FAQs and other important information about UCSD courses taught by Prof Bewley
(as a student taking a course with Prof Bewley, it is your responsibility to be aware of all of the following)

 

1.  collaboration policy on homeworks:  Please form study groups and work together, both as you study the material and (unless specifically instructed otherwise) as you work on the homeworks.  Looking over someone’s shoulder for a bit to get a sense of what they are doing, and comparing intermediate results, is fine (and, encouraged); however, copying is not allowed.  Specifically, everything you turn in, including every line of code that you write to do the homework, must be written with your own hands. Please do not share your writeup or codes with anyone else, or ask someone else to share their writeup or codes with you; doing such (both giving and receiving) would be a violation of this course collaboration policy, and handled accordingly.

 

2.  homework:  Your homework writeups can be handwritten, printed, or a combination of both.  Homeworks should be turned in, in paper form, at the time/place specified - do not email to us your homework or codes unless explicitly instructed to do so, this is not an accepted substitute for physically turning your homework. A good homework writeup is one which explains clearly to you, in your own words five years from now, how to solve the problems asked, assuming that you also still have access to the course text (that is, feel free to simply reference relevant sections of the text in your discussion, there is no need to repeat them).

3.  exams:  Unless otherwise posted at the course website, there will be one written in-class midterm during the sixth week of the quarter, and one written final exam at the timeslot specified by UCSD for the course (both held in same room where lectures are normally held).  Make-up exams will be oral and generally cover the same material; students often tell me that oral exams are much more difficult for them, so please make absolutely certain that you arrive at the exam on time, and that your travel plans do not present conflicts.   Exams are all closed book, no electronics, with one page of notes in your own handwriting allowed for the midterm, and two pages of notes in your own handwriting allowed for the final (writing on both sides of the page is fine).  Please keep your summary notes after each exam: your midterm summary notes will be useful for the final, and your final summary notes will be useful for your later review of the essential material of this class (there is a lamination machine at the bookstore....)  Exams are always cumulative, with everything covered in class up to that point fair game; please do not ask "will this be on the exam"?  The answer is yes.  Exams will not be about the precise syntax of any particular programming language, but you may be asked to write pseudocode which illustrates that you understand how to turn a mathematical concept into an algorithm.

4.  email:  I can not keep up with emailed questions about the course material, or about the homework.  Most such emails will likely go unanswered (sorry).  However, I have ample office hours, and make myself available after (not before) every lecture - please stop by and get your questions answered then.  

5.  office hours:  Please come prepared with specific questions, as office hours are not for group study.  My office hours for fall 2016 are MWF 8:30-9:45 (excluding holidays), and after (not before) every lecture, unless otherwise posted (via email).

6. courtesy during lectures: Please try to get adequate sleep to be attentive, and eat & drink during lecture as necessary to keep yourself alert - please choose non-smelly foods in quiet packaging, and open pressurized containers before lecture begins.  I only have one strict rule: no electronics during lectures (phones, tablets, computers, etc).  The use of electronics during lecture is often a significant distraction, especially to those around you, and to me.  Instead, please bring to lecture a printout of the material that we are covering, and mark that up extensively in real time.  It is my experience (and, also, "studies show") that an active, tactile, non-electronic approach can assist your studying of difficult material.  (I recommend you print out the notes one page per side of each sheet of paper - trying to cram more onto a page becomes difficult to read accurately, and does not leave you adequate room to take notes.  The notes I use are already very dense, there is no need for you to attempt to make them denser...) 

 

7.  excusing yourself from lecture:  To minimize disruption, if you need to check text messages during class, or just can't stay awake, please excuse yourself quietly from the classroom.

8.  textbook corrections:  I highly appreciate the reporting of any and all errors or typos in the course text.   Please send me such corrections via email, with a subject line of “possible error in text”.  I make certain to go through all such emails eventually, though I don’t do this every week when things get busy.  Again, I am extremely grateful if/when you take the time to do this.

