Reminded me of classes I took in high school. The material is at a generally basic level, so the instructor has to rely on overly-specific questions for homeworks and midterms in order to have a grade distribution. Tests are both 25 questions, multiple choice, scantron.
If you're looking to take this class for an easy A, don't do it. This isn't fro sci. It's at 8:40, and attendance is part of your grade. The homeworks are very easy and you shouldn't have a problem getting 100% on them. However, the difficulty of the class lies in all the material that you have to memorize. She posts her powerpoints on Canvas but they're vague and not very helpful - you gotta be there for lecture and take notes so that you actually do well on the exams. Whether or not your a science major, don't expect this class to be a joke. Look for another class if you're looking to boost your GPA or something.
Bottom line: This is a dry course and for scientists. From day one, you are warned that you can expect a B+, never a good sign if, like any student at Columbia, you expect a perfect grade. Professor Hoenisch gave this course for the first time in Spring 2017 and was obviously not at ease until the third tiers of the semester at least, in particular when it comes to the material about atmosphere. The title of the course does not entirely reflect the reality. From the beginning, you are overwhelmed with stats, complex figures and equations, all things she enjoys a lot. Be prepared for a tsunami of numbers that make any too rare lecture about the "society" part a relief. Society is mainly explored through complicated policies. Occasionally, Peter B de Menocal gave some lectures and it was a entirely different world. He was obviously the master of his course and was able to make any difficult concept a breeze, engaging students in a way Professor Hoenisch could not do because she is not exactly a warm personality. Professor Hoenisch is approchable but nevertheless build some extraordinary difficult tests and exams. The TA was a harsh grader. The class is highly challenging and not fun (unless given by de Menocal), the textbook is very dry also.
Bottom line up front: This is an excellent class/professor combination. Highly recommended. The class pertains to chemical, biological, and physical oceanography. Basically, you're learning the "whole ocean" concept, which will change the way you think about the planet and her oceans. If you're looking for a class about dolphins and whales, this is not it, although those lifeforms are covered briefly during the biology portion. Prepare for some light chemistry (no assumed knowledge) and geology. The highlight of the class, if you take it during fall semester, is the open house at the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory. Professor Hoenisch is a world-renowned chemical oceanographer, but she's keen to the fact most students aren't 1) good at, or 2) interested in, highly complex chemistry problems, and also recognizes that those problems can be quite intimidating. She makes each lecture fun (buy a clicker) and interesting, and is always available for office hours and help with topics. TAs are geniuses in their respective studies, but the field is so large that they might (depending on who you get) have some difficulty explaining other sub-fields (e.g. if your TA is a paleo-oceanography specialist, they might not readily have all the answers for a meteorology problem). In any case, the Professor is available as much as any of the TAs, so it's not an issue. The class is highly challenging, enlightening, and fun, but you'll need to actually study and attend lectures.
As a non-science major who put in effort for the course, I found it more difficult than I had expected it to be. Prof. Honisch is a nice lady who is quick and willing to entertain questions, as are her TAs. Unfortunately, with little backgrounding in science and oceanography, I found the lectures often hard to follow (8:40am start time does not help). Some of the powerpoint slides, which are essential to the course, were a bit disorganised and questions on the homework and exams were often confusing. If a non-science major made it to office hours often, he/she could probably scrape a decent grade in this class. But it is far from an easy A if you don't have background.
Overall, Oceanography is a good class for non-science majors to fulfill their science requirement. The material is not that tough and Professor Honisch's lectures are clear and relatively well prepared. The classes can be a bit boring if you're not actually interested in the material and she has a tendency to simply read off the slides, which she posts on Courseworks. There were definitely mornings when I couldn't self motivate to go to class. Perhaps the best aspect of this class is the workload, which is the lightest I've had at Columbia. There are three homework assignments, each of which contains ten multiple choice questions. YOU DO NOT NEED THE TEXTBOOK. All the material covered on the homeworks and tests come directly from the lectures. The major drawback is that, while it is pretty easy to get a B+ or A-, getting an A is difficult because of how short the homeworks and tests are. The midterm was 20 questions, the final was 25 questions. Therefore, if you miss questions, your grade starts dropping quickly. I would recommend this class, and try to take it with some friends because there is an optional group component (70% of exam grade is individual exam, 30% of exam grade is the same test taken with a group) and she encourages collaboration on the homework assignments.
