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Want to spend your nights trying to teach yourself your entire course with a professor who is uncommunicative and unhelpful in every aspect? Do you like non-stimulating slow lectures that don't have 2x speed and have absolutely no direction for any info needed to learn/do well in the class? Take Russell. She has all that & more. Her TAs are kept in the dark and have no idea what she wants (even though these TAs are trying their best), she has an unorganized website that is unnavigable, and her final exam and midterm answer key practice tests are wrong and she doesn't reply to emails, and she uses this class as an opportunity to promote her lab manual from 1992. $53.67? I think not. So how is she still employed, you ask? She's tenured.
This class should be reclassified as a 7 unit course because hell it takes more of your time both in and out of the class than what a 6 unit class even takes. Either way, taking 14BL with Russell has been an interesting ride. So I'm gonna systematically dissect her class with categories.
NOTE: She does NOT give any extra credit on any of the assignments/exams however, she does grade on a strange scale (there are practically no +/- grades but rather just the letter itself). The class is out of 300 points (although not stated in the syllabus, I've done my duty and added up the total points of all assignments).
She had 3 different sets of midterms (all completely different) between the lectures and they tested completely different concepts (even though technically, it was all fair game). The difficulty between each set varied widely and thus grading was not consistent between lectures even though she considers the whole BL class as 'one'. For Fall 2020, the class median was 28-29/35 (dependent on the lecture).
With respect to the final exam, it was arguably easier than the midterm which contradicts what previous quarters have stated - this may be due to the difficulty of the midterm itself where she wanted to balance it all out. However, the final was out of 65
This category is out of 100 points, making it such that 33% of your grade was based on exams.
Labs were allocated 2-3 hours but in general, it took around 1 hour with the online format. This is only considering the synchronous portion. HOWEVER, many lab activities assigned are hella tedious and took 7-8 to complete; she even made some teamwork which is a major hit or miss, and most of the time you're forced to complete an assignment made for 2-3 people on your own. By far this category makes up the bulk of your grade so make sure you don't lose a lot of points from avoidable errors!
Kinda like 23L peer reviews but it takes a lot less work. This category is worth only 24 points (out of 300) and there are 3 CPR assignments due throughout the quarter. With respect to the text-submission stage, you have a template so you more or less copy and paste and determine which steps are incorrectly and correctly done. When it comes to the review, you go through a calibration stage and then you review 3 other peers' work (not including your own). So total, there are 6 texts you have to review but it generally takes around 1-1.5 hours to finish all of them so it's not as much.
Ah, the lectures. It is a god-send that Russell does not make us attend her classes live otherwise I will actually be bored out of my mind. She talks VERY VERY VERY slow and with the whole online format, she sounds normal at around 2.5-3x speed (so keep this in mind when going thru her lectures!). She doesn't really cover a lot of concepts in-depth but rather superficially goes through them so unless you have a good background of acids and bases and the concepts learned in 14B, it will be tough trying to follow along. I recommend just going over concepts learned in 14B/find presentation slides from other professors who taught this class.
She tries her best to communicate with the class and sends weekly emails to tell us what assignments are due which is very considerate and nice of her. However, I will be focusing on Piazza. Her responses in Piazza are very hit-or-miss. She sometimes will answer the question (but rarely!) however most of the time she fails to answer what people are asking. She tends to go around and beat about the bush, so if you are going to ask her questions, please make it as explicit as possible. Note that most people will ask questions that are deemed ('redundant', 'not needed') so that might be the reason why she does sometimes give a half-assed answer but who knows?!
It takes her 3-4 weeks after the assignment is due to release grades out on gradescope, yet she tests us on these concepts on her exams. It's indeed quite contradictory; like how is one supposed to know where they can improve on in the labs yet you still test them on the same things during the exams - did we do it right? or not? who knows! Either way, it is a combination of TAs grading and her releasing the scores that cause major delays which really annoys people who are trying to know where they stand and where they can improve on before taking her dreaded exams.
