Sunday, September 13, 2009

Database Tutoring

Last week a friend of mine sent over a craigslist posting, someone looking for a tutor. Here's the ad:
Looking for an experienced SQL Database Systems analyst to help with homework assignments for a graduate level database course. Would like to meet 2 times per week (for 2 hours each session) over the next four months. Evening, weekends or Wednesdays preferred. The candidate must be able to explain the technical to the non-technical. Please reply with resume and availablility.

Course Topics Are:
* Relational Model and Languages ( SQL)
* Database Analysis and Design
* Methodology (Conceptual and Logical Design)
* Social, Legal, etc. Issues
* Distributed DBMSs and Replication
* Object DBMSs
* The Web and DBMSs
* Business Intelligence
I replied immediately and heard back the next day. I sent my resume but I thought the blog would be more appropriate. Apparently it was enough.

We spoke on Saturday for about an hour and I received all the materials necessary to start doing research including a sample database (in Access).

I have to say I'm pretty excited about it. I thoroughly enjoy trying to explain database concepts so that others (non-techies) can understand. It's a Masters level class filled with students from Computer Science and from an Education Technology tract. Bet you can guess which side my "student" falls in.

Seems a little odd that the Educational Technology folks are in the class, but I think it's a good thing. When they need an application in the future, they'll have a much better grasp of what to ask for and hopefully they'll be more involved in the process.

I'll use this space both for reporting on progress and helping to explain things. Wish us luck!


Clever Idea Widgetry said...

Several years ago my wife was completing a 300-level information technology course in her non-IS BS degree at highly-regarded engineering university in Dallas.

There was a two month stretch on application and database development, including a team project. I reviewed the assignments from the professor and was stunned at how incompetent the assignments were. The were jargon laden and nonsensical. It was obvious the prof had zero real-world experience.

I advised the team to present some questions to the prof, to obtain clarity on what the assignment actually entailed. Of course the prof, like all profs, was more interested in his mammoth ego than instructing. They were rebuffed completely and told the assignment's instructions where more than adequate.

Since I couldn't help the team do an assignment I didn't understand, I ended up producing this huge Access application (tables and forms) that was massive overkill.

All eight teams in the class received a grade of C. When my wife saw the other teams work, she was stunned at how much better her team's work was. Some of the other teams didn't even do anything other than a single spreadsheet in Excel.

So my wife complained. The prof said that a C was appropriate. Then my wife said her husband was a DBA and that he reviewed the assignment and expressed that it was an ambiguous and impossible-to-succeed manner of coursework to offer students. That the project she submitted had my approval and tutoring. Still said, "C work". Then she indicated her husband would be contacting the department chair to challenge his competency.

Got an A.

Contacted the university and even though the department chair agreed with me, nothing was done.

F' college.

LewisC said...

Dude. Very nice. I would have signed up too. A chance to mentor AND getting some insight into what's being taught today.

How could a geek, er, I mean a nerd, not be interested. ;-)


oraclenerd said...


i've looked at the syllabus and the assignments (but not the book yet) and it seems to be fairly straight-forward (other than using Access :).

it is amazing what people get away with especially in regards to the black arts of IT. a former colleague was once asked by the Business whether we had Single Sign On capabilities, "Oh, yeah, of course we do.", we didn't.

i think it's pretty easy to get away with especially in our industry. nice work on calling him out though. love that.