Course Policies

by Mike Gleicher on August 10, 2017

You may also want to look at the Syllabus and the Administrative Postings category.

This class will consist of:

  • Lectures
  • Readings
  • In Class Exercises (ICEs)
  • Online Discussion Assignments
  • Seek and Find Assignments
  • Design Challenges

The Weekly Rhythm

In the average week…

  • There will be class meetings on Monday and Wednesday. Often, at least one of those days will involve an in-class experience and/or some critique practice.
  • There will be a reading assignment. Generally, these will be due before the class meetings.
  • There will be an online discussion assignment, generally going along with the readings and class activities. There will always be an initial posting due on Tuesday (the night before Wednesday). There will often be mutliple required initial postings. There is also a requirement to “discuss” (reply to other people’s postings, participate in discussion, …).
  • There will be a “Seek and Find” assignment where you must find a visualization that fits the prompt and post it online (along with answering a question about it). While it is strongly recommended that you look at others’ postings (and comment on them), this is not required.
  • There will be some aspect of a “Design Challenge” going on. Even though the overall design challenges are multiple weeks long with a “final handin”, there will be near-weekly milestones.

Class Schedule

The class is officially scheduled for 11-12:15 on Monday, Wednesday and Friday, Every week of the semester (except during break). The first week of class, there is no class on Monday, the last day of class is December 13.

Note that this is “overscheduled:” the class is scheduled for 3*75 minutes a week, but is only a 3 credit hour class. So, we will meet for (on average) 150 minutes a week (which is what a 3 credit hour class is meant to do).

Under normal circumstances, the class will meet twice a week: on Monday and Wednesday. There will be exceptions. For example, the first week, classes start on Wednesday, so we will meet Wednesday and Friday.

Students are responsible for checking the course web to determine the schedule.

We will do everything we can to give you as much advanced warning as possible as to what the class schedule is. We also understand that the irregular schedule makes things difficult for people (which is why we will do all we can to stick to Monday/Wednesday as a regular pattern).

In the weeks where there is no class on Friday, we will sometimes have an optional class in the time slot.

You are “required” to bring “art supplies” to class (some paper and some pens/pencils/crayons with different colors). We will ask you to draw things and turn them in to us. You cannot count on us bringing paper for you to draw on, or to provide pens/pencils.

The class has a University scheduled official exam time slot. I do not expect that there will be an in-class exam, so we will not use this time slot.


For Lectures and Readings: I have no direct way to measure how well, or even if, you do them. I have in the past found ways to take lecture attendance, but I am not sure I will do that this year. If you don’t do the readings and come to lectures (and listen/participate), you won’t learn as much. However, other graded aspects of class will reflect how well you do with these things.

Officially, attendance is required and I reserve the right to penalize someone if I am aware if their attendance is a problem. Historically, there’s an odd paradox: the students who are active in class are the ones that I notice when they are missing. For this reason, I will try to base any determination on objective measures.

For In Class Excersizes, Online Discussion Assignments, and Seek and Find Assignments: it is difficult to assess how well people do with these assignments. There are lots of small assignments, they are time consuming to grade effectively, and even then, grading is subjective. For these assignments, I trust that if people do them and take them seriously, you will learn from them. Hopefully, your personal standards (and peer pressure since these assignments are shared with your classmates) will lead you to do excellent work. I will keep track of what people do (to make sure that people complete assignments ontime) – but I won’t try to “grade” them.

Scoring on these assignments will be Check/No Check/Nothing (it is better to do something, rather than nothing). We’ll also keep track of how on-time you are. We will reward consistency: what I care about is that you do “almost all” of them. There is no way to make things up later (since they involve other people), but I appreciate that you will miss some things (see the policy on attendance). Roughly, you can miss 2-3 of each kind of assignment without penalty.

For Design Challenge Assignments: These will (usually) be graded with a letter grade.

For the final grade: if you do “perfectly” on the assignments (almost always turn in reasonable things on time), you will get a grade on the A/AB border for this part. To get an A, you need to excel at something – you can’t excel at getting checks. Roughly 2/3 of your “grade” are the assignments. The other 1/3 are the graded challenges. I reserve the right to give people a boost because of subjective factors (e.g., quality of assignments) if they are close to a border.

We will look at the quantity and quality of discussions beyond the minimums at the end of the semester to form a subjective opinion that can raise a grade on a borderline.


Late Policy

All due dates are for the date posted. If something is due on Monday, then any time Monday will be OK. 12:01am Tuesday is not Monday. All times are in Madison.

On rare occassion (where I need to be able to process assignments in order to enable the next phase of an assignment), there may a specific timing posted. These will be hard deadlines.

