Assessed Work

The assessed work for this course consists of computer lab/homework assignments (40%), a class project (50%) and class discussion (10%; including either contributing to class discussion and/or submitting reading questions. There are no exams. The class project will have several components and will be described in more detail below.

The planned assignment due dates are in the schedule section of the syllabus. Any revision to the due dates will be announced at the time they are assigned.
Assignments are due on the same day as a class session are due by 11am Eastern Time. If the University is closed on the due date of an assignment (due to bad weather or any other reason), then the assignment will be due by 11am before the next class session (that is not canceled).

Lab/Homework Exercises

Early in the semester, homework assignments will be assigned once a week. Later in the semester, homework assignments will become shorter and/or less frequent, since you will be working on your class project. Students will begin each homework exercise by following a link that will create a clone of the starter git repository. Students are to read and think about the questions posted, and add/edit code as suggested in the exercise, making multiple small commits as they go. Homework exercises are to be submitted by a pull request from the student’s github repository.

Most assignments will not have a unique solution, and comparing the accuracy and/or performance of different solutions will likely prove educational. Therefore, rather than providing “the solution”, we will typically discuss selected student solutions during class to help illustrate the advantages and disadvantages of different approaches.

The homework assignments are designed to be educational. The experience of working on the assignment is more valuable than having “the solution”. As this is a three credit class, it is expected that students will devote an average of 5 hours per week to the course outside of class. If we estimate an average of ~1 hour/week for reading, then that leaves ~4 hours per week to work on homework assignments or your class project outside of class. If a student completes a homework assignment with less than ~2 hours of effort, then I would encourage them to go beyond the minimum to complete the assignment and try to come up with an even more efficient solution to the problem or to devote extra time to their project. Conversely, if you have done the readings, participated in class and devoted 4 hours of focused effort outside of class to a homework assignment, then you should stop coding! At that point, write up a short description of what you’ve done, what’s working, what problems you’ve encountered and what you think you would try next. Don’t let one homework assignment take an unreasonable amount of your time. I will adjust the length and difficulty of the homework assignments based on what students turn in. Since some students will have more programming experience than others, I will try to make each homework assignment somewhat more than the average student can do in 4 hours, so that all students are challenged. If you are so interested that you choose to work longer on a homework assignment, then please create and tag a commit with where you were after 4 hours of focused effort, so that I have a realist idea of how much students are accomplishing in a reasonable amount of time.

Class Project

The class project (worth a total of 50% of final grade) includes the following key elements:

Project Proposals

Students are encouraged to propose a project that closely relates to their research interests. Student are strongly encouraged to discuss their ideas with the instructor far enough in advance of the deadline, that they can refine or change plans prior to the proposal due date. If you have no idea and would like the instructor to suggest a project, then let the instructor know by the end of the first week and suggestions can be offered.

The written proposal should include:

More information about the expectations for class projects and grading rubrics are provided in the class project section of the website.

Readings & Reading Questions

Students will be expected to read assignments (or review a website, watch an online presentation, or listen to audio) before class on the days indicated, so they will be prepared to participate in class discussions and/or make progress writing code for the assignment. All students should submit an average of at least one question per week about the week’s readings via TopHat by 11am Eastern Time on the day of discussion-based classes (typically Mondays; as opposed to Thursdays which will typically be lab-based classes). There is a link to the course TopHat site inside the Canvas webpage. Submitting well before class starts is important, so the instructor will have time to read the questions and organize the day’s discussion based on actual student questions. You’re also encouraged to take a look at questions submitted by other students and give a “thumbs up” to indicate those questions that you’d also like to be addressed in class. In the event of technically difficulties, you can email your question to the instructor with “Astro 528 Reading Question” in the subject line.

Class Participation

In-class discussions and coding sessions will be an important part of the course, so students should aim to participate regularly. Students who are reluctant to ask questions in class are especially encouraged to ask extra questions prior to class, as described above. If you know you need to miss class due to research travel or health issues, then let the instructor know in advance whenever practical. It may be possible to watch recordings of missed classes. If that is not practical for some reason, make plans to get a classmate’s notes for any missed class sessions.

Exam Policy

There will be no exams.

Timeliness of assignments

Students should start all assignments well before the due date, so they can resolve any technical difficulties well in advance of the deadline. When assignments are discussed in class on the day they are due, then credit will be given based on what is submitted prior to class. In cases where turning in assignments on time is not practical due to illness, family emergency, or other university-approved excuse, assignments should still be completed and turned in, but those assignments may not be included when computing the course grade. If portions of the class project totalling more than 10% of course grade can not be completed before the course end date due to illness, family emergency, etc., then the student can elect to receive a “deferred grade” (DF) and to submit the remaining portions of the project no later than eight weeks after the course end date. Students electing this option should be familiar with the PSU DF policies.