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Assignment Design Fail

March 16th, 2010 2 comments

The weekend was definitely a busy one. Between having/attending a party at a friends’ place and then spending the rest of the weekend doing homework (had an assignment for my Algorithms class and a group paper for my Ethics class to finish), it was a very busy, but productive weekend. I got all the work done (eventually), and had a great time Friday night! I’d rant a bit about my Ethics assignments not being clear enough, but I don’t think that’s really necessary when I have better fodder to write about in the form of my Marketing online homework submissions.

So the system is called Management by the Numbers and the site/product is completely new. At the beginning of the semester, they provided us with accounts according to the school we are in and the number we were on the roster (I assume that’s how the number was generated at least). So, the format would be gtxxx, and they initially gave EVERYONE in these classes the EXACT SAME PASSWORD! I noticed this immediately in the email that they sent out to us regarding what our login credentials were. As someone who wants to professionally doing information security for a living post undergrad, I just cringed when I saw this. To make matters worse, I did the first assignment on the WRONG username because ALL the passwords were the same. Of course, I didn’t realize that was the issue when I saw a 0 for the grade, but only after contacting the professor and TA about the issue did it become apparent “Aaron, your username is gtxxx.” “OH MY GOODNESS, I did the homework on the wrong username, I did it on gtxxy.”

After further discussion, I discovered that the company was “working on” a password change “feature,” which I consider standard in ANY login system. I almost asked for a contract to write the code to do it in PHP out of frustration, but thankfully I didn’t because I have had a bunch on my plate this semester. Overall, it was really disappointing. The funny part, that’s not even what I wanted to show with this blog post.

When I was doing the assignment that was originally due tomorrow, I found a few interesting bugs in it (causing the due date change). The first one had to do with an algorithm that was used to obtain the answer for a problem. It was supposed to be:

(($23.90 – 10) / (.71 * $23.90 – 10)) – 1 = 0.99

Instead of:

(($23.90 – 10) / (.75 * $23.90 – 10)) – 1 = 0.75

You see, the .71 in the correct answer was because it was supposed to have a 29% decrease (in this problem, since that number is dynamic) in price for the comparison, but the algorithm had been setup for a static 25% decrease in price instead. This caused correct answers to be completely wrong.

The more interesting bug, pictured to the right, had to do with precision. They were taking the number out to multiple decimal places, and requiring precision according to that, but the dollar amounts were automatically rounding as we expect cents to do. The end result was that a correct answer was STILL wrong. Of course, this was extremely frustrating for me at first, until I thought to myself “I wonder if it will accept the decimal written ALL the way out (I think I did 6 places just to be over accurate). It worked of course, since the issue had to do with their accuracy, but displaying it as a whole cent was extremely confusing. Regardless, I have finished the assignment and the due date has been pushed back to this Thursday now.