Update on Remote Course Delivery in Computer Science

May 21, 2020


Dear all,

today, I am writing to you to give you an update on the Fall 2019 semester. As you have undoubtably heard, all courses at McGill and hence all courses in computer science will be offered remotely.

And you might be wondering: How will this work? How does taking classes remotely affect your educational experience? Will you have access to teaching assistants and professors? How is assessment going to be done?

First of all, let me assure you that
- the content/knowledge of the courses will be the same
- all our courses are offered, and in fact, we are offering more courses in Fall 2019 than in Fall 2020!
- the expertise, excellence, and dedication of all our profs that teach the courses is the same 
- and all our instructors and professors are excited to adjust and revamp their courses, so that we can give students the best educational experience.

Over the past weeks, I've been engaged and inspired by the wealth of ideas and plans my colleagues have shared with me. I am convinced that the Fall semester will be an awesome semester and many of the teaching innovations we are exploring will also make our educational offerings more engaging, more equitable, and more fun in the future! To wet your appetite, here is a list of what you might see in Fall:

- short video recordings of class material
- online lectures both featuring slides, live programming, and using virtual whiteboards
- extensive use of online discussion boards such as Piazza or myCourses
- use of autograders for grading homework assignments and giving you quick feedback, so you can engage interactively with the material
- broader distribution of weight for the overall grade to multiple assessments
- the use of software to allow for peer review of code
- directly engage with professors and teaching assistants using Zoom
- join discussion groups via Zoom and Microsoft Teams

Soon, you will see that many courses have already populated their myCourses course page and you will be able to get a sense of what this concretely means for a specific course. Feel free to reach out to the instructor(s) directly to get more information on questions you might have! 

While offering a whole course remotely is something new for most of us, myself and my colleagues are excited about transforming our learning space into  a dynamic, interactive learning environment where we guide students such as yoursef to engage creatively in the subject matter and master the material. Moving to remote course delivery offers also two key advantages to you: you can follow the class wherever you are and it is easier to catch up on material.

However, this change in how we teach the material will also require a new approach from you to stay on track while continuing your studies remotely. I would encourage you to check out the Remote Learning Resources Teaching and Learning Services has put together:

https://www.mcgill.ca/tls/students/remote-learning-resources

I would also encourage you to check out all the resources CSUS has put together:

https://docs.google.com/document/d/1ui4n-mZEjRB2oPkqOwYNtXuzAdwmH51nPYBCCZFeMS0/edit

This contains a wealth of information and I would particularly point you to the CSUS social media activities and get connected to your fellow students:

CSUS Social Media
CS Slack: mcgill-cs.slack.com (anyone with a McGill email can join!)
CSUS Facebook: facebook.com/myCSUS
CSUS Website: mcgill-csus.ca

You might also want to follow:

https://www.facebook.com/McGillCS/

which is one of the places you will see updates from the School of Computer Science.

On behalf of all of my colleagues, we are very much looking forward to getting back to sharing with our students our passion for computer science and warmly welcoming you back to the McGill community in Fall! Meeting and engaging with bright students like yourself is what makes our efforts worthwhile and rewarding.

I hope that you are staying safe and healthy! 

Best wishes,

Brigitte Pientka
(Chair of Undergraduate Affairs)