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I went into Ls30b with really high hopes after thoroughly enjoying 30a with another professor. Never have I had my interest in a subject flipped 180 degrees by the actions of one professor until this past quarter. To anyone thinking about taking this class with McCully, I intend to leave the most honest and helpful review explaining why the class may be an easy A, but not worth taking with her.
To start, before each class, you will be expected to watch a video or two outlining the subjects that will be covered in lecture. These are graded. When you get to lecture, you'll likely find that the pre-class assignments are almost word for word what she regurgitates in her slides. Moreover, these pre-class videos, and her lectures are rather misleading and shallow- in other words, they don't explore to the proper extent the content you'll be tested on. Thanks to my ability to piece together the rather self-explanatory concepts, and my great TA and LA, I did fine in the class, and I'm sure almost all of you reading this review will as well. The problem is this class is also participatory. She loads an insane amount of clicker questions that really don't prove all that helpful, so if you are like me and prefer to learn at your own pace (whether that be fast or slow), and are more independent academically, you will be punished. I often sat in the 1:15 hour lecture thinking to myself what a waste of time class was– the only reason I showed up was for the participation grade. I also think it is important to highlight the sheer weight given to utterly redundant assignments (weekly quizzes, homework, coding labs, clicker questions, a capstone project that culminates during finals week, and 3 part midterms that include creating a study guide as part of your grade). And if you think any of the above seems appealing, just wait until you take class with her and you'll be sorely disproven.
Let's now get onto some more pressing concerns with McCully. I firmly believe she cares about educating people, and is passionate about her career in marine biology. She is often receptive to help, and provides a great deal of support in the form of review sessions. So reading this many of you may be wondering why this is a "pressing concern..." well these things really only hold true if you are either on her good side, or fall into line with what she wants to see in a student. I provided her with some constructive feedback, given that she is a new associate professor, and having learned from other, more effective teachers, I figured someone who is so passionate about learning would care to adapt the way she teaches. She initially seemed rather receptive to the feedback, but always included that "she had never heard it from other students," or other subtle cues to make your feedback feel more invalid than constructive, until eventually simply not following up on your emails for help/concerns. The irony of my interactions with her was that truly almost every student I talked to in my 300+ person class felt the same way about her as me. What I'm trying to say here is that though she may seem incredibly receptive and helpful on the surface, she seems to have real problems with authority, and the notion that her students can and should learn in different ways from her predisposed views on education.
Though many of you reading this review (and those who choose to enroll in the class) will enjoy the slow and redundant approach she takes to education- it certainly drills concepts in your head- I am different, and don't require the same level of "oversight" to learn. I think the biggest determining factor in whether you should take this class is whether you feel as a student that you need someone there to guide you and hold your hand with regard to your early undergrad education. I don't mean this in a condescending way, as for some that is a useful approach to learning. I do, however think, that her approach to education, speaking to us, and listening to us is on par with how a middle or high school teacher would act. To me that is simply offensive and intolerable, especially when dealing with students that attend a university as spectacular us UCLA. There is no real freedom in the class...no freedom to try your best and succeed, or slack and fail. Instead her class feels like something out of a dystopian George Orwell novel where all students think, learn, and talk the same.
So if you are still reading this review with your cursor hovering over the enroll button, I say press it... if what I've outlined above applies to you. But be warned that pressing that button may make you quickly fall out of love with the 30 series (if you ever were in love with it in the first place), and when you wake up bright and early to attend lecture everyday (as it is mandatory), asking yourself why you ever chose to take this class... I hope you remember the review I left.
Dr.McCully is an overall okay professor. I think that the number of assignments for this class was way too much at times. She would assign multiple pre-class videos that ranged from 15 minutes to 45 minutes that have embedded questions on top of homework, labs, and weekly quizzes. And then, on the day of the lecture, she would basically repeat the entire video during the lecture so the lecture just felt kind of useless at times but it was mandatory to go because of Clicker questions. It is a good way to practice concepts though since it kinda just continuously drills it into your head and practice with it. Homework was a fair amount but not too much. Quizzes were not too tough either since you got two attempts. Her midterms and final were fair as well so you will be fine just practicing the practice tests and quizzes. Labs were a lot more difficult than LS30A but I found them to be fun. The most annoying part of the course was the Capstone Project which was split up between 3 weeks and into finals week. Each week we were supposed to make a model, simulate it, document changes, create more changes, and write a final report. It was just very tedious and annoying, especially if your group mates do not help you with anything and on top of all your other work. This class definitely did take a lot of time but Dr.McCully's method of teaching is very tedious, repetitive, and drilling it into your head which can be both good and bad for people. I found it to be annoying at times but helpful at times when I fell behind. Concepts in this class are much more difficult than in LS30A but it was helpful to hear them multiple times. However, she did have a bad habit of going through 20 slides in the last 5 minutes because she was not able to fit her lecture into the allocated time. So, sometimes, things would be left unclear and vague or not brought up until the next lecture.
