January 07, 2012

Collins, John
[PHIL W4565] Rational Choice

Please keep in mind that this review is more than 5 years old.

I am not the type of person to speak negatively about a professor, but I just needed to do this for the good of our school and for anyone who is ever considering taking a class with John Collins.

Collins is funny and adorable; he can blow your mind and, to some degree, make you think about your life differently. But it stops there. As a professor for Probability and Decision Theory he was completely negligent and indifferent about the class. At several times during the semester, I thought "maybe he's just trying to test the limits of how little effort one can put into a class and still get through the semester..." I'm not saying he's lazy or anything...for all I know, maybe he was going through a lot that semester.

THE GOOD
- he's funny
- he digresses and talks about interesting things
- he doesn't punish you with his grading

THE BAD
- he does not respond to emails, no matter how many times you reword them and send them
- he does not post his office hours online, so that if you want to meet with him to talk about something you sent him 4 emails about, you have to get him before he ducks out of class at the end of his lecture
- he does not give a syllabus
- he changes his requirements over the course of the semester so you never know how you're doing or even how you COULD be doing in the class
- he does not give assignments back...not even the midterm...so you don't know what you did right or wrong
- his exams test you on things that you wouldn't know from the class...which I guess wasn't that surprising since there was nothing substantive taught in lectures to actually be on an exam
- he promises to give weekly readings...he gave ONE for the entire semester. he said he would post another reading at the end of the semester, but never did
- he promised to give us a written assignment (40% of grade) every 1-2 weeks. he gave TWO for the entire semester
- he does not use Courseworks, like every other professor at Columbia (I think they are actually required to)
- he cancelled class 3 times
- he promised to post notes for the class throughout the semester. He posted them the DAY BEFORE the final
- he often came to class and realized he was unprepared to teach things that he was planning on teaching
- he held a review session for the final (what a saint!) but everyone was so confused about what they should even ask him that he wound up just teaching some new concepts
- his grading had to have been very arbitrary...I thought I must have failed both the midterm and final but still got an A- for the semester. I think he probably just realized that he was so neglectful all semester that he couldn't rightly give anyone a bad grade

Workload:

2 short assignments
a midterm and final
nothing else