Embedded Systems Course Guide

Contents

Flipped Classroom strategy
Readings
Tools
Moodle
Overview (from Moodle)
How We'll Use the Tool
Quizzes
Project Deliverables
Peer- and Self-Assessment
Overview (from UNSW)
Peer-Assessment
Self-Assessment
Deadlines
Concerns
Teamwork Assessment

Welcome to Embedded Systems. This guide has been prepared to help you and your team get the most out of the course, and to introduce the tools we'll be using throughout the semester. It's important that you understand the pedagogical approaches we will be using, that of the flipped classroom model, and peer- and self-assessment of your work.

Flipped Classroom strategy

Our class takes a flipped classroom strategy, in which class time is often used to review the topics covered in the assigned readings, carry out exercises, and assess your learning, both individually and in groups. In short, this means that most of your learning will be self-directed, and little class time will be devoted to lecturing.

Readings and Videos

For this reason, it is important that you complete the assigned readings in advance of each class. If you find yourself struggling with any of the assigned materials, raise these points for discussion in class. Note that most of the classes have links to videos of traditional-format lectures, made by the author of the course text. If you find that format helpful to your learning, by all means, make use of these as a supplement to the readings.

Tools

In addition to the course website, we will be using two tools throughout the course: the Moodle learnware system and Polling @ McGill as an interactive class response system. As expected with any non-trivial software, neither of these systems is without its problems, but to a large extent, they work well for what they are intended to do. However, this also means that you'll need to make regular visits to multiple web sites; since Moodle maintains its own password database, if you change your (initially assigned) Moodle password, you are advised to use a different password from that of your regular McGill login.

Moodle

In the first few weeks of the term, you'll be receiving an email with your Moodle registration details, with which you can log in to the tool. Moodle is an Open Source Learning Platform or course management system (CMS), similar in concept to McGill's myCourses.

How We'll Use the Tools (at least tentatively!)

We'll be using Moodle for class discussions, exercise submissions, and all phases of peer- and self-assessment. We will be using Polling @ McGill for both informal review and formal assessment of your learning through the course. You will be notified in class of planned formal assessments--quizzes, but in general, we'll aim for one at least every three classes. These quizzes will be biased toward recently covered material, but will also include questions relating to content seen earlier in the course in order to assess retention of your learning. In addition, you'll be contributing questions of your own, on which you'll be assessed!

Quizzes

For in-class quizzes, you will first answer the questions individually. Your individual score accounts for 80% of your grade. You will then have another opportunity to answer the questions in teams for a further 20% of your grade. We hope you will take advantage of this opportunity to discuss the quiz items and learn from each other.

Project Deliverables

Half of your grade in the course comes from your project deliverables: a series of labs, culminating in the final project report and demo, and your peer- and self-assessments of these deliverables. These assessments will be conducted through our class Moodle. For many of you, the process of assessing someone else's (or your own) work is likely to be a new experience, so we offer the following pointers to make this a success.

Overview (from UNSW)

Peer assessment is the assessment of students' work by other students of equal status. Students often undertake peer assessment in conjunction with formal self-assessment. They reflect on their own efforts, and extend and enrich this reflection by exchanging feedback on their own and their peers' work.

Peer assessment is a powerful meta-cognitive tool. It engages students in the learning process and develops their capacity to reflect on and critically evaluate their own learning and skill development. It supports the development of critical thinking, interpersonal and other skills, as well as enhancing understanding within the field of knowledge of a discipline.

Peer and group assessment are also often undertaken together. Typically, the members of a group assess the performance of their peers in terms of their contribution to the group's work.

Peer-Assessment

Below the set of assessment rubrics, there is a textbox where you can provide some explanation and justification for your assessment, and offer critique that helps suggest improvements that the assessed group should keep in mind. This written feedback is important not only to the groups being assessed, but also in the scoring of the quality of your assessment. This is an important opportunity for you to demonstrate that you've thought carefully about the work you are assessing. As such, you earn marks for thoughtful critique that is meaningful from an HCI perspective. Don't forget to be positive in your critiques where appropriate!

Self-Assessment

After assessing the work of your peers, you will self-assess your own deliverable. Although there may be a temptation to inflate your grade, this will actually penalize you, because Moodle will detect the inflation and lower your assessment score. It pays to reflect honestly on your own work. Take this opportunity to identify what went well, and what that you can do better for the next deliverable.

