Video Lectures: Frequently Asked Questions

Q. Why is the CS department replacing live lectures with online videos in COS 126?

A. We believe that doing so will improve the course, in many ways. We have a long history of improving COS 126 by embracing technology, and this is a logical next step.

Q. My parents are paying substantial tuition and all I get are some videos?

A. Hardly. In addition to the lectures, you are getting personal attention from an experienced faculty member who will meet with you at least twice a week in precept and in office hours. We have a large course staff who will collectively address any questions you might have and make sure that you learn the material and are assigned a proper grade. In short, we are not outsourcing learning, but instead creating an ecosystem around the course to best utilize everyone's time and best meet everyone's needs.

Q. Will you be adding more material to the course?

A. No, not at all. The course already has plenty of material. Our intent is to develop ways to deliver it to you more efficiently than in the past.

Q. Will students at other universities be using these lectures?

A. Yes, just as students at other universities use the textbook. You can think of the online lectures as a 21st-century enhancement of textbooks, made possible by modern technology. People don't expect every instructor to produce a textbook for each course; why expect every instructor to produce lectures?

Q. What is the advantage of videos over live lectures?

A. You can watch them whenever you want, play them at double speed or half speed, rewatch sections that you find confusing, and replay them to prepare for exams. Also, they are carefully prepared and less likely to have errors than a live lecture. In the past, a sizable number of students have skipped the live lectures for perfectly valid reasons (examples: too fast to follow, too slow to follow, scheduling conflicts). Online lectures address these shortcomings and make the lecture material useful to many more students.

Q. Is this an experiment?

A. No. Our success experimenting with this format in higher-level courses has convinced us this approach will be extremely beneficial for COS 126 students, so we have invested a substantial amount of time and energy in making the change.

Q. I have a conflict at the "lecture" time slot. Can I still take the course?

A. No. Our plan is to consolidate the activities that in the past have taken place outside of the regularly scheduled lecture and precept hours to take place at this time. These include programming exams, written exams, exam review sessions, practice programming sessions, and many other activities. Not only is this a much more efficient way to organize class time, but we also expect that it will maintain the sense of community that the class enjoys.

Q. Since all this will be happening, can I skip watching the lectures?

A. No! They (and the book) are the backbone of the course, intended to introduce and inspire, and precepts and other activities will assume that you have watched them. Not only would you be missing the opportunity to learn some new things, but you would be taking a big risk, as there will be at least one question directly pertaining to each lecture on a written exam. Again, if you find the material too easy, you can watch a lecture in about 20 minutes in the back of a bus or wherever; if you find it too difficult, you can replay the portions that confuse you. We could not adapt the material to everyone in the class in this way with live lectures.

Q. If I watch and understand everything in the lectures, can I skip precept?

A. No! Not only do precepts cover details about the assignments not covered in lecture, but also they are an interactive learning experience that you can use to check your understanding, or to learn by explaining things to others.

Q. If I watch and understand everything in the lectures and fully participate in precept, can I skip the reading?

A. No! Really, the goal of the other activities is to help you better understand the in-depth descriptions in the book. In later classes or job interviews, people are not going to care whether you attended precept or watched lectures, just that you understand the material. And, you will be competing with a lot of people who did. Also, don't forget to check the booksite on topics that interest you, which has a wealth of additional material.