Category Archives: #Learning

Learning for a lifetime

Virtue of Learning

Students have been ingrained from their childhood to get good grades and to excel in every course. They work hard through their K-12 years before they start earning their higher education degrees. This is where, now, they should sit back and prioritize their goals. What is their goal in life? What do they really want to do in life? The learning they achieve in the higher education courses should align with these goals. It is not about passing and getting good grades in the courses any longer. It is no longer about cramming the concepts. It is about actually understanding and comprehending the concepts. If the concepts are not well-understood, the students will not be able to apply these concepts in their next phase of life, viz., actual job scenarios. On the other hand, if the concepts are well-understood, good grades will follow. At the higher education level, it is no longer about cramming the concepts, it is about application of concepts across courses, across disciplines, and finally later in life. After all, earning a degree in a particular area is not just a roll of paper. It is much greater than that. Earning a degree in higher education is the harbinger of earning bread and butter for the rest of one’s life.

Observations of a Professor with four eyes!!

Emoji credit:

With the vast expanse of information available and required to be learned for a particular course, it is definitely not possible to cram it. It is more beneficial if other methods, viz., visual aids, practical applications, etc. are used to experientially learn it. There are tools, like SafeAssign, and Turnitin, available now-a-days to aid the professors to catch plagiarism. There are online browsers like Respondus Lockdown to prevent online cheating. Students may even try to out-smart these tools, but what may not be out-smarted is the experience in teaching gathered over the years by an eccentric professor. A professor with four eyes!!

Remember that working as a software professional, a person always has access to software manuals to look-up the correct syntax as well as the Internet to get help. But there is a difference between getting help through manuals and internet versus copying the entire solution. Also, as they say it, even copying requires brains!!

I would like to share some interesting anecdotes.

Scenario 1 – Grades without Brains!!!

It is true that in the software profession, it is not required to memorize the commands, as manuals are always available at hand. But it is important to learn the concepts and techniques of programming. It is important to learn where and how these concepts can be applied in a programming language and can analogously be applied to another programming language. Therefore, you will find that home quizzes are given and many times the use of IDE is allowed in tests to try out the commands. After all, it is not about memorizing the commands, but about learning how to apply them. Before I go ahead about the point that is being made here, I would like you to go through following article/response on Internet that set me thinking:

There are cases when quizzes and tests have problems which require students to complete the missing part. It is one thing to look for solutions on the internet, but it is another to copy without understanding. This will only lead to “grades without brains” and to the situation as illustrated above. This has been observed in submissions wherein solutions look so neat but when executed they run into errors. There are also problems when the method signature has been provided, but since the student’s submission has been taken from the internet, there is a mismatch between the provided method signature and the submitted method, resulting in errors. Again, a case of copying without understanding.

I have encountered cases of students innocently asking if they could be helped with their error in an online quiz or even a test (even remote online test!) where the method signature of calling method was already provided, but they are getting an error. The reason… you guessed it!! The required method was copied from the internet, resulting in a mismatch between the method signature of the method call and the actual method. There is a mismatch in the data types of parameters or return type, or simply a one-to-one correspondence does not exist between the argument passed in the original method call and the parameters of the new method written. Ah well!!

Scenario 2 – Which Tire?

Well! Everyone has heard this one! The truly passionate and devoted Prof. James Bonk whose Chemistry classes were actually termed as “Bonkistry”, and one of his rather notorious flat tire story. If not, then please go through the following reference:

But I am providing a twist here. I am not talking about a flat tire excuse here and am not interested in asking student(s) about which tire was flat.

Here is my suggested solution if the students are suspected to have copied the solution from somewhere else.

Ask the suspected students (privately!!) to just answer one question, give the name(s) of the other student(s) that you collaborated with on the project.

It is just not possible to have projects not only match and have a similar storyline (if everyone had to work on and submit their own project), with similar statements that match line-by-line having only variable names changed… and sometimes across sections!!

Remember, a professor with four eyes is at work here, who does not require plagiarism software aids. Well! So to say, with experience added over the years, every professor has those four eyes (both figuratively and literally!!). That maybe one of the reasons for us being called “Eccentric”!!


My advice to the students is that learning is a virtue. Always aim for a better learning; a learning that will stay for a lifetime, and good grades will follow. You have selected this career path for a reason and that reason should not be belittled. It should not happen that lack of practice and preparedness causes your dreams to crash during the very first few job months, lest in the interview. If a professor is strict on grades, it is for a reason. If a professor is firm with the due dates, then you are getting trained for the real-world deadlines. If you need to multi-task between a number of assignments in different courses, you are being trained and prepared as a multitasker for real-world scenarios. If you need to remember and apply the concepts learned in one course to another course, you are being trained to remember the skills for a longer period of time, so that you may eventually apply them at your workplace.

From the blog CS@Worcester – Professor's Tales by Dr. Shruti Nagpal and used with permission of the author. All other rights reserved by the author.