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CS6460: Educational Technology – Spring 2016 Syllabus

This page provides information about the Georgia Tech OMSCS CS6460 class on Educational Technology relevant only to the Spring 2016 semester. Note that this page is subject to change at any time.

The Spring 2016 semester of the OMS CS6460 class will begin on January 11th, 2016. Below, find the course's calendar, grading criteria, and other information. For more complete information about the course's requirements and learning objectives, please see the general CS6460 page here.

To help with navigation, here are some of the links you'll be using frequently in this course:

Course Calendar At-A-Glance

Below is the calendar for the Fall 2016 OMS CS6460 class. Note that assignment due dates are all Sundays at 11:59PM Anywhere on Earth time. We recommend changing your time zone in T-Square to show the due date in your local time. For the complete course calendar, please see the Full Course Calendar.

Week # Week Of Deliverable Assignment Due Date
1 01/11/2016 Introductions, Start-of-Course Survey, Assignment 1
2 01/18/2016 Assignment 2, Peer Feedback 01/24/2016
3 01/25/2016 Assignment 3, Peer Feedback 01/31/2016
4 02/01/2016 Assignment 4, Peer Feedback, Bulletin Board Survey 02/07/2016
5 02/08/2016 Personal Question, Peer Feedback, Quarter-Course Survey 02/14/2016
6 02/15/2016 Project Proposal, Peer Feedback 02/21/2016
7 02/22/2016 Weekly Status Check 1, Peer Feedback 02/28/2016
8 02/29/2016 Weekly Status Check 2, Intermediate Milestone 1
9 03/07/2016 Weekly Status Check 3, Mid-Course Survey, Peer Feedback
10 03/14/2016 Weekly Status Check 4, Intermediate Milestone 2
11 03/21/2016 Weekly Status Check 5, Peer Feedback 03/27/2016
12 03/28/2016 Weekly Status Check 6, Intermediate Milestone 3
13 04/04/2016 Weekly Status Check 7, Peer Feedback 04/10/2016
14 04/11/2016
Weekly Status Check 8, Intermediate Milestone 4
15 04/18/2016 Weekly Status Check 9, Peer Feedback 04/24/2016
16 04/25/2016 Project, Presentation, Paper 05/01/2016
17 05/02/2016 End-of-Course Survey, CIOS Survey, Peer Feedback 05/08/2016

Course Assessments

Below are the various assessments in this course, as well as the relative importance attached to each. Note that we expect all students in this course to enter with enthusiasm and an earnest desire to contribute to both the course and the field, not simply a desire to get a grade and move on. Additionally, we expect that the projects in the course will be extremely different, and it will not be possible to create any single rubric that can apply to every student's work.

As such, grading typically will be very general. We assess all assignments on a traditional letter grade scale; each assignment is assigned an A, B, C, D, or F. These grades correspond to how close the assignment came to meeting the expectations of the assessment (where A is 'meets expectations', B is 'almost meets expectations', etc.). If a student receives a grade below A on any assignment except the final project deliverables, they may resubmit the assignment up to two weeks after the original deadline or one week after the grade is received (whichever is later). Certain assignments are also graded differently; make sure to check the assignment pages for complete details of the assignment's evaluation criteria.

Final grades will be calculated as an average of all individual grade components, weighted according to the percentages below. For numeric calculations, each 'A' is calculated as a 95, each 'B' as an 85, each 'C' as a 75, each 'D' as a 65, and each 'F' as a 55. Assignments that are not submitted at all will be calculated as a 0. Students receiving a final average of 90 or above will receive an A; of 80 to 90 will receive a B; of 70 to 80 will receive a C; of 60 to 70 will receive a D; and of below 60 will receive an F. There is no curve. It is intentionally possible for every student in the class to receive an A.

Written Assignments: 15%

The first four weeks of the semester, you will complete four short (~500 word) written assignments. These should reflect the progress you are making towards understanding a particular community and preparing to contribute to it, culminating in a high-level proposal of what you would like to work on in the remainder of the class. These assignments are intentionally somewhat personal and casual; you may think of them something like 'journal' assignments, and you are encouraged to speak in first person and reflect on your progress in addition to your growing content knowledge. Each assignment is worth an equal portion of this 15%. For a complete description of the written assignments, see the pages dedicated to assignment 1, assignment 2, assignment 3, and assignment 4.