Avoid Professor McCulley if you can for this class. She is very disorganized both in lecture and outside of lecture. In lecture, she sometimes forgets things and doesn’t know how to explain something, and she’ll just go “meh” and move on leaving the whole class confused. She also skips over important things or doesn’t emphasize certain things enough and there were multiple times students almost got into a fight with her in lecture because she was so poor at explaining something or taught us wrong. She’ll also often have to leave out the end of her lectures because of time or rush through it very quickly, but still keep the homework problems the same, leaving you to spend hours upon hours every weekend trying to learn it yourself. If you have another professor like Jukka, you will most likely avoid these problems. However, what can not be avoided is the absolute waste of time, space, and energy that is the capstone project. Having taken LS30A, I was used to the study guide and collaborative portions of the exams. I find them both to be a waste of time, not help with my learning, often worsen my grade, and also take what should be a simple one day midterm or final into a multiple day event that you have to stress about for over a week. But, this frustration was exasperated tenfold when the capstone project was added to the mix. The professors seemed to have no real grasp of how much work this project actually is. From week 7-10 you had to do different tasks to study a model you made. Week 8 itself took multiple hours to do, on top of the hours long homework we have to do every week. They decided to combine weeks 9 and 10 together because the quarter was running out of time, so that took multiple hours to do. On top of the week 9 and 10 part of the capstone project, the HW for that week took me 5 hours to do because I had to teach myself a whole topic not even touched on in lecture. Then finally, on finals week you have your study guide, individual final (3 hours long!), and on top of that, your capstone final report. For this report, it had to be written, and you basically had to redo week 7-10 all over again by changing an assumption on your original model, so you basically did everything all over again! This is all very disappointing because I really enjoyed LS30A. I say all this bad stuff, but really the only bad part was Prof McCulley's teaching style and the capstone project. I still really enjoy the subject, and the coding labs this quarter were cooler and more cohesive with what we were learning in lecture. This class however was definitely the one I had the most work I have had in a class so far, even more so than chemistry.
Professor McCully is honestly great. It took me a couple weeks to get used to her (and for her to get used to us, since she hadn't taught this class in a long time) but she came out a couple weeks later an incredible lecturer. This class was 1 hour 15 min and typically I'm really bored during class but I actually looked forward to learning new content (I wasn't even excited to learn for bio which is my major, so this series I think in itself is pretty interesting). She makes us do some group work, and the only part of the class that I felt didn't work for me was the homework because she assigned hw on material we covered the week after the hw was due-- but it was all graded on completion so it doesn't matter. She gives us weekly quizzes that I personally think are a great way to see what you know and what you don't, and they're not even hard at all (you get two tries). I would def take her again. It's gonna take some getting used to her but once you do you'll realize how much she cares about the students understanding the material and teaching it right.
Final note: as long as you put in some work, you will 10000% pass, if not with an A. I didn't even study for the final and I aced it, simply because I did the work throughout the quarter. Just some effort and you're all set! You got this!
-6 points extra credit for each test by doing evaluations
-40% of the midterm grade is collaborative exam and study guide
-25% final grade is the final Capstone Project (with a learning team of about 4-5 people).
- there are clicker participation alternatives if you miss class
-homework based on completeness
-several weekly problem-solving sessions to help you furnish your skills
-Learning team Group meetings are outside of class and the teaching schedule can be tough if you are assigned with people who rarely show up. Schedule ahead of time and talk to the instruction team ASAP if there are issues. No need to hesitate -- the professor and TAs are very helpful and approachable!
-talk to classmates and TA and professor during Office hours to help each other on the lab (which can be hard). No penalty for collaboration
-about 5-15 homework problems weekly but they are based on completeness so you only need to try your best! Completeness because you can search for answers online
-the class moves very fast, so go to Office hours and problem sessions as soon as you have questions. The professor and TAs are super helpful.
-or try the campuswide anonymous question asking feature -- no need to feel shy asking questions
Conclusion: Take it with Professor McCully -- you won't regret it!
Best of luck!
I took this class when it was half online and half in-person. Professor McCully was pretty disorganized online and had a bit of trouble trying to fit all the content in the class time. I also felt that she went on tangents sometimes when answering students' questions in class, but in office hours she was a lot better at answering questions thoroughly. In person, she definitely improved her teaching styles. Either way, she does post her slides which are pretty helpful and full of actually interesting examples (like about puffins, a topic she actually studied in her career). Just note that as the quarter progressed, class time consisted of more and more group activities (but they were ungraded).
Homework was graded on completion, and she gave a reasonable amount of homework to do that was due before each Tuesday's lecture. She was super responsive on Campuswire if you needed any help on homework there. Quizzes were also great since we were allowed two tries (highest score was kept), and all questions were either multiple-choice, select-all, drop-down and weren't meant to be tricky at all. Grading on the capstone project seemed lenient too -- was graded based on effort so don't waste too much time perfecting it. Overall, I really liked the class content and taking this professor should be okay if you want an easier A, though I think other professors are definitely better for learning the actual content.
Considering this was McCully’s first quarter teaching a 300 person class at UCLA, I think she did a pretty good job overall for 30B. She managed to conduct hybrid classes without encountering any major problems, and organises the information we need in class in table formats. During in person class, she would walk around to make sure people understood the concept, and is fairly approachable after class too. Her review sessions were super helpful. She created a google doc for people to input all their questions, and went through almost all the questions in depth and referenced class slides.
Tests: She gave us two attempts for each quiz, so as long as you look over the homework solutions before you should be fine. She also ensures that all the midterms and finals’ questions were reasonable. During the review session she mentioned that Shevstov wanted to make a question harder, but she stood up for us and told Shevstov that it would not be representative of the material we learnt. As a result, the final was a great representation of what we actually learnt, no trick questions whatsoever. As long as you study the practice midterms and finals she gives you, it should be pretty straightforward.
Homework: homework is graded based on completion, so even though she assigns a lot of problems to go through, as long as you try your best to show that you put in effort she will give you credit for it.
*since she is a marine biologist, it was cool to hear her talk about ecology and conservation. I heard other profs for 30B did not go through concepts as clearly as McCully did, so if you have questions make sure to ask her through campus wire (she responds within half an hour!!)
Obviously she has a long way to go as a new professor, but she genuinely cares about her students. As long as you pay attention during lecture, you don’t have to study too much for either the midterm and final. Good luck!