I will urge you to read all of the website contents carefully. The timetable will indicate which of the classes are going to be online (onl) this term; we are doing a small experiment to allow you to experience both in-person (as required by UW, most of your classes) and online, to provide insights into the topic of whether postsecondary education can truly thrive as an online experience, due to computerzation.
The reality is that for this course, because I grade the first four assignments, there are periods where I am not very reachable via email. This is why I always have you cc Gaurav firstname.lastname@example.org regardless if you are in Sec 1 or Sec 2. The RPEs are managed totally by the TAs; I am not involved while they are running. I do oversight at the end with TAs however before grades are decided.
The Timetable is very important to be consulting each week. It outlines which topics we are going to focus on this year, for Readings and Discussion, and for Assignments and RPEs. At several times, the assignment being written relates to a recently handled discussion topic. Often, the RPE of the week aligns in some way with the discussion topic as well.
In Week 1 we will be covering Overview of Social Implications (where your A1 asks you reflect on what you think is the Biggest Problem -- feel free to do personal reflection and research is not being asked for (though if you are claiming a statistic or hard fact, then you do need to cite). A1 comes up pretty soon into the course; it is due 10am Waterloo time on Thu May 12. It is a very short assignment and is worth about 5 marks. All assignment grades are shown in terms of multiples of 5s -- but when the assignment total is determined that grade out of 50 gets converted to one out of 60.
Once we are through Week1, we launch into a study of the Internet. I will ask you to view a video for one of the classes: this will give you a pretty amazing perspective on the origins of the Internet and will provide you with several insights for future discussion in class or in your essays. There are a fair number of readings that week. You are always welcome to just skim some; most are fairly short. A lot of the time the readings are there as food for thought for future assignments, such as A5. By the end of this week we reveal a) all the RPE groups for the course (shown on a webpage) and b) whether you are in Group1 or Group2 for your section. The Group split is for the middle weeks of the Timetable and provides each student with one day off each during this timeframe (sometimes helpful to allow RPE teammates to gather). The Group split allows us to have discussions with smaller numbers of students, to give everyone a chance to speak; we are expecting suitably high turnout on these dates and reserve the right to put everyone back together for all classes, if attendance is weak. A2 is also due on May 19 this week. It is a short answer one page sheet for you to complete, thinking just from the top of your head (no research required -- want to see your thinking processes). It shouldn't take you more than about an hour to complete.
Note that each student must attend classes in their section only. Your section shows which newsgroup you are in and who can be possible groupmates for RPEs and for Assignment 4.
Week 3 onwards proceeds with the smaller groups for discussion. The earlier discussions are a bit more crowded but it is difficult to split the class until the phase when people stop being added/subtracted ends. We cover the core topics of Privacy, Work (two classes, one focused on productivity and nature of work; one focused on e-commerce), Ethics and Computer-Mediated Communication. Following this, we are all together for two topics where a diversity of opinions is important to experience; gender balance and marginalization is the first and the benefits and drawbacks of video games is the second. These classes will be online but with small breakout groups which will confer and then merge back into the class as a whole, revealing their insights.
The remaining weeks of the term feature: a guest speaker, coming in at a distance online (we want strong turnout and will budget a large amount of time for questions from students); getting through all remaining RPEs; a chance to look back at the term, first in an eye-opening class dubbed If I Ruled the World where each student can reveal which social problem they would most like to fix, as a computer scientist and how they think one step forward can be taken and then more retrospectively in our final chance to gather on Jul 22, where prizes will be given to some noteworthy students and thoughts for new topics to be covered in this course, going forward, will be solicited.
One of classes near the end of term is especially IMPORTANT: on Jul 20 we do an exercise called A5B where each student is asked to read and evaluate an essay submitted by someone else in the class (filling out a feedack sheet, where the reviewer's name is not revealed). This provides students with new insights into how to write (or not to write) and counts towards participation grades. The essay writer also benefits by receiving additional feedback. During this class we also begin with a few final remarks on the course, followed by time for everyone to complete course evaluations. During this initial timeframe, TAs will work behind the scenes to sort out how to assign an A5 written by a classmate to each student.
Apart from Topics of the Week, RPEs consume 10 of our classes so I need to say a few words about them, and about the Assignments that you complete. I will do that next.