Grades and grading policies

The following will be a component of your final grade (percentage indicated in parenthesis):

Homework (15%)

There will be weekly homework assignments, consisting of both graded essay-style questions and explorations on the Web. You are encouraged to work in groups of two or three students (no more than three) on the homework, with a single group submission and a single grade. It is important that all students participate, and use the group interaction as a way to aid learning (as well as make the experience more pleasant). We have enrolled a large number of students in the course in relation to teaching assistant resources, so group submissions of homework also help us by reducing the number of homeworks that must be graded.

Homework will be assigned on Monday, and will be due at 5pm on Wednesday (two weeks later). Late homework will be accepted for 50% credit within one week of the due date.

Grading criteria: Due to limitations on available grading resources, we are not grading homework carefully for accuracy and giving you detailed feedback. (Of course project reports and exams will be graded that way.) Rather, we are looking for conscientiousness in completing the homework; that is, giving it a good try. This is judged in part by length of your answers, but also looking for thoughtfullness and originality. The calibration is on a 10-point scale roughly as follows:

10 = extremely conscientious and complete
8 = typical or average homework submission
6 = incomplete, or very terse answers reflecting less effort
4 = one or two word answers to questions that suggest more complete answers
0 = not submitted

Project (30%)

There will be a group project with multiple milestones, where you will collaborate with a group of 4-5 students in practicing the application of the course material to a real-life situation. The outcome will be a Web-posted report, so that other students can benefit from it. All students in the group will receive the same grade. At the end of the semester, each student will be asked to rate the participation (quality and quantity) of the other members of their group, and this will make up 5% of the total 25%.

See the course calendar for project milestone due dates. Late milestones will be accepted for 50% credit, as long as they are submitted within one week of the due date.

Exams (40%)

There will be a midterm and a final exam. Both exams will be takehome open-book essay-style questions, with submission by email and with a word limit on each answer. The midterm should each take about 2 hours to complete, and the final three hours. You will be given 48 hours from the time the questions are available until it is due -- not because it will take this long, but to give you some flexibility to work around other committments. The midterm will count for 15% of your grade, and the final 25%..

See the course calendar for the exam dates and times. Late exams will be accepted for 50% credit within 24 hours of the due date and time.

Quizzes (10%)

Short Web-based open-book quizzes will be given every two weeks (except when there is an exam) based on the material of the past two weeks. Each quiz will have a time limit (typically about 15 minutes), and you will be given a window from 3pm to 9pm during which you can take the quiz at any time of your choosing.

See the course calendar for the date and time of the quizzes. Quizzes will not be available for taking outside this window except by prior arrangement and for very good reason.

Discussion forum (5%)

On Monday of each week, your instructors will post a couple of controversial or interesting issues on the discussion forum. You are invited to participate in the subsequent discussion.. You are not expected to respond to every single issue, but those you find interesting and where you have substantive input. As a general guideline, you may actually participate in about one-third of the discussions. You should read all the discussion on the forum. You are also encouraged to post other issues of particular interest to you, as a new thread. Your activity in the discussion forum will be noted, both as to quantity (of both reads and generated messages) and the substance and quality of your contributions to the discussions and this will determine your grade.