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The class was great up until the Final Exam. It still haunts me to this day. The only recommendation I would give is to be more explicit and detailed in the assignments. You will get a 50% if something assigned isn't perfect. Cool Professor and overall a nice dude who knows his shit. Would recommend.
This class was super easy, it was basically just the labs portion of STATS 13 but just that for a whole quarter. We had 5 total projects, with an optional "no harm" final exam, which wasn't really needed since the projects were really easy to complete by following the directions. Alan was really excited to teach the class, and was super enthusiastic the whole quarter!
As of 2020, this class is pretty much new, and top it off with relaxed/optional grading policies from the COVID-19 quarantine and BLM protests, I think it's safe to say I didn't experience this class as it was intended to be. However, from what I experienced, this class was just alright to be honest. Professor Barreca is a really chill and understanding guy with a really lenient grading policy. His final is no-harm (it was like this even before the protests), and although it was initially listed as an exam, he changed it to be a project. He also has 2 free passes for projects, where you can turn two of them 2 weeks late no questions asked (although pretty much all of our projects had this extension because he was writing the tutorials throughout the quarter and usually didn't finish on time). Even more, he has some policy where if you did bad on one project, he'll replace it with the score of the next project if it's better. And lastly, he does a GPA scale instead of a 100 point scale, so if you get a 50% overall, then you actually just got a 2.0/C-, since merely "coding is half the battle." Your grade pretty much just depends on 5 projects + check-ins (sort of like halfway marks in completing the projects), as well as multiple choice quizzes that correspond to the check-ins. Not gonna lie, the quizzes weren't bad, because they were almost exactly based off of the tutorial text, but you really have to be careful, because they're typically "which is the right code for this outcome" type of questions, so you might miss a parenthesis or capitalization and choose a "mostly" right one, but wrong one nevertheless. Also, the later quizzes were "mark all that apply," where you had to check all the errors in some code, often using concepts from other tutorials. Once again, these quizzes were based on a 4.0 grading scale, usually with 4 questions, but you still get 0.5 points for every wrong answer (so like 3/4 would be 3.5/4.0, or a B+/A-).
As mentioned in another review, lectures are once a week for 3 hours, which can get pretty long, but he actually starts 10 minutes late on purpose and lectures for about 30-40 minutes (with the exception of like the first lecture), and the rest of the time is left for you to follow his R tutorials. During lecture, he sometimes makes you do some brief exercises drawing out graphs with paper/pencil or Google Drawing, and you share them with your assigned groups. Most of the communication between groups, the class, and professor/TA's is done on Slack, although I'm not entirely sure if this will continue, since it seems that this was a virtual platform accommodation (although Professor Barreca also purposely did this so that we'd be familiar with a common industry platform). I honestly stopped going to lecture halfway through the quarter because most of the classtime was used for independent work, and even the in-class activities weren't actually graded, but were good nevertheless to immerse yourself into the material. Professor Barreca also has this philosophy where sharing code is part of the collaboration process, so he would actually encourage students to share their entire code for projects with their groups on slack.
As for the tutorials and content, Professor Barreca makes it clear that he hates how the stats classes teach R, so he teaches his own approach, where you kinda work backwards and try to understand what your message is with data qualitatively, and then use R/coding/graphs to make that possible. In theory, it sounds great, but during a lot of his lectures, he made pretty abstract analogies to reinforce this idea that didn't quite make sense in all honesty. His tutorials are listed to take around 20 minutes (although I always took double the time personally), and as long as you actually followed them in R as you went through them, you would pretty much have the final projects ready to submit once you finished the tutorials. The earlier ones are pretty much a step-by-step process to making the projects, but the last few are more vague and require you to do more of the thinking. Overall though, I felt like we were handheld a little too much, as we were basically given all the code in the tutorials, but this was probably more a result of my personal approach to the class. If you actually took the time to make a doc with common code and understand the logic behind the tutorials, then the class will serve you well; however, you honestly can get by just as easily by just copying and pasting the code. The tutorials also had a ton of really neat GIFs that make you grin, so I gotta give Prof. Barreca credit there.
The actual grading for the projects is pretty much just dependent on coding notation/format (like commenting everything you write), as well as your choice of design for the graphs that you create (you compare the default graph that his code creates versus changes you make yourself). You don't really make original code on your own, so that's not really grading criteria. It reminded me a lot of Geography 7, where we were being judged on aesthetics, rather than our ability to code logically. Also, pretty much all of the projects have an extra credit opportunity worth 0.2 points (out of 4.0), and although I didn't do them all, I feel like this is where you get more opportunities to make your own code.
Overall, the class was kinda hectic, since it was all new to everyone, but over time, Professor Barreca mastered the ins and outs needed to put the class together. He's a great, understanding, and cheesy professor with a lot of cool stories, and I was able to take away a handful of really good habits in R. However, don't expect to become a coding master through this class; unless you really take time to understand the logic of the code and piece together the projects yourself, you'll find this class as more of a graph-making/ggplot2 class.
Professor Barreca is one of my favorite professors at UCLA and I only say that about very few professors. Not sure why there are such bad reviews or experiences from other students, but I took his class online during the pandemic and BLM movement. He was extremely empathetic and flexible, prioritizing our learning and mental health, unlike many other professors during this time. He understood that the current events have an unprecedented and large impact on students ability to focus on academics and also saw an opportunity to practice the things we've learned in real life, and testing our knowledge through strict grading and rigidity was not necessarily the most productive nor the priority in such a momentous time in history. This was also the first time I felt like a professor really tried to make coding easy to understand and cared about students' learning rather than shoving us a bunch of code, not explaining anything, and expecting students to figure it out. I'm super appreciative of his approach and perspective on education as I was really worried about taking this class due to previous experience with stats and professors "teaching" R.
I took this class during a pandemic and during the BLM protests. Instead of being difficult and self-centered, Alan made the last two projects optional and no harm. We were assigned 5 projects over the course of 10 weeks. We met once a week for 3 hrs (yes it is very long) and we had project check-ins every even week. We were assigned to groups and our class communicated through slack. From the beginning of the quarter, Alan made the final optional and no harm. He was very understanding if you didn't finish a check-in or didn't finish the project. He cared about your mental health and wanted you to understand how to code. Each project had a set of tutorials that walked through step by step of what to do and why you're coding this way. The projects usually took 3-7 hours a week and you could get most of the project tutorials done within class. He made the coding projects very straight forward (I suck at coding btw) and if you needed help, you could ask the class or your group (you could share your code with each other as well). I do not understand how Alan Barreca has a 2.0 rating on Bruinwalk, but I highly recommend his class!