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Issues with Simulation Class by Dr. Scanlan

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A Few lectures

From the first class to the end of the trimester, Professor Scanlan gave out only three lectures. Only 15 slides in each powerpoint and the majority of statistics parts in the slides were skipped. We present our plan in second week, report how we are going to collect data in third week, report our data and options in fourth week, report our final recommendation in fifth week and pre-final present in sixth week and same final present in the final week. No formal lecture was given from the third week. When we finish the class, we haven’t received any recommendation about our simulated model from professor and we still do not know what we can improve and what we’ve done wrong in our simulation model.

No discussion on textbook chapters

According to the syllabus, we need to preview the textbook from chapter 1 to 10 during the 7 weeks and be prepared to discuss in class. The topics include general introduction to simulation, queuing system, different distributions, how Monte Carlo and Discrete-event simulation works and how to analyze output etc. However, only the general introduction and partial queuing system knowledge have been covered in class. Professor Scanlan seldom mentioned the real meaningful mechanics in simulation modeling. And we did not have any discussion on materials in textbook as syllabus required.

We lost our way in teaching ourselves simulation software without appropriate guidance

After the first class, team presentations take over the classes. Professor sometimes gave out comments on each group’s work (more about missing assumptions, personal presentation skills, how to present data in Powerpoint is recommended) but paid little attention to mechanics parts of simulation. Therefore,no valuable suggestions on modeling and simulation have been given out in class. We learned these techniques on our own, which is fine, but we never know what went wrong or was completed perfectly in our simulation model.

No official correct answer is given out for assignments

He gave out two assignments, one is a simulation exercise and the other is a question-based exercise. We never receive any feedback from our assignments. And till now, we are not exactly sure about the answers since Prof Scanlan only asked one of our classmates to present his answer, which he was not very sure about either. After the classmate presented his answer, professor just asked the class whether we have any question. He did not comment on the answer or told us are they correct or not. At the end of the trimester, we still do not know correct answers of the assignments.

“Some of our questions are stupid”

We are supposing modeling randomness, which involves in applying statistics to simulation, is very important to simulation. When we have some questions toward this part, Professor Scanlan told the class that statistics are basic knowledge in undergraduate and being able to google to find answers is also the skill we have to acquire. This conversation lasted about half hour, which can be used to tutor us statistical inference from simulation models. Even though we might have learned the knowledge in undergraduate, we strongly disagree with the manner to blame questions that might also be questions for the majority of class. Especially, for some of classmates who have been away from classroom a while and the ones who simply do not have enough background in statistics, it is definitely not the manner we are expecting for. More importantly, basic statistics knowledge might be simply to learn outside of the class and he did recommend us a book. However, he ultimately did not mention statistics-related simulation mechanics, which we assume is more advanced and suitable for graduate school students.

Beside missing software-related guidance, few core elements of simulation is taught in class

He did not teach us the core elements (not necessary to be software-oriented knowledge) of simulation and rejected to take just a few minutes to help some of our classmates to review the basic statistics, instead, using almost half hour to blame the students who send questions to him, which can be googled online. He told us that when we go to workplace in future, our bosses would be angry if we ask “how can we do that” since they expect that we already know how to do that. However, the graduate program is a preparation program before workplace. We come here to learn everything we need and a professor at least needs to be patient to address questions from students. “There are never stupid questions in class”-we are told in orientation and other classes.

We did not learn a graduate-level simulation knowledge

After the conversation between our class and Prof Scanlan, he insisted that we’ve learned simulation, which are objectives of the class. Using his arguments against the words, we are absolutely expecting more about simulation besides the general introduction of simulations, assumptions and what is queue.

It’s not about how difficult the software is...

Professor insists that the software is too hard for us. We admit that we need to put more effort outside of the class to enhance our skills and we did. We went through tutorials online to find out answers, which we previously expected that professor would give a little bit guidance. We did not complain it is too hard since we can learn partial functions in this stage. What we are complaining is the disappointing learning experience in classroom.

After addressing our concerns at the end of the class on Friday, Professor Scanlan still believed that the reason why we are disappointed is mainly that the software is too difficult. The cohort two classmates were told the same thing. The software that we use in this class is not easy since a lot of complex functions are designed for corporate-level users. But we are not complaining that we do not know how to use the extremely complicated functions like triggers with programming codes. How can simulation, a software-based “imitation of the operation of a real-world process”(Wikipedia), be taught in class without any tutorial of software from professor, who admitted that he doesn’t know how to use the software in front of the class? Professor Scanlan always tells us that de-emphasizing software is the thing he is intentionally trying to do. However, again, simulation is a software-based imitation modeling process. If the professor knows nothing about software, he would never know what attributes are both important and feasible to be simulated in software. The Functions we are using in our projects are entry-level and common in all simulation software.Our classmates are not expecting high-level manipulation of the software but merely a graduate education level of guidance toward simulation. Therefore, given the fact that Professor Scanlan does not know the software, the suggestions he made to our projects are not in-depth. So, lacking feedback loop on simulation model and lectures, it does not help with our progress in developing more well-designed model.

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