If you've gotten to this point, I commend you for making it this far. As a prize, I will state that if you have the chance to take a professor like Pang or Casey then do it. It will save you SO MUCH blood, sweat, and tears (or anger), and especially in a class known to be tedious, it would make your life much easier to take a professor who actually communicates with their students and explains concepts well.
Overall this class is a pretty challenging class (mostly depending on TA) partially because there is a lot of work including pre-labs, labs, post-labs, and studying for the exams but it ended up being...doable. Some TAs grade harder than others for labs. Prof. Russel's lectures were not very helpful because she often went through material too quickly and not in-depth enough nor were her slides very helpful. Thankfully lecture is not required. I recommend looking at Dr. Casey's slides which walk you through the practice problems. For exams, the practice exams are pretty helpful and I would try to master all the concepts there and practice the calculations. The exams in this class are very math-based and I would try to get my hands on as many practice problems as possible.
So the Spring 2020 quarter was online due to the COVID19 pandemic. Professor Russell is not the best at technology and since everything was online (and the transition to remote learning was really fast), the first few weeks of chem 20L was pretty rough and disorganized. In my opinion, this class had a little bit too much work for a lab class.
Lectures: attendance is not mandatory I believe (I stopped showing up after week 8), and Professor Russell herself is not engaging and pretty dull. She records and posts her lecture presentations online. I think her lectures are alright; for me, I would read the supplemental readings on CCLE to get a full understanding of the material.
Labs: Pre and Postlabs are due before your lab section, but since this was all online, we were allowed to turn in our labs on Friday with no penalty. You basically had two different kinds of labs to turn in most weeks so it may feel like you have a lot on your shoulders. Some postlabs were done with a partner. Sometimes labs will only make sense if you ask your TA how it's done. IMO Russell is very consistent in not making sense on her directions on labs, so that's when TAs come in to address what's going on (I praise the Chem 20L TAs this quarter shoutout to them). I think labs, in general, are doable if you allow yourself time to do them.
Quizzes: I swear quizzes were the only component of the class that didn't stress us out. There was a deadline to do them, but we are given unlimited attempts and she counts the highest score.
CPR: The Calibrated Peer Review is a drag to the soul. It's a program that has its own assignments that students must complete, students have to write a text/essay about a certain topic that we have learned (for example, we wrote essays about significant figures, scientific graphs, and titrations). I'm pretty sure these assignments took most students more than a few hours to complete. Besides writing an essay, you would have to go through a calibration, grading and self assessment process. In the end, your grade is based on how other students in the class grade your essay.
Midterm: I kinda forgot what happened during the midterm. I remember going "?????" in my head though. It was mostly multiple choice and some were free response.
Final: all of it was free-response so you had to show your work. the final practice exam was helpful though. For both the midterm and final, how you do your work may be very different to how Russell does the work so keep that in mind.
Arlene Russell herself: to the student reading this, you are much better off teaching yourself with the supplemental readings on CCLE, recorded lectures, and your TAs. Russell is somewhat helpful and she is sometimes clear on her instructions. We're allowed to ask her questions on piazza and I remember at one point Russell went M.I.A. on piazza when we had an entire lab due soon. Whenever she did answer questions on piazza, her explanations can be vague, sometimes a little rude and she'll just say "yes," "no," or "look at *attached message*" She does upload practice problems for midterms and for the final. She also provides the lab manual on CCLE.
As I am writing this I am feeling angry so to finish this review, I started referring her as Arlene instead of Professor Russell.
As a disclaimer, this class was fully online during Spring 2020 because of quarantine.
The class is very much what you would expect out of a lab class, but requires much more work on assignments than what you'd expect for a 3 unit class.
The class is uncurved, and each quarter depends on lab participation (3 hours mandatory in breakout rooms), lab reports both before and after the lab, quizzes, some peer-review writings, one midterm, and one final.
The online labs were very simple. The TA would give a demonstration, and would split us into groups to either work on postlab reports or work on a worksheet related to the week's lab topic.
