These reviews are incredibly untruthful. My class is full of American Studies majors who had read the fabulous reviews here and were EXTREMELY DISAPPOINTED. The "Captain," while a nice guy, is a dull lecturer and is unclear when communicating important vs. superfluous information. The exams are based on information that is not covered in class nor on the readings, and they take many days to prepare for. He grades fairly, but be warned that you will have panic attacks every time he hands out a study guide.
McCaughey is the best -- intelligent, funny, and very dedicated to making the seminar a success. Not only did he arrange for Barnard to pay for us to go yachting on the Hudson, but he really made an effort to explain grading and have individual projects rather than all group projects. Be polite [don't fool around on your computer all class long], participate in seminar discussion, and in turn he will be good to you. I seriously wish this man was my dad/grandfather!
AMAZING! Everyone should take this class. Professor McCaughey is terrific and the subject material is fascinating. The workload is spread out in a feast or famine type format, but you get to choose (within reason) when things are do, so it is incredibly manageable. This class, more than any other, takes advantage of technological mediums for nontraditional presentations of information. It is also lots of fun. The class is divided into three watches with three first mates, lots of teamwork and interesting readings and projects. It even made Moby Dick enjoyable! However, it should not be taken by lit majors, as they will be frustrated by the lack of analysis of the works./
I really enjoyed this class. It was one of the best courses I've taken at Columbia. On the first day you realize that this class is not a normal Columbia seminar. The class is broken up into two watches, and each student is given a rank--depending on his or her maritime knowledge and experience. Prof. McCaughey becomes the Captain. Unlike the authoritarian captains of our past Bob is extremely friendly offering a great sense of humor, his extensive knowledge, and the best Socratic management style(more listening than talking) I've seen at this school. Early on work is done within watches. As the class deals with learning unfamiliar material--such as sailing equipment, methods and how to navigate before GPS, the team structure is very helpful. After watch projects everyone begins to make websites on topics that touch on what is learned in class. This process is pretty easy, I never had made a website before(I'm not very good with computers at all) but I managed to learn how to quickly, and am coming out of a history course with a powerful new skill. After the first site everyone is given the option of working solo, in pairs or teams to make the next two. Overall this class was great, I learned a lot of new material, in a refreshing new way. Classes are fun, and much more casual than any other course I've taken. Work is not very bad, you really have the option of putting as much time as you want into the course. I highly recommend taking this course