PDEng 55: Auto-Fail

I’m not sure which better defines which. Does auto-fail define PDEng 55 or does PDEng 55 define auto-fail?

I’ve failed all three initial assignment submissions this semester, and it certainly wasn’t due to a lack of effort. To put this 100% failure rate in context, 3 friends also share this identical failure rate. Discussion board postings criticizing the quality of marking and mundane reasons for the failed grades have been met with draconian responses or have simply been removed. How ironic for a program that touts its goal of professional education. The atmosphere feels more like the Apple support forums than an engineering education board.

PDEng has always been about referencing and citing supporting information. I try to pretend that I’m writing the assignment for the most inquisitive, impatient 3 year old on the planet. Think something should be common knowledge? Think again. Reference that shit. Think the marker can read past a statement in one sentence and find the supporting evidence in the next? Think again. Make it a run-on sentence if need be, but whatever you do, don’t use a period before finishing up that nukebomb-proof thought.

As an example, let me provide you with just one of the few reasons I failed the latest assignment. It was returned with some rather humorous comments. Among them was the highlighting of a passage and this gem of a comment, ‘Why is this bold?‘ Hmmmm, that’s a really tough question. Not. I didn’t realize using different font effects required explanation. From the comment, it appears as though I need to provide justification for bolding words. I promise I’ll provide explanations for such mind-boggling actions in the future, honest…

PDEng has failed in its objectives. The failure isn’t due to an altogether poor idea or motivating factor. It is very commendable that the University of Waterloo forged ahead to enhance an aspect of the engineering program that isn’t thoroughly taught. However, the execution has meant that any possible benefit of the project has been squandered. Instead of truly educating engineers-in-training and encouraging thoughtful responses to assignments, the tasks have turned into mostly fruitless attempts to appease power-hungry markers. I deem any course where the overarching goal is to write what the marker wants to see, rather than actually learn, a complete, utter failure.

If the University of Waterloo really wants PDEng to be viewed and, more importantly, result in real professional education for engineering students, it must organize the program so that students don’t view it as a form of punishment. Make the assignments actually educate students on the professional and ethical aspects of engineering. Perhaps provide case studies that encourage students to think and analyze, and not simply write the things that will earn them the required ‘Competent’ rating. As it stands, you could fully understand and even convey all the concepts that PDEng attempts to teach, yet still fail assignments due to reasons like the one I mentioned earlier. That sort of ‘incentive’ isn’t conducive to a real effort at learning.

And as a result, I will continue to preach the failures of the PDEng program at all my places of employment. And since I want to inflict maximum damage on the program as it is currently executed, you can be absolutely certain my arguments aren’t in the form of ‘it just sucks’. My personal experiences and reasonable complaints will do far more in any employer’s eye. My only ray of hope comes from the fact that PDEng 55 is the final iteration of the punishment.

14 thoughts on “PDEng 55: Auto-Fail”

  1. Excellent post. Also, now that you mentioned run-on sentences, I think I wrote a couple paragraphs in a few assignments consisting of 1 -2 sentences. That was not marked. However, I was not spared when I did not include a reference about the terrible economic situation.

  2. Kudos to your well-worded, rational response against PDENG55 and PDENG in general. I have long since stopped with the rational responses and have just turned my thoughts into long-winded bitch sessions. Why? Because I went down the rational road in my first workterm pointing out the clear fallacies in PDENG. I was met with a dismissal of my concerns and told that PDENG was here to stay! Well it’s five years since they first started this program and nothing has changed for the better. The independent review of the program will most likely yield no changes, and it will be here to stay to torment future classes. I just hope that even though you have to do each assignment twice, that you will pass without a workshop.

  3. From the UW website about PDENG 57: This course is open only to students in their 4B term who are expected by their department to meet all of their graduation requirements with the exception of PDENG 55 by the end of the Winter 2009 term.

    Clearly this must be a major problem because they had to create a special course for it.

  4. Richard – I think I did the opposite of you. I started off bitching about the course, but when I saw that getting me nowhere, I moderated and now try to provide some constructive feedback. My initial impression is that it’s pretty useless either way. Everything’s pretty much set in stone, and so I just bite the proverbial pillow…

    I seriously hope I don’t need to do PDEng 57, or for that matter, I hope I just pass 55 in one try.

  5. I’m 2B workterm student thinking of not putting up with the crap nemore, pdeng 35 is the worst offering so far and it just makes me hate engineering. I like the program so I may just skip the rest of my PDEngs so I’m just wondering how many in your year did this?

  6. Well, I know it’s a pain, but I certainly wouldn’t suggest skipping the course. Most importantly, you can’t graduate without passing all of them. Whether you like it or not, it’s a fact of life for UWaterloo Engineering.

  7. @D. N. Well there are a couple that just haven’t passed enough, and as Charlie pointed out, will probably not graduate on time.

    For what it’s worth, PDENG35 was the most intensive one. PDENG45 you’ll have to put up with a forced group project where you’ll have to deal with idiots. PDENG55 just becomes nonsensical essays about environmental and corporate responsibility… blah blah blah.

  8. Actually, they added 3 assignments to PDEng 45 so that it’s no longer just a group project. I don’t understand why those responsible for PDEng think that our CSEs aren’t enough education to teach us how to write, and feel the need to burden us with futile make-work during work terms.

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