9.  flipped lectures:  I am in the process of recording some of the lecture content.  When I introduce this recording lecture content to the class, we will begin to shift the focus of some of our scheduled contact hours to working together on sample problems (which will sometimes involve your laptop computers - I’ll give you advance warning if/when this is the case), under the strict arrangement that you have watched the recorded lecture content beforehand (there will be quizzes, etc., to help ensure this).  I will also seek your feedback on the pros/cons of working in this "flipped" mode. An advantage that it presents is that you can watch a particular presentation one time or several, at between 0.5x and 2x speed, and with or without closed-captioning, depending on your level of comfort with a given subject, and with my use of technical English.

10.  the midterm homework:  After the midterm, I often assign an optional “midterm homework”, where the task is for you to write a solution set for the midterm.  If you do well on the midterm, you can skip this homework, and your midterm grade will be used for your grade for this homework; if you attempt this homework, you are asked to complete it in its entirety. This a chance for you to show me that, outside of the time pressure of the exam, and with your own notes and your computer available, you can effectively solve the questions asked on the midterm.   For this homework only, in contrast to policy #1 stated above, strictly no collaboration is allowed (with classmates or other humans, including through electronic means).  However, you can use the text, the computer, and web searches as much as you like.

11.  quizzes:  I will occasionally have pop quizzes in class.  These quizzes are meant to encourage you to stay current on the reading material for the class, and are effectively optional: if you miss or bomb a quiz before the midterm (or, after the midterm), your midterm (or, final) score will be used for your corresponding quiz grade.  However, the quizzes are typically much easier than the exams, so staying prepared for them is an effective way to improve your grade in the class.

12.  review sessions:  Review sessions for the midterm and final, if they are held, are always completely optional - no new material will be covered.  They are often good for betting understanding the big picture, and for getting common questions answered.

13.  grading:  In my classes, homework (and quizzes, if there are any) usually count for slighly over 50% of the final grade, the midterm about 10-15%, and the final about 30-35%.  That's as detailed as I get in terms of publishing the final formula before the end of the course, as the specific weightings used will, in the end, be proportional to the challenges presented with each component of the graded material, which varies from course to course.  The formula is also slightly nonlinear; if you attempt yet bomb the midterm but do well on the final, the corresponding weight on the midterm will be reduced slightly.

14.  tips for success:  Here is some random advice to help master difficult subject at the senior and graduate level in engineering:

  • engage fully: join study groups and talk about the material, study the corresponding section in the text(s) both before and soon after each class (there are only 19 classes each quarter), go to office hours, etc.  Reading this material is essential.  However, reading alone is a passive activity; talking about the subject (to anyone, really), taking notes during both reading and lecture, marking up a printout, etc., makes your deliberation of the material an active mental activity, and helps you to organize your thinking about it.

  • focus on understanding the big picture first: What is the relationship between the subjects being covered?  What are the main take-aways?  What are the foundational facts (theorems/lemmas/propositions/…) and algorithms, how are they useful, and on what main principles are they based?  Don’t get bogged down in the algebra or proofs at first - once the big picture starts to become clear, you can drill down and confirm the correctness and completeness of the detailed steps.

  • don’t get too distracted by homework, or by grades:  The main reason you are in the class is to gain understanding.  Homework exercises can be helpful to an extent, but are not at all a substitute for understanding the theory.  Grades can sometimes be motivating to an extent.  Neither exercises nor grades are the reason you are taking the class.  At the graduate level, you should spend much more time studying, discussing, and deliberating the actual course material than you do struggling with the homework.  And, most of the time spent fretting about grades is time wasted.

  • success is not a result of hours spent studying, but rather about quality hours spent studying.  These things are very different. Stay on the lookout for getting yourself stuck in the material, and if/when you do, move quickly to change things up (move to a different coffeeshop, chat with a classmate/instructor/TA, etc) in a way that you can get unstuck. Hours spent stuck don’t help.

© 2017 by Thomas Bewley