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As a person Alpers is a really nice guy. He's the type of guy I'd like to have a beer with, nice grandfatherly type. He is an incredible knowledge and mind, and has a million stories to tell (which he is only too happy to...) As a professor he's not so good. Which is unfortunate because he's been doing this 40 years. Anyway his lectures are incoherent and filled with rambling. They always go over 5-10 minutes. He frequently cancelled office hours, and if you did go to office hours he tended to (Again) ramble for 20 minutes for a 2 minute question. So basically office hours would get you one or two questions in. His readers were really particular and difficult also.
My biggest beef was the factory-like way he taught the class. The way he graded was based on a straight numerical scale. Most history professors give you "room for improvement" so if you bombed the midterm, and aced the final, your grade leans more toward the final. Not Alpers. You mess up in the beginning, this is with you for the rest of the class, no matter how hard you work. Additionally, it was clear he was using slides from 10 years ago. He mass reproduces this class.
With all that said Alpers is such a nice guy I didn't mind the class too much. And the format of the papers and finals is reasonable, the issue was he just didn't teach the material well! I went to nearly every class, yet I found myself self-teaching everything by the time I got to studying for the final. The reason: His lectures were so off track, and so filled with rambling that you could barely get the main point across. In fact, it's better to not attend lecture, and just review for stuff on your own.
As a history major, I'm pretty accustomed to doing little to none of assigned readings and pulling A's or A-'s by going to class and taking decent notes most of the time. Alpers' class was no different (got an A-), though it was admittedly a little more difficult. There were two 5-7 page papers about specific readings (the only ones I did for the entire class) each worth 30% of your grade and a pretty big final (10 IDs, 2 short essays, 1 long essay, all of which he picks from a much longer list that he gives ~a week in advance) worth 40%. The papers were somewhat difficult because they weren't standard history papers; one was a reflective, analytical opinion essay about 3 really old primary sources, and the other was a critical book review on a ~300 page book about civil independence war in Kenya. Alpers is very open to talking about your grade and he's real reasonable (his reader gave me a C+ on the 1st paper and marked me down for doing things that Alpers told me were OK to do. I went and showed it to him, he personally read my paper and changed the grade to an A- a few days later).
As a professor, I thought Alpers was pretty decent. He's a pretty good lecturer and uses organized PowerPoint presentations which he elaborates on in class. His lectures are clear and he puts the powerpoints online. My only knocks on him are that 1) he sometimes elaborates too much and gets into stuff you don't need to know (he's got a ridiculous amount of knowledge, awesome if you're really interested in the subject) and 2) he went over the hour and 15 minutes almost every time, though not by much. There are multiple readings for every lecture that I never did, never felt the desire or need to. If you just go to class and take good notes on what he says (the pp's are just general outlines, his actual lecturing is where most of the info for the final comes from), you should be fine. And if youre really into African history, Alpers is defintely for you.
Prof. Alpers is a wonderful guy and all that, but he is not that great of a teacher. He rambles a little during his lecture and seems intent on going over the alotted lecture time every single day. Most of the information he lectures is, while mildly interesting, completely irrelevant come test time. He pulls random ideas for essays for his test questions that have little to nothing to do with what he has been lecturing on in class. Alpers would be great to discuss things with at a cocktail party, but as a teacher he is really not up to par.