Syllabus PSC320 W2018

Please see course website for logistics and timeline.

Text: We will use prepared videos and online reading. You are also welcome to buy an energy/society textbook on your own if you like.

Grading: You will be graded based on watching the videos, two midterm exams, a final exam, and a group project.

Exams: Each midterm counts 25% toward your grade and your final exam counts 40% and can replace up to one lower midterm exam grade, 10% on your project. Thus, there is no major penalty for missing a midterm, as this is grade of zero will be replaced by the final exam grade.

Projects: You will research an energy problem and solution with a group of 3-5 students.
Videos: Most of the initial information for the class is introduced via videos that you watch via PlayPosit. More below.
Activities: You are expected to participate in a two-hour activity each week. Students receive guided, hands-on experience and/or field trips that will be tested on the exams.

Exams will be graded A, B, C, D, F, based on ability to communicate knowledge to me. Please notice the inclusion of “I can read and understand”, thus you are being graded not on your answer or even your understanding, but on your communication to me.

D: Correctly identify underlying concepts and societal/environmental context a minority of the time that I can read and understand.

C: Correctly identify underlying concepts and societal/environmental context a majority of the time that I can read and understand; set up computations and express important facts from class material a minority of time that I can read and understand.

B: Consistently correctly identify underlying concepts and societal/environmental context that I can read and understand. Be able to draw from examples in the news and personal experience. Set up computations and express important facts from class material a majority of time that I can read and understand. Make correct use of units the majority of the time that I can read and understand.

A: Consistently identify underlying concepts and societal/environmental context that I can read and understand. Consistently draw from examples in the news and personal experience. Set up and solve a majority of computations and express important facts from class material. Consistently use units correctly that I can read and understand.

F: Does not achieve threshold level for D

Class Work: After you are exposed to the material at home via videos and reading, you will work as a group to discuss policy and solve problems in the homework in class. I may collect some of your group work and grade it, but it will not count toward your final grade.

Big Exams: We will have an exam every week: either a midterm, or a “Big Exam”. Big Exams will be collected, graded, and returned, but the grade does not count toward your final grade. The purpose of big exams is to simulate an exam so you have a clear idea of how the exams will work. We will also try to understand and reign in the test anxiety that challenges to some students.

Problem Sets: Usually due Monday in class. These are graded A,B,C,D,F based on the above criteria. The grade is recorded, but will not be used toward your final grade. Hence, the only incentive to do the homework would be to learn the material for the exams and any other internal motivation such as the good times you’ll have solving problems with your friends, the resilience you’ll gain in the process, and how much you’ll impress people at social gatherings when you can kick around concepts like externalities and the relevance of marginal electricity. I encourage you to hand in your problem set as a group. You can either staple all your papers together (in which case only one will be looked at) or hand in a single problem set as a group. I will not collect late homework as I’ve found this responsibility greatly complicates my life. However, you can turn in late homework in the envelope outside my office door. It would be a very good idea to be familiar with class discussions, problem sets, big exams, and activities before each exam.

Videos, Preparing for Class: It is imperative that we come to class prepared. Please watch the videos by following the links on the class timeline (not to the PlayPosit website as I may not have the videos displayed on PlayPosit) before class and do any reading and exercises before class starts. Please watch the videos on time for every class until the end of the video and answer all the questions. You are graded for answering video questions not on getting them right. If you watch 90% of the videos on time, then you will receive full credit. If you miss a video, you should still watch it to learn the material, and you will receive half credit for watching it late. Your final grade will be lowered half a letter grade for every 20% of the videos you miss below 90%, so if you watch 90.5% of the videos on time, you will get full credit; 80%: loss of a quarter letter grade; 49%: your grade will be lowered two halves of a letter grade. If this is confusing, it may be easier to check the class website every day and always come prepared to class.

In order to get credit for the videos, you will have to get a subscription to PlayPosit, which is free. You will be prompted for a password when you click on a video link for the first time. Sign up for the PSC320 Winter 2018. Please make up a password that you will remember, because retrieving them is hard. I don’t think you’ll need it, but my instructor code is v92edc.

Group Project: Groups of 3-5 students will do a research project on something related to energy, society, and the environment that interests you. Ideally, you will identify a problem with energy in a home, business, or community and research a solution including the technical, social, and environmental implications. The group must be interdisciplinary meaning there must be one technical student and one nontechnical student in the group. It may involve reading and research, or building and calculating, or doing an experiment or outreach to other people. You will document it with a ~ 5 minute video that you will post on YouTube for the rest of the class to see.

Formula Sheets: You are welcome to build your own formula sheet provided it has no more than 50 ideas; or 50 combined formulas and statements. No formulas will be provided to you for exams. I recommend that you start a formula sheet now and add formulas as they appear in the videos. Any drawing counts as 5 ideas.

My Commitment to You: I will do my best to provide you with a planned structure, resources, and activities to learn. I will evaluate you only on criteria that I find foundational (to communicate energy concepts and how they affect our lives) allowing you the freedom to learn in a manner that suits you best. I will do my best to understand your professed needs and help you the best way I know.

My Expectations from You: I expect that you will make decisions consistent with your best interest and your values. I also expect that we will all work toward the well being of our community. I expect that you will respect my time and make the best use of our time together by coming to class prepared. My intention is to help you learn from the resources around you: textbooks, online media, and each other. I expect you to record your questions while you study. I expect to start class with questions related to the reading and videos. If you have a question, please ask it after you have addressed the related resource (video or reading) and consulted others in your group.

Competition: Your performance will be graded not against each other, but rated against the criteria established above. I expect the majority of grades to be “A” and “B”. However, it is possible that all students earn an “A”, and it is also possible that some students fail. Therefore if you help others in your class, it will not be detrimental to your grade. My experience has shown that a positive collaborative attitude is likely to raise everyone’s grade.

Academic Honesty: I expect and assume that submissions with your name on it represent your work and your present physics understanding. Specifically, academic integrity in this class means:

– Exams: exam work is informed only by what arrives in your brain and on a formula sheet.

– Group Projects: Each group member does their fair share and understands the work presented.

– Video watching homework: Before each class, you give the videos your full attention, and you make an honest effort to answer the questions.

– Homework and “Big Exams!”: I encourage everyone to work together and share knowledge. Please make sure you that you understand the work you hand in.

If the above is not correct, please communicate it to me, and I will work with you to help. My intention is to work with you, not against you.

I will report unresolved honesty disputes to the university.

I have my own personal conflict with this issue, which I discuss here.