Work Load: Most of the learning in any university course takes place outside of class and requires sustained independent effort throughout the semester. Unlike many high school courses, attending class attentively and doing the homework assignments is not enough to prepare for exams. The expected work load outside of class for these courses is at least 10 hours per week spent reading the textbook, solving homework problems, discussing questions with other students and/or the instructional staff, attending review sessions and studying for quizzes and exams.
The main tool for exam preparation is the archive of old quizzes and exams posted on the course web pages. Most courses offer weekly review sessions where problems from past exams are discussed. Independently working through problems from past exams (under exam conditions) and following up to clarify key points with the instructional staff or a study group is absolutely necessary to achieve the level of understanding and technical facility required by the exams and the demands of future courses for which this material is prerequisite.
Schedule & Organization: These classes meet in 80-minute sessions two times per week on a MW schedule at 8:30 AM, 11 AM, 1:30 PM or (in some cases) 3:00PM, with a Friday precept offered at 9 AM, 10 AM, 11 AM, or 1:30 PM. Most are taught in small sections (15-30 students) that are closely coordinated by an experienced course head. Exams and homework are common to all sections. The bulk of the grade is based on several exams (~35%) during the semester and a final exam (~35%) scheduled by the registrar during the official final examination period. Work done in precept, homework assignments from the textbook function and class-participation comprise the remainder of the course grade.
Teaching Style: In a typical class session, the instructor introduces a new concept briefly, giving motivation and developing intuition behind the formal definitions through a sequence of carefully chosen examples of increasing complexity. Skimming the textbook before class and asking questions in class is strongly encouraged and will help students get more out of this time with the instructor. For most classes attendance is not a requirement, but it is strongly recommended. Rare or sporadic attendance sends a strong signal to the instructor and may deprive students of a potentially very useful connection with their instructor should they encounter unexpected difficulties as the semester progresses.
Classes are supplemented with a textbook where the formal definitions along with simple illustrating examples are given. Routine exercises are assigned from the textbook each week to make sure students grasp the basic definitions and computational techniques. Collaboration is welcome on these assignments and homework averages tend to be about 90% or higher.
Grading: It is important to understand that the grading scale for these classes is quite different from those typically used in high school. The average on both smaller and final exam tends to be about 65%. This is a natural consequence of learning and working at the university level and allows us to make meaningful distinctions among the letter grades assigned at the end of the course. The average grade (including those ~65% exam scores) in these courses is a B+. Historically, scores in the top quartile correspond to grades in the A and A- range and indicate thorough mastery of the concepts and techniques covered in the course. The middle two quartiles of the class typically receive some form of B. Most of the remaining students typically receive some form of C grade indicating basic competence in the course material with conceptual or technical gaps that are cause for serious concern in future courses where this material is used.