Welcome everyone to the future of education! Here we will discuss the many changes to our course policies in light of our move to distance learning. You should view this document as a living addendum to the course syllabus that I will update as the realities of online learning set in.
When In Doubt…
Since this distance learning model is new and sudden, you may have questions about how the course will proceed for the rest of the semester. Furthermore, new difficulties may arise in your learning, e.g., changes to your ability to access course materials or problems working with people remotely. In all of these cases, it is imperative that you contact me as soon as possible so we can resolve any issues that arise.
Promptness is especially important since we only have half a semester left and, thus, not much time to recover from things going wrong with this new model of learning. I am ready and able to take steps to help you learn remotely and finish the course. However, I can’t help if I don’t know what’s going on!
Preparing for Online Learning
Chris Murphy and his TAs and students at the University of Pennsylvania have put together the following quick infographic outlining how you can best prepare and approach the business of learning online:
I’ll emphasize one additional trait that’ll be important for our context: grace. Online learning is not our first choice for conducting a Grinnell course, and indeed there will undoubtedly be hiccups and problems that arise in the coming weeks. Please make sure to give grace to me, your peers that you will collaborate with online, and yourself as we all navigate these difficulties together.
We will use several online services to help us manage the course, some old and some new. Please make sure that you have access to all of these services in the coming weeks.
- Office 365 for email and general document collaboration.
- Campuswire for course announcements, Q&A-style discussion, and fall-back collaborative chat.
- Gradescope for deliverable submission and feedback.
- Blackboard Collaborate for daily class meetings. Blackboard Collaborate is available via the “Collaborate” link in the sidebar of the course’s site on PioneerWeb.
- Youtube for course videos.
- Overleaf for collaborative work on assignments. Daily collaborative work will be distributed as LaTeX source files that you can quickly load into a new Overleaf project. You can share links to the project with your group to avoid paying a subscription fee to add multiple collaborators to a project.
Weekly Work and Class Periods
In our old, in-person model for daily work, you worked collaboratively with your peers to complete daily assignments due the following class period. Instead, in our new online model:
- Each week, you will be randomly assigned to a group of 3–4 of your peers.
- Your group will be responsible for a single, comprehensive weekly deliverable assigned Monday and due at the end of the day on Friday each week. The content of the weekly deliverable is the aggregate of the daily assignments you would have completed in the in-person model but modified to fit the online format.
This class model is asynchronous in nature. Ultimately, it is up to you and your group to determine when you’ll meet and how you will complete the weekly deliverable. If irreconcilable conflicts arise or if a group member is unresponsive, please let me know as soon as possible, so I can help your group resolve the situation.
To help facilitate your learning and provide a standard meeting time for groups, we will hold online classes at a time most mutually accessible to everyone:
- Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays, 12:00–1:00 PM CDT
Mondays and Wednesdays will be primarily days where we develop the concepts of the weekly deliverable. We will spend Fridays reviewing concepts and deep-dive on technical issues that arise throughout the week and giving you time to finish the weekly deliverable with your group.
We will conduct classes in a workshop-style where you and your group will work on problems with the assistance of the course staff. While attendance is not strictly mandatory for all class sessions, classes are the primary time for you to work with your group on the weekly deliverable.
To prepare for each session, make sure you complete the assigned reading and reflection before each class. I will minimize the amount of lecturing that I do in the online format in favor of two forms of online videos:
- Content videos, 10–20 minute videos that I will post alongside the reading to help frame and contextualize the content. These replace the lectures that I give in-class and are part of your daily reading when assigned.
- Technique videos, 5–10 minute videos that I will usually post before each relevant class that act as short guides for the problems that you will work on with your group. These videos are optional and should be watched when you need help with a particular technique (e.g., programming concept or proof style) while doing the daily work or demos.
Deliverables and Grades
In light of moving to an online course model and the general disruption of the pandemic, I have changed the deliverables and the requirements for letter grades for this course to make your course load more manageable.
- In the cases where the deliverable model has not changed (demos), I have simply relaxed the requirements.
- In the cases where the deliverable model has changed (dailies/readings and exams), I have split the requirements to make it clear what you need to achieve between the in-class deliverables and online deliverables.
Daily Work and Readings
Daily work and reading requirements were originally a combined deliverable. With the move to weekly work, we will split up the requirements as follows:
- Completion of the in-class daily work and reading questions assigned before spring break.
- Completion of reading reflections before each of our online class sessions, available on Gradescope. Reading reflections consist of two parts: a summary of the reading and a question that you would like the instructor to address during class.
- Completion of the weekly daily work for our online class sessions after spring break.
Demonstration exercises will stay the same: weekly assignments completed individually that demonstrate your mastery of the material. I have relaxed the number of required demonstration exercises in light of the changes to our schedule.
We have conducted one in-class written examination. You will be allowed to revise these examination questions like a demonstration exercise, and I have also relaxed the requirements for the in-class exams to account for this fact.
With the move to distance learning, we will forego the remaining written examinations in favor of oral examinations. There will be an oral examination for the second and third (final) exams. Oral examinations in this course are conducted over two weeks:
In the first week, the examination questions are released instead of a demonstration exercise. Over the course of the week, you are expected to work on these questions. Unlike the demonstration exercises, you may consult any resources in helping you answer these questions: the course staff, your peers, and any online resources that you may find.
Rather than preparing written responses to the exam, you will instead prepare a 5–10 minute presentation of your answers. In the presentation, I am looking for you to present high-level descriptions of algorithms and proofs rather than dive into low-level details and minutiae. This presentation may also be developed collaboratively. In your presentation, you should cite all non-textbook, non-course staff solutions that you consulted in developing your presentation.
In the second week, you will schedule a * 30-minute meeting* with me. In your meeting, you will first give your presentation. I will then ask you questions about your presentation that ask for more detail and expand on the material of the exam. You will be graded on your ability to answer questions during the meeting with little guidance from me as well as the clarity of your responses.
Revisions For Pre-Spring Break Work
By the end of spring break, all worked turned in from our in-person meetings will be returned to you via Gradescope. Revisions for pre-spring break work are due:
- Wednesday, April 15, end of day
Revisions for post-spring break work will follow the standard cadence (generally, 1 week after the deliverable is returned to you).
Summary of Grade Requirements
|Letter||Daily/Reading (In-Person)||Reading (Distance)||Weekly (Distance)||Demos||Exams (In-Person)||Exams (Distance)|
|A||15xM+||14xM+||↑||9xM+, 5xE||3xM+||1xM+, 1xE|
The college has extended the deadline for S/D/F grading to April 10th for this semester. Furthermore, S/D/F courses now count towards major requirements and minimum credit requirements, so you may safely take this option if you need this course to satisfy either of these requirements for graduation. Note the following about S/D/F grading with respect to this course:
- As the instructor, I do not know whether you elect for S/D/F grading unless you tell me explicitly (which I don’t need to know, so don’t worry about telling me!).
- To earn a S in the course, you need to earn a letter grade of C.
Please make sure that you review the requirements for a C for the course before you choose to switch to S/D/F grading. With specifications grading, the bar for a C is typically higher than the average course! Make sure to consult your advisor about any potential ramifications of choosing S/D/F and feel free to chat with me if you would like additional guidance. I don’t care what mode of grading you ultimately choose; I just want you to succeed in this course!
Virtual 1-on-1 Meetings
In addition to class times, I will also be available for 1-on-1 meetings online to go over concepts or specific questions about the course. Please consult my calendar on my website:
To schedule time with me.