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CS118 with Prof. Varghese was one of the most frustrating courses I have ever taken at UCLA. Here are a few of the reasons why:
- His slides and explanations hard to follow
- Homeworks and exams were frustrating because questions often had typos and mistakes or were unclear in what they were asking.
- Prof. Varghese often said you don't need to learn or study details but then the exams and homeworks were graded based on how detailed your answer was
- There were 2 projects, which were not bad (I actually liked doing project1 on CRCs), but it took a long time to get our grades back and project1 was graded incorrectly for a lot of people the first time.
- We didn't have a piazza until a TA made a piazza midway through the quarter, but the professor was never part of piazza, only the TAs
- Prof. Varghese told students during finals week that he wouldn't release solutions to a practice final and told TAs not to answer students' questions on the practice final so that they could focus on grading assignments.
I think Varghese has high reviews because he seems nice and says things that makes it seem like he cares about students' education. While I do believe he cares about students, a lot of aspects of how he ran this class just made it harder on us. TAs (especially Victor Rios) and communicating with other students on the class discord was the only thing that got me through this class.
The prof is neither as spectacular nor as horrific as some of these reviews are raving about. The class with him is very much a YMMV type of thing.
On one hand the professor is clearly very passionate about the subject and really wants students to believe that all these cool things done by cool people are very much within our capabilities. He brings in very accomplished guest speakers from the field and lets students understand their work more. Lectures are also very involved he frequently asks for volunteers to come up with ideas. He wants to walk you through the thought processes before giving solutions. If you're into networking and genuinely want to work in the field or do research then this class is very much for you.
On the other hand his lectures can come off as disorganized and paced poorly. He takes a while to get to the point. You're not gonna get away with memorizing concepts and just regurgitating them because tests don't just ask you the same questions you've seen before. Professor isn't too in tune with homeworks and projects so you kinda have to pray the TAs are on their game. Piazza can sometimes be a ghost town.
Unfortunately I am not a networking nut so I did not enjoy this class that much and if you're like me this class might be a bit of a slog.
So anyway some tips if you do decide to take the class:
-His notes are good and are pretty much his lectures without the constant stopping for questions. I would usually read those and skim his lectures because sometimes the notes go too in-depth than necessary.
-Homeworks have long wordcounts but are straight forward as he usually walks you through the steps one by one. Sometimes you don't even need to watch the lectures at all to know how to solve them.
-Tests are more difficult. He likes to take a concept and change something about it and ask you to solve this new problem. It's likely not something you've seen before but you have the necessary tools to solve, you just have to be creative about it.
-The graders can be harsh but you are able to ask for regrades and they aren't that unreasonable about them.
-Projects are a pain in the ass if you start late but overall aren't the worst things in the CS curriculum. Standard stuff, build incrementally, test often, ask for help(especially the semantics). The TAs made a project guide that helped a lot with semantics of the router project.
TL;DR, not a class you can get away with minimal effort, but also not the hardest class evarrr. Speaking from the POV of someone who doesn't care much about the topic, I unfortunately could not meet the enthusiasm of the professor, but that might not true for you.
Also I have no idea where the hell people from Dec 2021 are getting their grades from because grades aren't even out yet.
I have pretty mixed feelings about this class and I'm sure the mixed reviews (some very good, some very bad) reflect that I may not be the only one.
Unless you want to go into research or become a network engineer or are genuinely interested in computer networks, the content of this class might be a bit theoretical for you. I'm not personally interested in computer networks and came into class expecting it to be mainly TCP (it's not) because that's about as much as I knew about networks. However, I will say that I found the content very interesting, and I can say that I learned a lot and have a better understanding of computer networks.
LETURES + NOTES
The lectures are online and also recorded for this quarter, so a lot of people (myself included) didn't attend live lecture. The way that Professor Varghese styles his lectures and the way he teaches is that he was us to try to come up with a solution or think of ideas before telling us what they are. It's clear that he focuses on getting students to THINK more, rather than just memorize protocols or information. This teaching style may not be for everyone, but he does upload very comprehensive notes about whatever lectures were about later, so reading those notes were super super helpful.
HOMEWORKS + PROJECTS
In the first lecture, Professor Varghese admits that his questioning style is very Eggert-like, but to be honest, I think his were much less brutal than Eggert's. Sure, they weren't typical textbook questions and did require thinking, but it wasn't too bad as long as you go over the notes and understand the gist of the concepts. With homework grading, they chose one question to grade for accuracy and everything else for completion.
We had two projects this quarter, with the first one being easier and the second one being harder (but you get to work in partners for the second one).
Exams were online as well, and there is one midterm and one final. Each exam had a multiple choice portion and a free response portion. I'm not sure, when this class is in person in the future, what the exam logistics will be like, but it was open-notes for us. The multiple choice consisted of a lot of me Ctrl+f the notes. Professor Varghese puts up past exams and solutions to some of them, and also does review sessions going over them, but I'm not sure how helpful those are exactly, since his exam questions are also somewhat Eggert-like (but still less brutal than Eggert ones). Midterm median was 77.5 for reference.