Professor Honisch is a very nice lady. She made me even more interested in the subject than I already was. She is very approachable and answers e-mails in seconds (that is really nice of her!!!). She will do everything to make sure you understand the material, but you have to actually ask specific questions. I would recommend everyone to take this class because it's interesting, because the professor is just nice, and also because it's a pretty easy way to fullfill the science requirement without any heavy-duty science. I was scared at first when we started chemical oceanography, but than I discovered that you are not required to know much about it for the exams, just some stuff on a VERY general level. Believe me, I had C's in Chemestry and Physics in school, but I got an A for this class. She is really understanding and does everything to give students a higher grade. She gives 3 take home h/w's and the exams are multiple choice, plus you do second part of the exam in groups, which allows you to improve your grade. I also believe she makes some curve at the end. Overall, it was a pleasure to be in this class.
I like Professor Honisch. She's approachable, knowledgable in her field, and recognizes that the students enrolled in the course are taking it to fulfill the science requirement, mostly. It's thus focused on learning facts about the ocean rather than figuring out through mathematical models and "real" science which is very nice. I would say it's the least "science"-y of all the option for non-science majors. Take it if you want an easy way to fulfill the core requirement and learn a lot about that which covers 70% of the Earth... not a bad deal. She scheduled a trip to Lamont since this was the first year without the LDEO exhibit (a presentation on one of the exhibits used to count as the final) which I heard was great but I couldn't attend. I went to class and enjoyed the lectures.
Barbel is quite lovely and a very clear lecturer. The class is organized well: the powerpoint slides are available before class so that they can be printed and brought to class for easy note-taking. She's knowledgeable and seemed to have a good answer for nearly all the questions that were asked.
If you're a humanities major looking for a fairly easy science that is even somewhat fascinating, this is the one for you. Course is full of non-science majors. Early start time meant lots of people never showed, but I got a lot out of the lectures. Only complaint would be the wording of the homeworks and exams, can be a little vague and cause complications. But do it! She's very nice and it's interesting stuff.
Her intro to oceanography class is a great way to fulfill the science requirement. She really knows what she's talking about and you can tell she really wants us to learn this stuff. Don't expect to learn much about global warming and sea rising, but if you're interested in the ocean (beyond the dolphins and seals) this course is really pretty good.
If you're looking for an easy way out to fulfil the science requirement - don't bother taking this class. Do not assume this subject is 'an easy science'. Oceanography with Professor Honisch will not be easy, but it'll definitely be interesting and challenging. Professor Honisch knows her subject inside out, backwards, frontways, any way! Every class is in lecture format, with her narrating excellent(!) powerpoint presentations that she compiles herself. I used the slideshows to study for the midterm and final and received full marks. The midterm and final are not difficult if you go to class, do the homeworks and study! The main difficulty lay in knowing what to focus on the most because A LOT is covered over the duration of the course, but again, her slideshows are key. If there is a whole class devoted to El Nino, then maybe you should study El Nino thoroughly. This is where you ask the TA for help (if you're lucky, the TA will arrange review sessions). Don't use the textbook to study too much - it doesn't quite match up with what she teaches. Use it instead to look up later certain areas that she covers in class. Professor Honisch may come off as a little standoffish (her native language is German and so her English is slightly accented), but if you talk to her, she's actually very friendly and approachable. If you ask for more information on a subject, she will procure extra articles and so on. She asked the class to suggest topics that we were interested in. She allowed the entire class to redo their homework sets if they wanted a higher mark, and also offered extra credit. However, she did get slightly annoyed halfway into the semester when attendance dropped precipitiously (9:10 am class) - but what teacher wouldn't? My only gripe about Professor Honisch is that her teaching style is a little limited. She tends to just lecture - if she asked more questions, more of the class would stay awake. She does encourage asking questions though, and will answer you thoroughly. All in all, an extremely enjoyable class. It was my absolute favourite this semester - I had fun doing all the work she gave out. However, I do recommend having a little background in chemistry and biology or geography, because it will help you out immensely. Even so, this is a course designed for non-science majors, so take it anyway!