Review Comment

[CIEE 3260] Engineering for Developing Communities

May 28, 2017

Sisul, Matthew
[CIEE 3260] Engineering for Developing Communities

This class is all about international development, and isn't really all that technical unless you want it to be. I'm a susdev major, so this was my first foray into civil engineering. I found the topic of the class to be super interesting, but the delivery to be really lacking in a lot of ways. It's a new class, so Sisul is still trying to figure things out.

To start, the class is held for 2.5 hours, once a week; this is way too long for a lecture-based class, especially because our class ran from 7:00 - 9:30 PM on Wednesdays, in a dark, hot, windowless room in Mudd. I basically fell asleep every day even though I thought the stuff was interesting. There is only so much of one man's voice and black and white slides that I can take, especially by the time 8:30 PM rolls around. I honestly don't know why it was only once a week for 2.5 hours, since it was really mostly just a lecture. If it would have involved some group work or more discussion or if he would have let us have more time for our group projects, 2.5 hours could be warranted, but that wasn't the case.

Each lecture covers important concepts in international development; the content was interesting, but Sisul (admittedly) put so little effort into the lectures, that it could have been so much better. He wasn't organized, sometimes ran out of time, and used really boring slides (also admittedly). The thing is, he's a nice and funny and smart guy, so he could have done a great job if he just cared a little more; it kind of felt like the class was a chore for him. There were several guest lecturers; some were great, and others were mediocre.

The other component of the class is a semester-long group project, which you can choose from several topics given by Sisul and (theoretically) work with a partner organization on an international development project. I found this whole process super confusing. I could never really figure out if we were supposed to actually try to implement our ideas, or if the whole thing was theoretical and just for learning's sake; it was weird. But it was kind of cool to look into an actual project in this field and conceptualize how the intervention would take place, from planning and design to monitoring and evaluation.

There were almost-weekly assignments, first individual, then group, which ranged in difficulty from taking 25 minutes to several hours. They were sometimes helpful, but sometimes felt like busywork. There was no midterm or final, but two presentations on the group project which were graded fairly. There were "assigned readings" that were never referenced or spoken about. Little feedback was given on any assignment or presentation and they were graded on a 10 point scale, which made it really easy to get a low score.

The redeeming thing about this class was how interesting the subject was. However, I'm not sure that I'd say that could save it from the weird setup. I think that if there was a radical revision of this class, it could be so great, however as it is now, with the weird length, the confusing and frustrating group project, and the somewhat careless professor, I don't know if I'd really recommend it. I'd love to take the class that this class is supposed to be!


15% - attendance and participation
20% - individual homework
30% - group homework
10% - midterm presentation
10% - final report
10% - final presentation

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