Friday, April 26, 2013

We have units!

First the time zone, now units of measurement ... it's an embarrassment of riches. Thank you, EdX engineers, for responding to our requests.

Now I won't have to say, "Calculate your answer as a percent, but please don't enter the percent sign," and other clunky stuff like that. 

It's a new platform, and we're one of the first math classes on it, so we're pioneers. At least that's what I tell myself when something unexpected happens, e.g. "The solution for Problem X of Set Y doesn't appear!!" That would be because I entered an = sign as the first entry in a line of the explanation, and the platform didn't expect that ... Who knew? Well, we know now.

That's the kind of thing students never see and shouldn't have to see. But every now and then there's a forum post that I have to walk away from or I'll say something I regret, like the 2.1X post that started with, "What do you have against a clock?" This student wanted a running clock next to each due date and time, so that the platform was keeping him/her informed about the amount of time remaining.

I have nothing against clocks. I have one next to my bed. I just don't have one in EdX.

Should I? Well, it's not on the request list I sent the engineers. Students have worked out when things are due, just as they've worked out (I hope) when to pay their rent or pick up their kids. The engineers are doing a superhuman job and must do what's really essential.

Such as maintaining the platform so it doesn't crash. That's been remarkably successful; tens of thousands of students, many of whom access the materials right before assignments are due, and very rarely have we had the system freeze.

And now the video people are fixing that wretched power of 3 that should be a power of 2 in about the third minute of Lec 2.2. Mercifully everything else on the slide is fine, including the audio, so I don't have to re-record. I'm surprised by the very small number of typos, actually. I'm often doing this work at 2 or 3 a.m., and you'd think I'd be pretty zonked by then.

But then there was that experiment that the Optometry department had us participate in when we were graduate students. To test the sharpness of our eyes at various times of day, they had us come in a few times each day and do some proof-reading. To their surprise, we did better in the afternoon than in the morning.

Why on earth were they surprised? Are grad students expected to be sharp in the morning? My friends and I didn't really get going till the sun was quite high in the sky and the coffee had done its work.

Maybe 2 a.m. is my peak productivity period. And if I mess up, I have our wonderful engineers who come in with mops ... so kudos and virtual chocolates (mostly dark) to the EdX engineering team, especially Robert without whom there would be no Stat 2X.


  1. There are two groups of people late risers and early risers.The late risers are those who easily work up to 3 AM rather than getting up at 5 AM to do work whereas the early risers get up easily early but just cannot function late at night.I think each person is different and adapts to what works for him /her(and there are time and efficency studies done on this especially for mission critical jobs like airlines and railway drivers etc. I tend to work best late at night rather than early in the morning !!

    I always wondred how the Edx team manages to prevent the servers from crashing especially during exam time with lots of people logging on !!
    It indeed is tough to imagine how the Edx team and you manage this huge bunch of students !!

  2. I'm definitely a night person (so to speak) and tend to get most done between midnight and 3am, although that may also have something to do with having a three year old son! Unfortunately, I also have to get up at 5.30 for work which means I often go all week with two or three hours sleep per night. I've only myself to blame - since the MOOC bug bit I've been studying 6-8 different courses simultaneously across five or six different platforms as well as working full time and running a business. Coffee plays a big part in my diet...