Bios 311 Class Details and Expectations



Grades

  • Grades will be based on two exams (~300 points each), announced and unannounced quizzes (~100 points), a project proposal and analysis (~50 points each), weekly assignments, attendance, participation, etc. Letter grades are given (A+, A, A-, B+, B, B-, C+, C, C-, ...) .
  • This is a graduate level course. In my mind that means it should emphasize cooperative learning, collaboration, and self-instruction. It should deemphasize competition and focus on grades. You are here because you are talented, highly motivated people. My expectation is that the focus will be on learning and not grades.
  • That said, if at any point it looks like someone may be in the C range, we should begin a discussion immediately to see if additional help is needed or if the course is appropriate.
  • Moreover, if you will die if you don't get an A, don't take this course. This course is designed to be challenging for those looking to get a graduate degree in this field.

Weekly assignments

  • You will be required to submit take home assignments as well as in-class assignments.
  • Time is your biggest challenge. You will be responsible for more reading and problems than you will be able to finish.
  • You need to learn to discern which problems and readings you should spend your time on. That set of problems will be different for each of you.
  • A good rule of thumb is to look for the easiest problem that you can't solve. Read a problem. If it's trivial but will take you 5 minutes to write out the solution, save those 5 minutes for another problem. If you have no idea how to even start the problem, save it for later after you've learned more and may understand it better. If the problem looks doable but not trivial, chances are you'll learn something by doing that problem.
  • There is benefit in working out the easy problems and beating your head against the wall on the hard problems. So don't avoid them completely. Just use your time wisely. Watch out for spending your time on easy problems and readings, which make you feel good but don't teach you much. Maximize your learning per hour.
  • We emphasize collaborative work and cooperative learning. If you understand something well, you should be teaching those who donít. When you try to teach something, youíll be pushed to understand it in ways you wonít when studying it alone. If you donít understand something well and are stuck on figuring it out yourself, you should be comfortable asking those who understand it. If neither of you understand, figure it out together. If none of you can figure it out even working together, I need to know because it may mean Iím making things too hard.
  • Very heterogeneous class with a great mix of differing strengths. Need to get to know and rely on each other.

Quizzes

  • We will have a small quiz almost every week.
  • Announced and unannounced.
  • Some will be designed to test your understanding of foundational material (to make sure you're keeping up, did the reading, etc.). Some will be gimme's (you get full credit for showing up and doing the work). Some will be solo and some group work.
  • Pros: Helps keep everyone caught up, emphasizing a learning goal over a problem set facilitates better understanding.
  • Cons: Not great if you have test anxiety, but youíll find it serves as exposure therapy.

Pyramid exams

  • These will be the midterm and final. They will consist of 3 stages.
  • Part 1 is solo, in-class, timed work. Open book, open notes, closed computer, closed cellphone, closed any wireless device, closed other people.
  • Part 2 is solo, take-home, open everything and everyone. Seriously. Talk to people. Search the web. Figure it out and get it right. Just remember, you are academics; always cite your sources. It's always better to over-cite than show-off.
  • Part 3 is large scale collaborative work, the whole class, one exam, figure out how to all work together to get it perfect.

Your experiment (small project)

  • Each of you will create a small project where you will design and conduct your own small experiment on whatever you want.
  • The goal is to give you the opportunity to think through refining a question, quantifying an outcome, design a minimally biased data collection process, writing up a short proposal (1-3 pages) and results (1-3 pages).
  • These may require several revisions before they are accepted.

No make-ups

  • There are no make-up quizzes, examinations, or projects for any reason.
  • It is expected that students will miss some quizzes for professional and personal reasons, e.g. conferences and illnesses.
  • So don't worry if you need to miss a couple quizzes. Consider worrying only if you need to miss a lot of quizzes.

Cellphones, pagers, etc.

  • Please keep them on silent mode (or even turn them off if that won't give you a panic attack).
  • If you are on call, please be considerate and discretely slip out of the room when needed.
  • You'll forget sometimes, and so will I. We'll survive.

Laptops

  • Required for some classes and otherwise not allowed.
  • We will contact Health Services for Facebook withdrawal therapy if necessary.
  • You can't multitask. You can't really understand the lecture, reply to your email, and learn what your friends are up to on Facebook all at once. None of us can. Yes, multitasking feels great. It feels like we're getting so much done. But in reality we are just doing a sucky job at many things at once, while feeling really good about it. And chances are that your professional environment is training you to live this way all the time.
  • I will try to help by requiring laptops and other distractions to be off most of the time.

The class

  • In a change from previous years, lecture time will be reduced and workshop time increased.
  • We will follow the text more closely.
  • You will be responsible for the reading, i.e. you will often be tested on it prior to class.

The lab

  • Mandatory to receive a grade.
  • The class and lab are graded as one, although they get posted separately.
  • Opportunity to get more direct instruction.
  • New material will presented when there are opportunities to do so.

Statistical packages

  • R is the primary package of the class.
  • Stata is a secondary package. It will not be covered much in this class, but the Biostatistics students will want to familiarize themselves with it throughout the semester. The comps usually have Stata output. It's helpful to get used to how that looks and understanding what is in the output.

Continual feedback

  • I am continually refining the course and the needs of each class are different from year to year.
  • Your feedback throughout the semester can play a big role in making the class successful.

Philosophy, emphasis, and de-emphasis

  • We assume some exposure to methods of inference but not mastery, e.g. this isn't your first time hearing of a t-test or confidence interval.
  • We aim to get under the hood of the methods, understand the philosophy, derivations, and operating characteristics of the methods.
  • Experiment driven, especially virtual experiments, i.e. simulation studies. We have to opportunity to understand how these methods perform in a way that has been impossible until recently.
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Topic revision: r6 - 19 Aug 2013, RobertGreevy
 

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