Course Commitments

Course Commitments #

This is, as you know, an unusual and uncertain semester. With the start of the semester being remote after a semester of in-person learning, things have been a bit difficult for me, and I’m sure that it has been for some of you as well. I see you, and I want to do my best to make this course a positive experience for you, wherever you may be in this crazy time. Your well-being is just as important to me as your learning, so I hope we can work together this semester to run a successful course.

Usually, this would be the part of the syllabus called “Policies”, where I outline what you can expect of me and what I expect of you, but I don’t think that my unilaterally setting the terms of expected etiquette in this course will be useful. So this semester, I’ve decided to structure this part of the syllabus a little differently.

I promise… #

I want to start by making a few commitments and promises to you that I hope will make this course a good experience for you.

I commit to making the best use of class time that I can. This doesn’t always mean that I’ll fill each class with mind-blowing lessons about C (much as I would like to), or that every moment of class will be fun, but I’ll try to get close. At the very least, I’ll try to make sure that each class is both fun and a positive learning experience.

I commit to being communicative and responsive. This means that if you contact me with questions or feedback, I’ll do my best to respond within 24 hours. It also means that, to the extent possible, I’ll provide you with assignments and quizzes well in advance of the deadline, so you have an idea of what to expect throughout the semester. Finally, I’ve done my best to design this course in a flexible way: if circumstances make it difficult to get through everything we had planned to do in this course, I’ll do my best to adapt on the fly.

I commit to giving your work the attention and feedback it deserves. I trust that you will spend an appropriate amount of time and effort on this course, so to maximize your learning, I want to make sure that whatever you submit for your homework, quizzes, and projects in this course gets feedback that is ultimately helpful for your learning.

Most of all, I commit to doing my best to make this course work for all of us. This means that if something isn’t working for you in this course, no matter how minor, I encourage you to let me know. I promise to listen to any suggestions for improvement you have. I may not always be able to make the changes, but I’ll try my hardest to make this course a better experience for you.

I hope… #

To be honest, teaching this course is hard, because systems is a big area, and while there are a lot of things that I’d like to do in this course, it’s tough to execute that vision well. I hope that we can work together to make this course a success. I see all of you as co-designers of the learning experience, and I want you to have agency in shaping your experience in this course. To help us in this task, there are a few things that I’ve found (some surprisingly minor) that can help immensely, so I hope that I can count on you for some of these.

Please be prepared and engaged. I know that there are days where you might be tired, stressed, bored, or distracted during class. This sometimes happens to me, too. But if you come to class without having at least skimmed the reading, or stay with your audio and video muted during every virtual meeting, or are otherwise not engaged with the material, it can become very easy for you to fall behind, and for me to worry that something isn’t working for your learning. Being present and engaged during class is tremendously helpful for me to gauge how the course concepts are landing with everyone and to quickly adjust and improve the content or presentation of the course material.

Please be communicative and responsive. Both remotely and with safety measures indoors, it’s sometimes difficult for me to chat with students one-on-one in class or in the hallways. As a result, all of us have had to use a variety of tools like Zoom, email, and a wide range of instant messengers to communicate. If something comes up, I hope that you’ll reach out to me using whatever method you’re most comfortable with. As I mentioned above, I’ll do my best to respond as soon as I can. Similarly, I hope that when I reach out to you with class-wide announcements or individual messages, you’ll take the time to read them and respond as you’re able.

Please seek help and provide feedback early. In the context of class, this might mean going to office hours or asking a question well before a deadline. But if you are facing circumstances that may affect your learning, I highly encourage you to reach out to the Assistant Dean of Student Affairs, Adva Waranyuwat (, who can coordinate accommodations for emergencies or disabilities on your behalf among all of your courses at Olin. If something is not working for you in this course specifically, please reach out to me and I’ll my best to work out something reasonable.

Finally, please take care of yourselves and each other. Eat well, get some exercise, get enough sleep, and take some time to relax and do things that aren’t school-related. This may sound cliche, but it can make a big difference. Each of your fellow classmates have their own perspectives on the material, and collaborative with them can be helpful to both of your learning experiences. Try to be helpful, thoughtful, and gracious towards one another. Many issues, particularly mental and emotional ones, can affect all of us, regardless of demographic or background, and reaching out to your family, friends, and peers with kindness may turn out to be far more beneficial than you expected.

Accessibility #

Olin College of Engineering is committed to ensuring the full participation of all students in its programs. If you have a documented disability (or think you may have a disability) and, as a result, need a reasonable accommodation to participate in this class, complete course requirements, or benefit from the College’s programs or services, contact Disability Services at Olin (DSO) as soon as possible. To receive any academic accommodation, you must be appropriately registered with DSO. The DSO works with students confidentially and does not disclose any disability-related information without their permission. The DSO serves as a clearinghouse on disability issues and works in partnership with faculty and all other student service offices. For further information about services for students with disabilities, please contact the DSO.

We assume that all of us learn in different ways, and that the organization of any course will accommodate each student differently. For example, you may prefer to process information by speaking and listening, so that some of the written handouts we provide may be difficult to absorb. Please talk to us as soon as you can about your individual learning needs and how this course can best accommodate them. Even if you do not have a documented disability, remember that there are other support services, including Writing Tutors, NINJAs, ARCs, and Peer Tutors.

Diversity #

It is our intent that students from all diverse backgrounds and perspectives will be well served by this course, that students’ learning needs be addressed both in and out of class, and that the diversity that students bring to this class be viewed as a resource, strength and benefit. It is our intent to present materials and activities that are respectful of diversity: gender, sexuality, disability, age, socioeconomic status, ethnicity, race, and culture. We expect students to conduct themselves in a way that respects the experiences and identities of all members of the class. Your suggestions are encouraged and appreciated. Please let us know ways to improve the effectiveness of the course for you personally or for other students or student groups. In addition, if any of our class meetings conflict with your religious events, please let us know so that we can make arrangements for you.