How to interact with the instructor

If you have a question about the course material (or any other problem), the methods of interaction (in order of preference) are as follows:

  • a personal visit during office hours
  • a personal visit for which you have made an appointment outside of office hours
  • an email (first choice for off campus students)
  • a phone call

On matters of substance, it is almost always better to talk face to face. Sending email is appropriate in some situations (e.g., notifying us of a typo on homework, telling us that you can't access a file, asking a simple question that only requires a brief response by me). However, it is not the best use of our time if you send us a question by email that will require us to type for 20 minutes but could be answered with a few diagrams on by white-board in less than five minutes. So try to come in person during office hours. We understand that some of you will not be able to come to our office hours because of conflicts with another course. If you have conflict with the office hours, or if you have an urgent question, we can schedule another time for you.

Obviously off-campus students will have to rely on the email and phone as their means of communicating with us and I'll do our best to make those interactions useful for you.

When you have a programming/specification question, it will be helpful if you email your code and bring a print-out as well when you come and see us. That way, we can test your code and see exactly the error you're getting.
When you have problems understanding a particular concept or the material in general, avoid saying things like "I'm totally lost" or "I don't understand anything". You should try to identify where you have gotten lost. So instead you should say "I understood W, X, and Y, but when you started talking about Z on slide 12, I didn't see how...." A more precise question helps us converge more quickly on the problem that you are having. Remember, as they say, part of being a good learner is being able to ask good questions.


Feedback during the course is very important --- both for student and for the instructor. The student needs feedback to determine (1) how he/she is doing in the course and (2) how to make performance-improving adjustments. The instructor needs feedback to determine (1) how well the students are understanding the presented material and (2) how the structure, content, and presentation of the course material can be improved.

In this course, students get feedback from the TA and instructor through comments on quizzes and exams, and by keys for homework and exams, as well as by personal interaction with the TA or instructor. To the extent possible, the TA and instructor will attempt to provide detailed comments regarding proper solutions on the homework, quizzes, and exams.

You should come to see us during office hours any time you have problem (sooner rather than later). Of course, we will get feedback on how well you are understanding the material by grading the homework and exams. However, for immediate feedback, we will often call on students to answer questions during laboratory meetings. Sometimes people feel threatened by this, but they shouldn't. We do this so that both the instructor and student can determine how well the material is being understood. The goal is to have a relaxed classroom atmosphere where we carry on a dialogue: students should feel free to ask questions, and I should feel free to ask you questions to see if I am getting my point across.

Finally, instructors get feedback from you on the end-of-the-semester teaching evaluations. The instructors in the KSU CIS department take these evaluations seriously. Besides giving us vital information on how to improve the course, the evaluations are also included in our yearly reviews by the department and considered when we are up for promotion.

The teaching evaluations that include written comments are the most helpful. You should view the written comment section as an opportunity for you to justify your rankings in the preceding sections. If you have given lower rankings, it is most helpful if you explain why and give some suggestions on how to improve the course. If you have given higher rankings and like particular aspects of the course, then should note the things that you like and that you found helpful.

What do professors do besides teaching

As opposed to smaller colleges and universities that focus on only undergraduate teaching, most large state universities such as Kansas State University are more research oriented. This means that in addition to teaching, most faculty members in the CIS Department at KSU are expected to divide their time between teaching, research, and service activities (serving on departmental committees, and performing tasks that support the scientific community at large). When a faculty member is hired in this department, generally they are asked to devote fifty percent of their time to teaching, forty percent to research, and ten percent to service.

Day-to-day research activities include supervising graduate students as they develop software and write their theses, writing code and experimenting with the software tools that we are developing, writing papers to be published in scientific conferences and journals, and preparing talks about our research to give at various places. Our service activities include serving on departmental committees, serving on program committees for various international conferences (this involves reading and writing reviews for papers submitted to conferences), and serving on review panels for funding agencies that award research grants. We also do travel extensively to collaborate with research partners in academia and industry.

Because KSU encourages these research and service activities, it is expected that faculty members will travel during the semester to participate in conferences, engage in research with collaborators, etc. We try our best to make sure that traveling causes as little disruption as possible in our courses.

This semester, your instructor will be involved in the following activities within the international community:

  • co-leading a work group that is drafting requirements for the AAMI / UL Joint Committee standard on safety in interoperable medical systems
  • organizing the writing on papers related to software certification with various experts in safety-critical systems
  • collaborating with engineers at Adventium Labs on developing an open source implementation of a medical device platform and PCA Pump built using that platform
  • working with FDA engineers on a lecture series related to innovative architectures for medical systems