A.3 Course structure

Obviously, you’ve taken classes before. But every course is different, and this one is maybe a little more different than most :) So I want to go over the basic structure, how the course works, just so we’re all on the same page.

I’ve taught courses with a similar structure before, and spoiler alert, here are the two things those students would most want to tell you right now:

  1. Start off right. There’s a lot of flexibility here and it’s really easy to let your other commitments take priority, but you will not be happy you did that around Week 8. To a large extent, you get to make your own rules for how you do this course – but that means you have to make your own rules in this course.

  2. Ask when you’re not sure – both about statistical material, and about the course itself. This may be a completely new course structure for you, so it makes sense if you have questions about it! What I’ve heard from so many students is “this course was super different, but I really liked it once I got the hang of it.” So, I want to help you get the hang of it, as soon as possible! You can post questions to a Moodle conversation forum (which is great because probably 5 other people have the same question), or contact me directly if your question is private.

Now, here’s some more detail…

A.3.1 The day-to-day

Each day’s topic comes with some sort of pre-class reading or lecture. Note that the goal isn’t to achieve perfect understanding at this point – just to prepare to participate in our live discussion. The night before each live session, you’ll submit pre-class questions about the current topic. (If you’re still working on a previous topic, you can submit questions about that too!) If you don’t have any questions, you submit “Screech Questions”: questions you can imagine someone else (like my Nationals plushie, Screech) might have about the topic.

I’ll review the questions from everyone in the group, and use them to create an agenda for the day. (Note: in the agenda, I’ll prioritize popular/common questions and those that I consider to touch on really important points. We won’t always have time to address every question; at that point, it’s time to head to office hours or the Topic Conversation forums – see below.)

Once you’ve had a first look at a topic, you’ll try out one or more practice problems. I encourage you to work with other people on these; but always make sure that you are developing your own understanding (see “Should I join a study group?”). Practice problems don’t get graded, but you can always chat about them on discussion forums or at office hours. Then you attempt a Target Assessment for that module. These are how you (and I) assess your proficiency with the concepts – see this section for more details on assessment.

There will be multiple projects during the course, some individual and some involving work with your classmates (though everyone is always assessed on projects individually, and receives an individual grade). You’ll also keep the conversation going with me and your classmates using Moodle discussion forums.

Technically speaking, there is no required homework for this course except the Projects. You do not have to do practice problems. I predict that you will anyway, because (1) you earn engagement credit for doing so, and (2) that’s the way most humans actually learn. You can skip straight to attempting Assessments, but this is probably not a great idea; you only get so many attempts at Assessments over the course of the semester, so you don’t want to burn them unnecessarily. You also have a limited number of chances to retry Assessments if you didn’t show any real progress the first time (see the fine print).

A note about our schedule: This class is scheduled for 10:00 - 11:15 am Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. In most weeks, we’ll only have two “standard” classes; we’ll typically use the Friday time for Assessment appointments, office hours, project work time, etc. You can also schedule Assessment appointments with me at other times – check my Pathways calendar.