Personal Question: 5%

Once you have explored and identified a general project area you would like to emphasize, your mentor will pose to you a targeted question about the chosen community. Your answer to this targeted question should reflect your understanding of the community, your ability to reason about the community, and your understanding of the broader issues facing the community. This question is where you should demonstrate your ability to converse in this community; therefore, your answer to this question is expected to be more polished and academic. You should certainly include citations to related work, and you should generally avoid speaking in first-person. For a complete description of the personal question, click here.

Project Proposal: 10%

After completing the first portion of the class, you will propose your project, either individually or in a group. You should lay out a broad description of the motivating principles and objectives of the project, a clear statement of what work will be done, a week-by-week plan for completing that work (including separating individuals' responsibilities in the case of group projects), a description of the intermediate milestones to be delivered, and a description of the ultimate contribution that will be delivered. Your mentor will then work with you to scope your proposal, address any potential issues, ensure the feasibility of the project plan, and ultimately approve your proposal. Because your proposal is personal to the work you plan to do, writing in first-person is acceptable; however, it should be polished and academic, including references to related research. For a complete description of the project proposal, click here.

Project Weekly Status Checks: 5%

Each week, you will submit a short status check. If you are in a group, each member of the group will submit their own status check. The purpose of the status check is to ensure progress is being made on a weekly basis in accordance with the plan outlined in the proposal, to identify early on if group members are not fulfilling their roles, and to recover if unexpected obstacles arise. For a complete description of the weekly status checks, click here.

Intermediate Milestones: 20%

While working on your project, you will deliver four intermediate milestones, each two weeks apart. These intermediate milestones serve two purposes: one, they are to demonstrate to your mentor the progress you are making, and two, they are to give you the opportunity to receive feedback from your peers. You will describe the milestones you will deliver in your project proposal; they could include video presentations, low-fidelity prototypes, working prototypes, written progress reports, or more. You should think primarily about what kind of feedback you anticipate needing at each juncture of the project completion process and ensure that your intermediate milestones will allow you to receive that kind of feedback. Your mentor will approve your intermediate milestones as part of approving your proposal. You're encouraged to be creative with these as well: you could, for instance, put together a movie-style trailer, a web site, a mock commercial, or more. You are welcome to vary the scope of the various intermediate milestones based on the nature of your project. For a complete description of the intermediate milestones, click here.

Final Project: 30%

At the end of the semester, you or your group will deliver three things: the project itself, a presentation of the project, and a paper in the format most pertinent to your project. The nature of the deliverable will differ based on your project. If you do research, the deliverable will be the data and the analysis. If you create a tool, the deliverable will be the working tool itself. The presentation is meant to present the project to your classmates and, if you agree, to future students in the class. The paper is meant to present the project to potential conferences, journals, or investors, if you choose to use it that way. The project itself is worth half your project grade (15% of your overall average), while the paper and presentation are each worth one-fourth of your project grade (7.5% of your overall average each). For a complete description of the final project, click here.

Participation: 15%

Because this course is driven by the community of students, participation is required and assessed explicitly. Participation can come in many forms: interacting and posting on Piazza; contributing new articles and information to the class library; completing class surveys; completing Peer Feedback tasks; participating in conversations via other tools; participating in your classmates' experiments and beta tests; and more. Generally, participation is simply anything you do to make the class better for everyone else. Participation will be evaluated according to a point system described on the Class Participation assignment page. For a complete description of the participation policy, click here.

Course Policies

The following policies are binding for this course.


We have an incredible team of mentors helping out with this course. However, all our mentors are busy professionals with jobs, families, and OMS classes of their own. Each mentor will be assigned a group of roughly 10 students, and each mentor will be devoting a maximum of 5 hours per week to helping with this course. As such, each student should expect to effectively receive around 30 minutes of dedicated mentor time each week for the duration of the semester. This time includes time spent reading assignments and writing feedback.

Because of this, we ask that you be respectful and efficient with mentors' time. Remember that live conversations generally take up more real-time commitment than asynchronous communications that can be squeezed in during short breaks or at strange times. Work or family obligations may sometimes prevent mentors from responding within a couple days. Most importantly, note that with a few clearly-defined exceptions (providing the personal question, approving the project proposal), nothing you do in this class is dependent on the mentors. If absence of feedback or communication with your mentor becomes an issue, that should not be considered an excuse not to complete any assigned work. It may be taken under consideration with regard to the quality of your work, but waiting on feedback is not an excuse to fail to move forward.

