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This class felt like literally the biggest waste of time I've had so far at UCLA. Professor Ali put nearly half the class to sleep each lecture and just spoke without giving any actual substantive information. His lecture slides are just a bunch of quotes from whichever reading is this week's with some photos. He doesn't record lectures, and his posted lecture slides have very little information. This class feels very discombobulated, disorganized, and incoherent. While the topics are relevant and oftentimes interesting, I felt like there was little connection between topics. Participation is a huge percentage of your grade, and because of this, people seemed to have just spoken in discussion just to get the participation point without actually saying anything relevant.
I definitely do not recommend this class if you want to feel like your tuition money is being put to good use.
I have mixed feelings about this course. I took it my first quarter at UCLA and would not take it again. I took it for my major, but it's not an easy GE if you're looking for one. I found it stressful, time-consuming, and at times ambiguous. But I keep realizing I did learn a lot from this class lol.
The material was all interesting if you're into globalization, culture, war, inequality, etc. It did feel like the course was trying to do a lot at once since we covered so many topics in so little time. It would be easy to fall behind, so you have to stay on top of stuff.
Every week you had about 100 pages of reading (all free, he uploads PDF's), two 1 hr 15 minutes lectures (though he frequently finished early), and a discussion post and 3 replies. Section was mandatory and section participation was a big part of your grade. There was one midterm and one final. I wouldn't say grading was "easy," but it wasn't awful. It was kind of difficult to understand what they wanted from you, because there wasn't a rubric and what they were looking for was generally unclear. I think the TA told us to just focus on making an argument, but even that didn't seem to translate in some of the grades we got. That part made me nervous about my grade in the end.
Although the professor wasn't super energetic or entertaining, lectures were okay IMO. I'd describe him as a young armchair academic, so he can come off as a bit condescending. Since he was pretty intimidating and not that approachable, I was a little scared to ask for help. I ended up finding him reasonably helpful when I asked for assistance, but my friend had a really bad experience asking for help. He will respond to emails and is willing to work with you in office hours. Just be prepared for a little bit of an attitude lol.
Midterm and final were online. He gives you about a week-long time frame to finish the test, during which you choose a block of time that is convenient for you. That was nice and convenient, and I recommend using at least a few days to study before going into the test. Both tests were open-note and short-answer format, so you really have to study what the readings are trying to say and how the readings relate to each other. The midterm was harder than the final, because he abridged the final because of the TA strikes. It was actually really challenging to finish the short answers in the amount of time we got (I think 1.5 hours?) and I was stressed the whole test.
Speaking of the readings, you HAVE to do them. It's not like he quizzes you on them or anything, but they're really important to the tests. I think I would've had a much harder time if I hadn't done them. I recommend waiting until the night of lecture to do the readings because he goes over them briefly in lecture. Take good notes in lecture and you'll have a way easier time going over the readings, because you can just add onto the lecture notes while you read.
Overall, not the worst, not great. I'd give it a 6/10. You could do a lot worse, but if you're looking for an easy GE, this isn't it.
The content of the class is interesting. Professor Hamdan is extremely responsive to emails and willing to help. Weekly posting and online take-home midterm and final during the week. Generous grading. I recommend taking his class.