Lectures were not worth going to, and slides were posted online. Usually, the class would probably require a textbook, but since the quarter was online, we could use electronics and CCLE during lab. Quizzes are easy and Prof. Russell allowed multiple retakes up until the deadline.
Midterms were super duper difficult, but final was much easier. Overall, the professor had some lenient allowances, but the transition to online wasn't smooth and she isn't exactly tech savvy. Her answers to questions were kind of vague, so definitely find a friend to work with in this class. The material isn't difficult but she and the TAs are particular with formatting and grading. The class doesn't really require prior knowledge from 20A and 20B.
Taking Chem 14BL was definitely stressful at first. You really need to keep up with the pre-lab/post-labs and do well on them! If your TA is a hard grader, don't worry because the rest of the discussions will be weighted to make up for easier/harder TA's. Her lectures are really useless. I went on Facebook the entire time during her lectures and I would procrastinate doing her optional problem sets until the midterm/final. Make sure you do the optional problem sets and really understand what is going on! I was not prepared for the midterm but somehow got an 80 (avg was like a 65). The optional problem sets will help you during your midterm/final and make sure you understand the pre-lab/post-lab questions. She lets you bring a cheat sheet to both the midterm and the final which is nice. She also offers extra credit (explaining a reaction- best 20 responses get a couple of EC points). The final wasn't bad at all in my opinion and at the end of the final she gave up to 10 points EC if you could explain some concepts that you should've learned during labs. I pulled through with an A in her class (did well on the labs) but I have no clue what I got on my final since she didn't upload the scores lmao. This class was definitely doable :) Arlene is a sweet lady.
Rusell is the most adorable professor ever! She's a sweet, elderly lady who is always willing to help. I know, her lectures are not the easiest to follow, but whenever I went to office hours to ask about lecture, she was very kind an patient to answer my questions. Her availability was awesome too! Two office hours each week, plus during finals week, she and the TA's had 16 hours of office hours among themselves! Her tests are very fair: 1 normal midterm with calculations and short answer, 1 online final that was doable but very time-restrained. Overall, a very nice person, fair lecturer, and a useful resource at office hours.
Going into this class I was scared it would be very challenging because the bruinwalk was quite low but do not let that deceive you. This class was probably my favorite class I have had to take for my major so far and I'm not a chem person. For some reason, the reviews for Russell all say she is a bad lecturer but I did not find that to be the case in her class. Unlike chem 14a and 14b, you're not expected to know every concept related to the topics we cover. Rather than content, you only need to know how to do calculations, what we are doing, and why we are doing that. If you watch her lecturers (which are pre-recorded) and take notes and honestly do your labs rather than cheat off of old labs as many people did, you're going to do well. The only thing is her lecturers do not go in-depth about calculations so you must use campuswire where she or Oashi answers almost every content question. I honestly really loved lab as it was one of the only classes where I was able to get to know my peers and make friends.
-her weekly assignments are a pre-lab and post-lab and you turn your data in at the end of your lab period
-she only had 1 midterm which was online and open note, if you have been doing all work until this point you are fine to get an A
-her points are waiting evenly in every category except cpr which has less weight. Meaning, 1 point on a lab = 1 point on the midterm
-the final was in person but we were allowed one whole sheet of cheat notes (literally anything we wanted to put) to use on the test, front and back. Also if you did bad on the midterm or better on the final your exam category was only your final grade. Otherwise, it would be both.
-pre labs and post labs are relatively easy if you use campuswire. Only lost 1 or 2 points the whole quarter in total
-cpr assignments can be kinda hard but this category has very little weight.
-if you have had no chem lab experience, you're absolutely fine. I had no experience and found myself ahead of others.
Arlene is a dense lecturer. Her rubric isn’t clear and her instructions are beyond unhelpful. She would take off points for every single assignment for her class and require so much out of her students. Midterm was difficult not because it was hard material, but because she did not teach us the majority of what was given. I have taken both 30A and 30B and got A and A- but will most likely get a B for this lab class because of how Arlene teaches. I wouldn’t recommend taking her and taking Pang instead .