I have a suspicion the Adobe folks expect that users will all ultimately find a permanent place on their screen(s) to show the Properties panel, just because it's so useful. I've done that, as I have two monitors, and I've already gotten in the habit of looking there when I'm working on stuff. It seems very intuitive, now, that information and controls for the "current operation", be it working on a mask, doing something to a 3D object, adjusting an adjustment layer, or whatever should be there. Unfortunately any transition takes some unlearning/relearning.
Good luck with your school work. When the trial runs out, don't forget that students can get a deep discount when buying Photoshop.