Thursday, September 8, 2016

My First Lecture in Numbers

It's done! The semester is over and I graded the last student of my lecture "Information-Theoretic System Analysis and Design". It was a great experience, and I thank Gerhard Kramer for offering me this opportunity. I also owe Lars, my colleage, more than a few drinks for taking care of most of the problem classes, and my colleagues Andrei and Ali for interesting discussions and comments about the course material. And I also thank my students, who bore with me until the end of the semester, and who were never tired of asking interesting questions -- I think I've never had such an engaged, excited audience.

Here's the course in numbers:
  • (I think) I held 14 lectures. Lars and I shared 6 problem classes.
  • I spend roughly 200 hours preparing course notes, lecturing, correcting deliverables, etc.
  • In the problem classes, students calculated 11 problems in front of their peers. The remaining 7 problems were done by Lars.
  • We had 1 exam and 2 mandatory homework assignments, weighed 50%-25%-25%.
  • Both homeworks had 9 problems.
  • We had 8 regular students with (as far as I know) 8 different nationalities, originating from 2 continents.
  • 7 of these students took the exam and delivered the 2 homework exercises. The average grade of this course was 1.35.
  • The course notes totaled to 102 pages, containing 8 chapters, 40 worked examples, and 62 end-of-chapter problems.
  • 6 students finished the course evaluation. An excerpt is shown below.
Course Evaluation (in parts)
And here are some lessons I learned:
  • My PhD thesis is far from complete.
  • There is never enough time to prepare course notes. Even though the course was based on my PhD thesis, it was hard work to prepare the results in an understandable manner.
  • You have to make sure that the description of homework problems is precise and complete.
  • Don't get confused by registration numbers. 30+ students registered for the course, but in the first lecture less than 10 showed up. Apparently (so I was told), many students register for a course to get the course notes on Moodle.
  • Students prefer a script that they can get printed at the Fachschaft. Putting chapters online a few days before the lecture is ok, but a script is better.
  • It's good not to have a sttrict course syllabus if's the first time you give the course. You never how exactly how much time you have to spend at a given topic, so it's better to leave room for changes. Still, it's a good idea to have at least a rough sketch of what topics you want to cover.