How to Approach this Course

How to Approach this Course#

This course treats you as an adult learner, who brings a mature and serious commitment to participating fully in the course. We assume that your motivation for taking the course is to learn how to use Python to perform data science. We also recognize that this is a challenging task, and it’s likely quite different from other learning experiences you’ve had in the past. So class time is focused on support sessions where you can ask questions and get help. But at the same time, this course requires that you put in significant hours per week outside of class: at the outset, you should budget 8 h/week of work on your own time. This is in addition to 2-3 h/week of class time.

This course also aims to develop some your professional, 21st century skills, such as effective communication and teamwork. This ties in with the teaching philosophies of constructivism and connectivism, which emphasize the value of communicating with your peers and constructing your knowledge collectively. You will need to spend time learning and working on your own, but communication with your peers will help you learn more, and more deeply. We hope that this will happen naturally to some degree, and have constructed opportunities to encourage this, such as providing a communication platform and incentives to use it. As well, the projects are designed so that they require coordinated teamwork.

I assume that you are taking this course because you genuinely want to meet the stated learning objectives of the course. That is to say, you are not taking this course just because you need a credit towards your degree, or because you think it will improve your GPA. Moreover, one of the learning objectives of this course is that by the end, you will be able to demonstrate a professional work ethic. Although this is a university course, it is framed to emulate a professional work environment. This means that you are expected to take responsibility for your own learning and performance, and also to support the learning and performance of your peers.

You should not view the members of the teaching team (instructor, TA) as opponents, but as guides and consultants. Although ultimately we will assign each of you a grade, our primary role is to support your learning, and help you achieve your best possible performance. At the same time, you should not expect that the teaching team will give you everything you need to succeed — a key part of taking responsibility for your own learning and performance is that you actively engage in finding the information you need, and teaching yourself how to do things, often through trial and error. The teaching team is not here to give you all the answers; rather, we are here to provide you with the skills to learn and find the answers you need. This may involve finding documentation, tutorials, and examples on the web, talking with your peers, or asking specific questions of the teaching team — questions that demonstrate that you’ve already tried to solve the problem yourself, and have identified the thing that you’re stuck on. This is to say, you should not view the course instructor as a “sage on the stage” (especially since there is no stage), but rather as your “guide on the side”.