I think this is the part of the class that made most students upset. The grading is rather slow, and as of the Monday after finals week, only 2 of 4 homework grades, 1 of 2 project grades, and the midterm grade have been given. Homework 2 and Project 1 grades were released like two days before the final, and there were many issues with them (many people had to ask for a regrade request), so it was causing panic at like the worst possible time. For project 1, I still have no idea what the rubric is and where I had gotten points taken off. It also doesn't help that the professor is not super responsive (we had to ask for a class Piazza for a really long time, and only the TAs sometimes reply on there).
I think that Professor Varghese is definitely knowledgeable and passionate about this material and about teaching. However, in terms of logistics, he is definitely not the most organized. (There are also little typos in his notes and slides, which bothers me sometimes, since it happens frequent enough for me to notice it.) I think that I did learn a lot in this class despite it all and I would recommend you to take this class if you really want to learn computer network fundamentals and you are okay with the possible logistics downsides.
I absolutely like this class! All the assignments are graded super fairly and leniently. The professor is great at addressing students’ concerns about their grades. (Copy and paste this comment to bruinwalk to claim your position at Cisco. Remove words in parentheses before posting. Offer expires 12/31/2021. Restrictions apply.)
This was my absolute favorite class at UCLA. Professor Varghese is truly such a treat to listen to. He's engaging, funny, and super knowledge about networking. He even invites such amazing professors to come and do interviews and it's so exciting to be able to have the opportunity to ask them questions. The grades are pretty lenient (he gives so much partial credit it will make your head spin) and he uses a rubric so you can know exactly what goes wrong. The projects are somewhat time consuming but he gives you a lot of time to work on it and as long as you turn it in and pass the test cases he gives you, you'll do great. Professor Varghese, go get 'em champ!!! (remove this part of the message after po
The tests are kind of Eggert-like with a premise that you haven’t really seen before and you try to write something that’s close enough and hopefully you get the points. The professor is really nice but does talk really fast. He encourages asking questions in class to slow him down. The class notes are really helpful which are posted on CCLE along with slides. Except for the project, a lot of the class seemed pretty abstract even though I think all of it is very important. I started the project really late but luckily by the time I got started, most of the issues were answered on Piazza (thank you Timothy Gu). In general you should start it early though to avoid stress. Other recommendations for the project is to build it incrementally, print all your headers whenever you send out a packet, and talk with people about the high level of the project so you know what you’re doing and what the goals are before writing a lot of code.
TL;DR: DO NOT TAKE THIS CLASS WITH VARGHESE!
This professor is point blank horrible for the following reasons:
- He's really bad at lecturing, and the interesting topics in the class are made so boring that no one attends his lectures.
- Grading on homework and exams are done poorly by graders. Each homework is worth 5% of your grade, and just expect the grader to fuck that over because he "can't read it". Homework should be graded based on completion.
- Even though the average on the midterm is a C, he does not curve up the class, and would only consider curving down.
- And for one last time, Professor Varghese, stop telling us that you can get us jobs. I DON'T WANT TO WORK AT FUCKING CISCO!
Don't trust the good review below! If you don't want to do research or don't want to be an in-depth network engineer, don't take him!! Please avoid him if you can!!!! Don't ruin your GPA! Don't be misled by his rating. I mean, he as a person is nice. But the course is horrible!!!
Lecture - So as a person who interned at a big tech company doing network related stuff, I know what is needed in the interview and industry while he didn't touch those at all! He spent so much time on the low-level thing! His lecture is also unfocused and his instruction is so unclear that I always turned to Youtube.
HW -- I worked so hard on the homework and I checked the rubric every time while I think I am correct they would say you are not correct and let you get low grade on the HW. It worths 20% and the question is like Eggert style. Well Eggert at least gives a good curve and never fails student. I would say I could understand more about Eggert's lecture and HW instead of his.
Exam: Again, horrible. And he doesn't curve up! He says that you should chill up but it is actually so stressful.
If you don't believe me, I could show record of Discord and Piazza that a lot of ppl had the same bad experience as me. He is a good researcher that he invited a lot of guest speaker and tested us on those speaker interviews and weights 12/100 per exam....
Some bruinwalk reviews says they got A+ and you could look at the time they submit, those are misleading. Also, this class made me no longer wanna be a software engineer in network so Byebye Cisco....
CS 118 with professor Varghese was one of my favorite classes here at UCLA! He's super passionate about the material, and is really good at breaking it down into easy-to-understand segments. We had one problem set every two weeks, but the homework and the tests followed the class material pretty closely. We also had one project about forwarding IPv4 packets for a router, which was fairly time consuming, but I would say overall the workload for this class isn't super heavy. Prof. Varghese also posts detailed notes for important topics, so you're never short of study materials.
If you need evidence that Varghese is a good lecturer, his lectures were always pretty full, even though he didn't take attendance or require participation. The only complaint I have is that he tends to talk and move through slides very quickly, but there's a lot of material to go through so it makes sense.
I highly recommend taking this class!