Monday, November 19, 2007

Criticizing my scholarship

This one is a highly different blog. I'm writing this to put my mind at ease as since there are certain details that needs to be answered to. I might forget all of what I will write here now, consequences of being older.

First up is an introduction to the said scholarship. The CHED scholarship entails me to give a return service of 2 years. The detail that I forgot to read about is whether I am deeply required to finish the said graduate studies.

So, I'm from Iligan City. I chose Mindanao State University-Iligan Institute of Technology as the delivering institution. I chose MSU-IIT rather than University of the Philippines-Los BaƱos because during the summer term, I would be required to be on campus. Choosing Iligan City relieves me of the problem of having to search for a place to stay. My officemate agreed to study at the same school.

The graduate degree in MSU-IIT is non-thesis Master in Information Technology. 6 units per semester for 4 total semesters plus 9 units during the summer term for 2 summers which equates to 42 total units. THIS WAS THE POSTED TOTAL NUMBER OF UNITS AS SUBMITTED TO CHED and the same information given to all participating institutions.

Upon submitting the application to MSU-IIT, we were given the go ahead to enroll. Presumably, the school and their instructors know that we have to travel overnight just to reach Iligan City. The suggested mode of instruction was set to be distance education. Upon meeting the instructors for Computer Organization and Data Structures, I was confident that this would be similar, or if not better than, the University of the Philippines-Open University system. Already, we were given an assignment by the Comp Org instructor. The Data Struc instructor instructed us that he would be providing us with notes by email.

So the first semester is on its way. We returned to Silliman, assignments in hand and immediately got to work on it upon arrival. Upon finishing, we submitted our Comp Org assignment and immediately asked for the next thing to do. Now here comes the strange part: our instructors had trouble emailing us back. Successive email messages for almost over a month entailed nothing and it became a joke between my officemate and I on whether we'd get any communication or not at all. The Comp Org instructor later informed of the unfortunate incident regarding their connection and we were to get our next assignments once we would be done with our teaching assignments in Silliman. Which meant to say that we were to go immediately to Iligan for our classes and this would be only during the semestral break (roughly 2 weeks). So, okay, I guess we didn't have any choice. They were the delivering institution and we were the students. It'd be awkward for students to do the demanding in this situation.

And so to the semestral break where we were given roughly two weeks to work on what they asked us to work. A semester worth of discussion would be crammed up in just that short of span of time. We wondered how they would be able to do it. In Comp Org, we were asked to read about journals about nanotechnology and Red Star and Yellow Star. In Data Struc, we were asked to report about linked list operations (which was fine for me because I knew about the subject already). Oh yeah. No final exams of any sort. And another thing, since it was already the end of the semester, we were given an Incomplete grade (two of numerous INCs that we would garner for the rest of our graduate studies).

Now here comes the fun part. As I indicated that there would only be two total years of schooling, the coordinator explained that it wasn't so. There would be an extra semester that would be for the Special Project. We were surprised at this. Our scholarship was only for two years and here they were suddenly changing the curriculum. My officemate and I decided to continue with our studies. What's one more semester? Surely, with how cheap the IIT tuition was, we wouldn't have any problems financially come the time when the scholarship ran out.

So, for the 2nd semester, we took Computer Graphics and Operating Systems. Were things going to be better after the initial guffaw in the first semester? Hell no! It worsened. All semester long, we emailed and we emailed to the instructors and we got more excuses about the connection being lost. How about during December? Who's kidding who? IIT instructors disappear during Christmas break. We waited until the second semester ended so that we could face them once more. We thought that, at least, it wouldn't be two weeks of intensive reading.

It was still the same. The Computer Graphics instructor asked us to make a graphical program in two weeks. What? Why couldn't you have told us in the middle of the semester? At least we would have gotten more time to do it and at the luxury of our office computers compared to having to rent one from an internet cafe. And more readings about virtual clothing, virtual trees, virtual leaves, etc. As for Operating Systems subject, at least we got better handouts but then, handouts don't explain anything. The instructor did hold some classes and even promised a final exam for us a way of evaluation (aside from the research paper that he wanted). The result? No final exam (again).

At least the summer term was technically better. We were sort of juggling around 5 subjects (3 regular subjects for summer and the 2 from the 2nd semester). My officemate was complaining about Programming Languages because we were IT students and not ComSci students. Well, there was nothing that could be done because, as the coordinator said, every graduate student passes through the terrifying Prog Lang instructor. All in all, we breezed through IT Management and Project Management. Both subjects were taught together under one schedule. If somebody can tell me the difference, please feel free to holler at me. Damn teacher got a lot of money out of two subjects taught as one. And it was funny. You had to text the instructor whether there were going to be classes.

Anyway to sum it all up, we had another subject (Artificial Intelligence) where the assignments were placed online but we were never told about it so were given another incomplete grade again. One subject (Expert Systems) had an assignment where we were just told that she (the instructor) expected us to make a mistake (and we did) and we were never explained what to do next.

Things got worse as we were nearing the end of our second year.

For the 2nd summer, I insisted that I wouldn't take any subjects because I wanted to complete everything before I tackle the next ones. The coordinator insisted that we enroll in Data Communications and Research Seminar (a stupid 1 unit subject where we would propose our Research Project). So we did. As I completed all my requirements for Artificial Intelligence and Multimedia Systems during the summer, I was also doing my proposal which seemed to never end because the instructor kept on asking what project I wanted. She kept on asking for my ideas and then shoot them down saying that they were undergraduate type of projects. So, I surrender myself to her telling her that it would be much better if I tap her projects, at least it's a REAL project to her.

And so, another semester passes and then suddenly we're informed that we're to take a comprehensive exam. We were shocked. This was never mentioned ever before. There would be a 6-subject comprehensive exam. As the semester progressed and the correspondence kept on, it became 4 subjects (Data Structures, Computer Organization, Operating Systems, and Programming Languages). I wonder if you would be able to say, "How are YOU going to take the comprehensive exam when all YOU did was read about journals?" If you would, I would kiss you.

So we took a comprehensive exam that I knew that I would surely fail. Comp Org was hell because our teacher (who was the coordinator of the IT graduate studies program) just kept on smiling and joking about it. Data Struc was hell too. We were doing the report about linked list operations only.

Anyway, we finally finished that part and another funny thing just happened. We were just informed that we passed but we never got to see an official score or paper stating that we passed our comprehensive exam. Talk about luck?

The final straw was when we enrolled in Project Seminar for the 2nd time (we ended up failing the first time because we never got to complete our incomplete grade). The new teacher had doubts in letting us enroll. It was a regular semester and he wanted us to be present in Iligan City for the last 2 months of classes. Talk about distance education.

Oh yeah, when we got into our third year of our graduate studies, the new coordinator suddenly told me that there was a residency rule of 4 years in MSU-IIT. If you couldn't finish in 4 years, your subjects are toast except for some 9 units (of I don't know whose choice). Wow! When we started out, this was never mentioned. Now that I'm on my third year, I have to hurry up and finish.

So there. The sad story of studying in MSU-IIT.

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