Some deadlines are “soft:” if you turn things in late, it will be noted as late. Consistency matters: if you usually turn things in on time, but turn an assignment a few hours late, I won’t care. If you turn in all 15 of your discussion assignments after the deadline, that will probably cost you. A big reason for the soft deadline is to get people to turn in their work so that others can look at it and discuss it.

Some deadlines are “hard:” the Canvas turn-in system won’t let you turn things in after a certain date. For assignments (discussions, seek and finds), this is because I don’t want you doing them after the fact: I’d rather you focus on the current topics instead of going back to old stuff. For other assignments, its about grading: I need to get all the assignments so I can get them graded.

Grading Details

A limitation with grading is that I am stuck with Canvas. When I grade, I either need to give letter grade, or I need to use numbers. In the past, I tried using the numbers as codes. But this confuses everyone (partially because canvas converts to percentages). No matter how many times I reminded students that “7 is the best possible grade” they would complain “but what do I need to do to get 100%.”

So, this year’s experiment with Canvas grading will be to either not grade “discussion” assignments (the Weekly Discussions and the Seek and Finds) in Canvas, or if I do to use the following 4 valued scheme:
0 – Nothing turned in
1 – Doesn’t meet minimal requirements
2 – Mike’s note to himself (i.e., I need to revisit this at grading time)
3 – Complete assignment (or better)

Note: that if you have a truly amazing assignment, you might get a 2 (not a 3) because I am leaving myself a note that I need to revisit this to find a way to reward you (and I can’t reward you using the score in Canvas).

We will look at the quantity and quality of discussions beyond the minimums at the end of the semester to form a subjective opinion that can raise a grade on a borderline.

Be sure to turn in your in class assignments when asked! And make sure your name is on it! And make sure I can read your name! And use the name that matches what is on the roster! (I don’t always learn everyone’s nickname)

Also: you must be present to turn in an in-class experience. Don’t have your friend turn in a piece of paper with your name if you don’t show up. This is academic misconduct, and you will be penalized.

Attendance Policy

Class attendance is required.

It is my job to make sure that your time in class is well spent and worth it. It is your job to be there. Sometimes the value in a class experience may not be obvious to you. And sometimes, I’ll do something experimental which may fail. If you don’t feel like I am keeping up my side of this deal well enough for you to keep up yours, let me know.

Being present in class means more than just being there physically: it means being there mentally and participating. With devices (phones, laptops, etc.) it is really tempting to read your email, check the news or social media, play a game, or take a nap. It’s tempting to think of class like a cafe – a nice comfy place with a good internet connection. But, remember, that when you do this, not only are you missing out, but you are distracting to others.

So please plan to come to class and really attending class. In some ways its worse to “be there (physically) but not be there (mentally)” than to not be there are all.

If you don’t intend on attending “nearly all” of the class meetings, you should not take this class. If someone’s attendance is perceived to be a problem, we will penalize them.

We understand that it is impossible for everyone to be at every class (even the instructor misses some classes). Things happen – bad and good. You get sick, you need to go to a family reunion in honor of your grandmother’s 100th birthday, you need to go to Stockholm to get a Nobel prize, your alarm clock breaks and you sleep through class …

The range of reasons people have for missing class is broad – and it’s difficult to judge what is “legitimate” or not. So, if you are going to miss class, let us know, we decide that your attendance is a problem, we’ll look at the reasons.

In general, there is no way to “make up” what happens in class. You cannot make up an in-class experience (since you didn’t experience it!). We will try to make some exceptions at the beginning of the semester when people will miss class because they aren’t sure of their enrollment status. But, if you miss class, you miss what happened. Talk to a classmate to find out what we talked about. You are still responsible for any online assignments either due before or after a class. But you cannot do an in-class experience without actually being there, and doing/having the experiences is what makes this course.

We also understand that irregularity of the class schedule can make it difficult for you to plan when you will miss class. We will try to give you sufficient warning on the class schedule. However, if there is an unexpected schedule change, we will be more understanding if people cannot come.

Knowing who is (and is not) in class is difficult. There are enough people that it’s hard to remember everyone, and keep track. Ironically, when you notice someone is missing it is often a good sign about the person (the person is enough of a contributor to class that their absence is felt). We’ll do some things to keep track of who is and isn’t in class, including the in-class experiences, but we will generally rely on the honor principle for you to tell us you weren’t there. If we notice that you’re missing and you didn’t tell us, that’s not good.

In-class experiences will give us one tool to gauge who is at class. Do not try to game this. If you miss an experience, you miss the experience.

Because of the way the room is set up, if you come late, you will disrupt your classmates. Please try to be on time.

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