An Open Letter To The Students Of Fall 2020: An Update On CIS3750 & CIS4020

At the end of May I wrote an Open Letter To The Students of Fall 2020. In that letter I promised to be open and transparent about all decisions related to the classes I lead this fall; to provide regular updates about each of my courses; and to answer any questions you might have about what the upcoming semester might look like. Given that course selection is about to open for UofG students, it seemed the perfect time to provide some further thoughts.

As previously mentioned my courses will all be online. While I am still updating my courses for online delivery, I have provided answers to some of the questions students have asked me already.

CIS3750 – Systems Analysis & Design in Application

This course is an active, flipped, experiential learning, interdisciplinary, and community-engaged classroom. For more information about the course and to better understand what this means in the context of CIS3750, check out these posts: Community-Engaged Scholarship & Computer Science, What Really Happens In A Community-Engaged Computer Science Classroom.

Will the lectures be recorded and made available to students? Yes, synchronous lectures will be recorded and made available to students, but in a way that respects your privacy. This will involve a class discussion at the beginning of the semester to determine which parts of our class we feel comfortable recording. There will be times when our class will involve a discussion – but some students may not be comfortable having these parts recorded. Together we will determine what works for us, and how we might capture the outputs of our discussions in a way that respects everyone.

Class recordings will allow those who missed a class or who are in a different time zone to access lecture content at a time that makes the most sense for them. And they will also allow those who simply want to review topics to do so. 

I am also exploring other avenues to support online learning, but will provide more information on these once I determine the best options for the course.

How will the labs work? CIS3750 labs are extremely important to the success of your community-engaged semester long project. Class time and labs will also involve a lot of group work. Given issues with internet access, time zone differences, and all sorts of other unknowns related to the pandemic, we will all be approaching the class and lab from an experimental point of view. That is, I will do my best to accommodate any issues that might arise, and I am working to develop and update resources to mitigate as many issues as I can in advance of the course. However, we will need to work together as a team to manage any bumps along the way, and to encourage respect and understanding when things don’t work out the way we hoped.

At the beginning of the semester, we will chat as a class to determine how we will best approach this so that students with limited internet or who live in different time zones can succeed in a group setting.

Depending on the number of TAs that are working with us and the size of the course, we may decide to set up weekly check-in meetings between each team and the TAs (during lab or outside of lab times).

What tools will be used?

  • Moodle
  • Zoom (although I may switch this to Microsoft Teams if they provide a break out room option)
  • Google Docs, Google Sheets, Google Slides
  • Redmine
  • Slack

Do I need to buy a textbook? No. Please don’t. I will provide all the necessary materials to you.

CIS4020 – Data Science

Will the lectures be recorded and made available to students? As with CIS3750, lectures will be recorded and made available. See above for more details.

How will the labs work? I am currently leaning towards an activities-based lab that you and your team can conduct on your own time. There are several reasons for this, including the fact that there are numerous students who need to take CIS3760 but it conflicts with the lab time for CIS4020. Switching to lab activities that you can do on your own time will help accommodate students in this position. If you are in this situation – don’t worry about it – you can enrol for both CIS3760 and CIS4020.

What tools will be used?

  • All the tools identified for CIS3750 (see above) plus…
  • RStudio or Python (student choice)
  • RShiny or Python Dash & Plotly

Do I need to buy a textbook? As with CIS3750, you will not need to buy a textbook. I will provide all the necessary materials to you.

Of course, if you have any other questions, feel free to contact me.


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