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4:52pm on Friday, 9th March, 2012:
I've just cancelled the final CE317 class of term. Well, actually it's two classes, as they're discussion-based and I have too many students to fit in a single class. There were only three at the Wednesday one, instead of the 22 there should have been, and end-of-term fatigue seems to be setting in. That's not why I cancelled them, though: what happened was that I looked at the paper I was going to discuss and found it had lost most of its images; as it's about presence and immersion and really needs those images, this rather spoilt my plans. I have a .pdf but it's 185 pages long and I'd have had to extract the images from it manually by taking screenshots (I don't seem to be able to print direct from the .pdf itself).
I wasn't too upset by this, though; as I said, most students gave up attending the CE317 discussion classes long ago. Besides, I had a back-up plan to end the term on a high note. I began CE317 by teaching Lua, and the assignment was to write a program to play Besikovitch's Game. I thought I could use the now-free slot to hold a competition for students to pit their programs against one another for a small prize. I did this many years ago when I was lecturing in the mid-1980s (except that time it was Prolog, not Lua) and it went down very well. Unfortunately, though, I was unable to book a lab. Well, I could book one that was too small, or book one large enough but not for long enough, so in the end I had to concede defeat.
It always gets like this towards the end of the Spring term. Final-year students have masses of assignments, more work to do on their project than they have time to do it, and they're running out of steam. They really can't be doing with going to classes that require them to have spent some time reading a paper; they have too much else to do and too little energy to spare on what looks to them like an indulgence. For most of them, this is the final leg of an educational journey that began three quarters of their life ago: they can see the end in sight and they just want to stagger across the finishing line and collapse. Plucking out a random paper and making them read it just for the sake of having a class they don't want to go to anyway would be an act of cruelty (albeit one that they'd shrug off, having inured themselves to such pain by now).
So, no more CE317 discussion classes this academic year. It's a shame, because some of the students who still showed up did seem to get something out of them; then again, others who did attend were only there out of a strong sense of duty, and very few of either were willing to chip in with comments. The classes ended up being less of a discussion and more of a monologue on my part. I'm seriously considering not having them at all next year if I'm going to have as many students take CE317 as did this year.
If only I could get them to play and discuss MMOs instead of papers...
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