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Here are some thoughts on how the course is going so far. I'd like to hear your thoughts too!
I've registered about 250 people so far. Of these, only a small fraction are doing exercises, solving puzzles and joining discussions. I'd love to get more participation, but on the other hand I'm plenty busy keeping up with the conversations already!
I really need you folks to start discussions like this, where you state one of the Exercises in the book. Then other people can add solutions and discuss them. I can't keep doing all this work. I think my job should be to comment on the solutions.
Let me talk about the pace of the course.
I plan to finish giving lectures around September 25th. Since there are are 7 chapters, that's about 25 days per chapter. The later chapters are harder so maybe they deserve more time. On the other hand, maybe it pays to start slow. I'll aim to finish lectures on Chapter 1 between April 11th and 18th.
One student, Matthew Johnson, had some concerns about the pace of the course:
I really appreciate you running the Applied Category Theory course. It is an incredible opportunity! Thank you!
I also want to let you know that I am finding the pace of the course to be a little too fast at this point. With so many active participants I am just barely able to keep up with the reading and am not finding much time to work the exercises on my own. I know one of the other participants personally and he is also feeling like it’s been hard to keep up.
In my cases this experience is partly because I work full time and also have a 3 year old to keep up with. I’m not necessarily asking you to change anything. I just thought you might like to know that the at least some of us are having trouble with the pace. I intend to get the most I can out of the course in the time I have available regardless!
Thanks for letting me know. Since I have until September 25th to cover 7 chapters, I'd been imagining about 3 weeks per chapter. However, there's no need for anyone to work at a certain pace. I'm not planning to close down the website or stop people from asking questions after September 25; I'll just need to quit giving "lectures".
So, it's fine to "lag behind". If you do, and if I manage to lead the course successfully, most of the puzzles and exercises will have worked-out answers online by the time you get to them. But that's not a bad thing - it means you'll be able to check your answers.
There's also no need to keep up with all the comments being generated by the students. Right now they (and I) are exploring various issues in Chapter 1, just wrapping their heads around them.
I think it would be better to discuss these issues publicly, on the forum, so people can compare their experiences. Do you mind if I copy your message and my reply over there?
And he said yes. He also said:
I am hoping to participate in the discussion along the way as I think I would learn the most that way. That said, I’ll try not to feel too bad if much of the discussion moves ahead - as you point out I can always check my answers against what has been posted already.
I understand all of the material that has been presented thus far, I just haven’t been able to work most of the exercises yet which will deepen and strengthen that’s understanding and probably lead to some questions! In fact, I have already run across a few questions which had already had answers in the discussion when I checked! This was great to see.
I study independently which works well for me much of the time but can be frustrating when I think I understand something correctly but am not fully confident in my understanding. I can already tell that this course will be a great avenue for removing that kind of doubt.
I would like to hear from the rest of you, too. Needless to say I can't make everyone happy, and suggestions that require me to do more work are likely to be met with a comment like "That sounds like a great idea! Why don't you organize some students to do it!" Nonetheless I want to get some sense of how things are going. Right now the course is just starting, so it's hard to tell. I'll be posting articles like this periodically to see how you feel as things develop.