Deadlines

The due date for each deliverable is noted in the course syllabus and the Moodle course calendar. Assessments are due one week after each project deliverable deadline. The Moodle course calendar can be exported in ics format and imported into your favourite calendar tool.

Concerns

Students may well be concerned about the peer-assessment process. Here are some concerns that were expressed in the past, and your instructor's response to each:

  1. My peers are not experts in the course material, so how can they assess my work correctly and offer me meaningful feedback, as would a TA or official grader?

    Perhaps surprisingly, peer-assessment has been found to work extremely well, and may offer advantages over conventional TA-grading. Although graders and TAs have typically taken the same course, or an equivalent, in the past, they are not necessarily experts in the subject either.

  2. Lazy assessments: What if the peer assessors don't bother to read our deliverables carefully? If they don't invest the effort in grading the work according to the assessment criteria, this might result in a lower average being assigned.

    It's quite likely that some assessors won't take the time to go through your work with anywhere near the level of attention that it merit. However, the same can be true for TAs, graders, academic conference, journal reviews, and job performance assessments. The hope is that with multiple assessors, the effects of outliers are minimized.

    Keep in mind that part of your grade for each deliverable comes from your assessments, both the quantitative portion (scored by Moodle), and your written feedback (scored by human). Given multiple assessments, Moodle generally does a good job of identifying the outliers, because of the differences in scoring against the idealized assessment. Thus, while it is true that sloppy peer assessments have the potential to pull down your group's grade, this is more likely to penalize a lazy assessor disproportionately because of the metrics Moodle employs.

  3. Normalizing effect. Stronger students will provide higher quality feedback, which will help their peers improve their respective projects. The same is not true in reverse.

    If so, that's one of the primary benefits of the peer-assessment process, helping to maximize the learning opportunities for everyone in the class. Ideally, every student and group would benefit from the same high calibre feedback, but if your peers' critique of your own work does not provide helpful feedback, you are free to ignore them, so your subsequent deliverable isn't adversely affected. If you are seeking additional critique regarding your project, please let the instructor know of any specific questions on which you'd like such input.

  4. Those investing minimal effort give little to no feedback. The top projects might receive no helpful critique, and ultimately end up discouraged, not able to develop to their full potential.

    Not only are the numeric components of the peer- and self-assessments of each deliverable worth 15% of your grade, but we recently introduced the additional evaluation of your written feedback, worth 5% of your grade. Thus, those students who make a serious attempt to provide quality feedback are likely to find these efforts rewarded.

  5. It's hard work critiquing someone else's work (as well as my own)!

    Yes indeed, but developing the experience in carrying out such assessment, offering constructive criticism, and reflecting on your own submissions, are important soft skills from which you are likely to benefit significantly, regardless of whether you end up in industry or academia.

  6. My team members are not all pulling their weight. What can I do about it?

    The teamwork assessment is a good way to determine whether your group is potentially having problems. If so, and you're unable to resolve such issues internally within the time span of a single deliverable, please speak with the instructor right away! In the instructor's experience, students in such situations tend to wait until the end of term to raise such issues, by which point it is far too late to address the problem.

Teamwork Assessment

You should regularly assess yourself and each of your group members against these teamwork criteria:

  1. Cooperation: Worked cooperatively with other members of the group and was willing to help with any task.
  2. Respect: Listened to others' ideas, considered their points of view and offered constructive suggestions.
  3. Effort: Contributed as much as could to group discussions and to the work required.
  4. Responsibility: Worked responsibly and to the best of your/his/her ability on contributions to the task.
  5. Task commitment: Was able to focus on what the group needed to do throughout the process of the task and kept working even when something was challenging.
  6. Problem solving: Used good problem solving strategies throughout the process of completing the task.

Score the criteria above as follows:

Although such internal scoring is meant to be an informal process, hopefully, everyone in your group is doing well on teamwork. However, if you find that your assessment of any of your group members falls below a score of 10 (out of a possible 18), this is a good indication that it's time for a meeting to discuss your group dynamics. In this case, based on past experience, you are strongly advised to meet with your instructor if you can't resolve matters right away within your group. Please do so before it's too late.

Last updated on 8 January 2018