Finally, there may be times when we need to shift mentors around. For example, if you get together with a few other students for a group project, we'll rearrange those partnerships so that one mentor can work with everyone on that project. Or, if a person's interests change and end up aligning very closely with a different mentor, we may move people around then as well. Finally, if drops or anything result in the load being very imbalanced between mentors, we may make switches then.

We don't anticipate issues here, but we believe it's better to set these expectations in advance than to have to write policies governing these things later.

Official Course Communication

You are responsible for knowing the following information:

  1. Anything posted to this syllabus (including the pages linked from here).
  2. Anything posted to the general course landing page.
  3. Anything emailed directly to you by the teaching team (including announcements via T-Square or Piazza), 24 hours after receiving such an email.

Because T-Square announcements are emailed to you as well, you need only to check your Georgia Tech email once every 24 hours to remain up-to-date on new information during the semester. Georgia Tech generally recommends students to check their Georgia Tech email once every 24 hours. So, if an announcement or message is time sensitive, you will not be responsible for the contents of the announcement until 24 hours after it has been sent.

We generally prefer to handle communication via Piazza to help with collaboration among the teaching team, but we understand Piazza is not ideal for having information "pushed" to you. We may contact you via a private Piazza post instead of an email, but if we do so, we will choose to send email notifications immediately, bypassing your individual settings, in order to ensure you're alerted. As such, this type of communication will also fall under #3 above.

Note that in four semesters as a Georgia Tech OMSCS instructor, I've encountered exactly one instance of a time-sensitive email; so, the 24-hour rule likely won't ever be relevant. As with other things, however, we believe it's better to be clear at the beginning rather than write policies later.

Note that this means you won't be responsible for knowing information communicated in several other methods we'll be using. You aren't responsible for knowing anything posted to Piazza that isn't linked from an official announcement. You aren't responsible for anything said in HipChat, Slack, or other third-party sites we may sometimes use to communicate with students. You don't need to worry about missing critical information so long as you keep up with your email and understand the documents on this wiki.

Late Work

The student-driven and open-ended nature of this class means that deadlines are not quite as important here as they would be in other classes. However, deadlines and weekly routines help our mentors spend the majority of their time interacting with students and a minority handling administrative and organizational tasks. Therefore, we cannot accept late work.

We have made the descriptions of all assignments available on the first day of class so that if there are expected interruptions (business trips, family vacations, etc.), you can complete the work ahead of time. In proposing your project, you are welcome to include external constraints in the planning process and build in time where you know you won't be able to work on your project.

Of course, emergencies (illness, family emergencies) will happen. In those instances, please contact the Dean of Students office here. The Dean of Students is equipped to verify emergencies and pass confirmation on to all your classes. For consistency, we ask all students to do this in the event of an emergency.

Academic Honesty

The primary objective of this class is to produce a contribution to the field of educational technology. As such, it is acceptable to leverage existing code, libraries, resources, and information to use as pieces for your projects, reflections, and presentations. After all, part of joining a research community is building on what the community has already produced.

However, it is critical that your contribution be evaluated on what you have contributed. As such, anything that is borrowed from existing resources must be cited. In all written work, such as reflections and final reports, sources should be cited in APA style, both in-line and at the end of the document. Please consult the Purdue OWL for information on when and how to cite sources in research. When in doubt, don't hesitate to ask!

Similarly, any resources used in the production of software tools should be cited as well. If you copy code to use within your project, cite the source of the code in a comment alongside the copied code. Include a link to the original source of the code and clearly note where the copied code begins and ends (for example, with /* BEGIN CODE FROM (source link) */ before and /* END CODE FROM (source link) */ after the copied code). Any external libraries, images, or any other materials not created by you should be referenced either within the code (where possible) or in a README file included with the deliverable.


As mentioned previously, this course is as much an experiment in educational technology as it is a class on educational technology. First, because this class is experimental and we are continually striving to improve it, there are bound to be things that go wrong. We ask your patience and support as we figure things out, and in return, we promise that we, too, will be fair and understanding, especially with anything that might impact your grade or performance in the class. Second, we want to consistently get feedback on how we can improve and expand the course for future iterations. You can take advantage of the feedback box on Piazza (especially if you want to gather input from others in the class), give us feedback on the surveys, or contact us directly via private Piazza messages.