Total number of completed responses = 64. Breakdown of results below. A big “thank you” to all who participated.
- Average time spent each week on different aspects of the coursework.
|Reading assigned text||11%||38%||44%||2%||5%|
|Working on quizzes||5%||23%||36%||18%||17%|
|Another other work||15%||26%||36%||15%||6%|
The overall impression is that the load is roughly within the expected range for a 4MC module, though some students spend more, or less time. (The official stand in NUS is that “a 4-MC module would require 10 hours of work a week, including lectures, tutorials, laboratory sessions, assignments, and independent or group study”; source.)
- Time spent on the Special Project
Setting aside the outliers (more below), the average is just under 7hrs, ranging from lows of 1-2hrs, to highs of 15hrs. Considering that the Project is 3 quizzes worth of the grade, the workload seems commensurate (not counting the outliers). Also, given that I have deliberately designed the course with only 10 major topics (after the introduction), it means that there is a free week with no additional substantive content or lecture, which is supposed to free up the time needed for the project. So I do think the overall impression is that the workload for the Special Project is within the expected range. That said, I’m slightly worried about the outliers: “48hr”, “Around 4 days worth, like 96hr”, and “Planning of plot of film took around a week online. Filming took 4 hours. Editing took half a day-a day.” The last one is probably not an issue since I’m sure the students weren’t literally working full time on the project in that “week” of planning. But 48hrs and 96hrs are on the side of “too much”. (I hope the students at least enjoyed themselves and made good friends through the process.)
- Grades weightage of each component
|Should be lower||About right||Should be higher|
|Quizzes (9 of 10; 36%)||14%||70%||14%|
|Special Project (12%)||11%||60%||30%|
The overall feeling seems to be that the weightage of each component is about right, though you might make a case that participation could be slightly lower and Special project could be slightly higher.
- Any other suggestions/comments relating to workload
A total of 19 comments were received (the rest either skipped or put “Nil”). These can be sorted into a few large categories.
Overall Workload: 6 comments basically said that workload was “manageable”, “decent”, “reasonable”, even “perfect”, though one added that “some readings are harder to comprehend” (see below on Readings). One said “had fun learning”, which I take to be in the same ballpark.
Quizzes: 5 comments in this group, the second largest. The comments are hard to summarize as there is not clear trend here–some said they were “really quite touch” while another said that they can have “more questions as well as more difficult questions”. One wanted a greater range of difficulty–from what I can see from the scores, that’s already been achieved. One wanted fortnightly quizzes–but that’s will probably be less effective in cementing learning. I would also resist implementing a midterm–continuous assessment should be genuinely continuous.
The remaining are basically sets of just a couple of comments in each category.
Exams: One agrees with the open book format, while another thinks that the finals should have less weightage (and the special project more). Since students are allowed (maybe even encouraged) to discuss with each other for their Continual Assessment, having a final exam ensures that individual performance is given its proper due. From past experience, we can see that exam performance do not match CA performance perfectly, which suggests that it does provide an independent point of evidence about the students. Nonetheless, I’ve thought about lowering the weightage of the final for a while, though I’m still not ready to move for now.
Special Project: One asked that feedback for projects be given–it was probably entered before that was done. Another expressed dissatisfaction with the component, especially the timing, which tends to the time when other assignments are also due. I’m not sure if that can be helped. One possibility is to move it earlier–but that means that the later topics will be out of the running. This might not be a bad idea, since there are hardly any projects for Cohen and Mind, but Bostrom has always has his fans. It’s something I’ll have to think about for the next semester. The same commenter also said that “increasing marks for special project based on subjective votes honestly seems like an arbitrary way of grading”–this is a misunderstanding. The voting–which accounts for the final 1 of 12 points–is only as ‘subjective’ (or not) as being marked in a more traditional way. Projects that made it to the semi-finalist round are as if marked by all of the tutors, and those that made it to the finalist round are as if marked by a collective of professors rather than just one! If anything, you might say that this is more objective. The purely popularity part of the vote relates only to the “Student Choice Award” and no marks are attached to it.
Attendance/Participation: The basic gist here is either to remove attendance and incorporate it into participation (this will be an unpopular move given the results of the previous part of the survey), or reduce/do away with the attendance/participation component altogether and the marks rolled into Special Project instead. The commenter feels that the move will “give students a greater incentive to put in considerable effort into the SP, and also reward those who do”, something desirable since he or she felt that “SP is a better gauge of content understanding and application compared to A+P.” On the flip side, the move will also allow the introvert to who “feels that s/he learns best in complete silence” to do so without penalty. This is a tough one not least because I’m somewhat sympathetic. But there are also downsides, not the least of which is giving up on the general idea that participation in discussion is part and parcel of what it means to have done some philosophy. But the points are well taken and I’ll need to think about them.
- The Scheduling of the Quizzes
Separately, a student wrote in to comment on a different sort of workload issue. He pointed out that because of the way the quizzes are scheduled–they come in the week following the tutorial on the topic, which itself comes in the week following the lecture on the topic–students might find themselves juggling three different topics each week: (a) the reading and lecture for the current week’s topic, (b) the tutorial for the previous week’s topic, and (c) the quiz for the topic of the week before that. This problem doesn’t affect all students, but likely some. This is a good observation to bring to my attention.
I wanted students to have the chance to have a complete round of discussion before they attempt the quiz so they feel better prepared. Secondarily, I wanted to give the tutors a chance to have done some of the tutorials before they propose their draft questions to me, but that’s not a big issue. Nonetheless, if it turns out that the scheduling is causing unnecessary grief, I should see if there’s anything I can do to fix it.
Here’s one possibility: we could have the quizzes in the same week as the tutorial (more or less). For instance, something like the following:
- Week n = lecture
- Week n+1 = quiz opens early Monday morning; tutorial through the week
- Week n+2 = quiz closes early Monday morning
Concurrently, tutorials can build in some discussion of the quiz questions (I’m not worried about tutors giving the answers away–they know not to do that). This way, perhaps there will also be more incentive for students to join in the discussion. Relatedly, tutorials can also become a platform for students to discover and form peer study groups that will support each other–several students told me that they spent a good couple of hours each week, maybe over lunch, debating the quiz questions, and found the process extremely rewarding. I absolutely concur and would prefer to be able to encourage all students to do that! In any case, the point is so that students don’t have to juggle more than two topics in any given week: (a) the reading and lecture for the current week’s topic, and (b) the tutorial and quiz for the previous week’s topic. Anyway, something to think about for the next semester.