given for senior students, we do oral examinations because there are to few students to justify the labour of preparing a written exam.
But, the point is...most student simply think that web technology or internet technology is something they know already (maybe because it's part of our everyday life) and they don't prepare well or they prepare in the wrong way. I always tell them 'you don't have to give me technical details and parameters. Think global! You have to understand HOW everything is working together. Don't take things granted..ASK if you don't understand or if you cannot answer WHY things are done the way they were...'
It's almost useless. Often I have the feeling that I could talk to the wall instead of human beings capable of listening and understanding. Of course, the facts are quite simple. Everybody has heard of HTTP. Everybody knows that HTTP is used for transporting messages between browser and WWW-server...but, if it comes to (web)-caching, cache control, and stuff like that..and that it is even related to HTTP...I guess most people take that for granted and forget it immediately after having heard.
The same with web-programming. Of course everybody has heard of distributed programming, stubs, skeleton, and so on. But, if you ask, what exactely a stub has to do, to get a procedure call transfered to another computer....
I could tell you hundreds of examples including search engine technology, semantic web, ontologies, web-caching, dynamic HTML, client-side/server-side programming, ...

Sometimes, I'm a little bit frustrated. The students even have the possibility to watch the lectures again from our video database. They even have the possibility to get them all on DVD to watch them again at home. In addition we prepare a lot of material....and what is the outcome? About 2/3 (two thirds) of all exams are dissapointing. Don't get me wrong. Not all of these students do fail the exam. They were prepared an knew quite something...but if you try to figure out how things interact and why certain things are arranged in the way they realize that the students take those things for granted and don't care to take a look behind..

O.k....enough of blustering around. The next exam will be at 3 p.m. Let's hope that sombody is reading this blog :)

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