Hackademics and Principedia: Upgraded Course Evaluations

This past Saturday, I ventured to Whitman Dining hall for a delicious Saturday Brunch (featuring my favorite breakfast burritos)…but, more importantly, I went to the McGraw Center’s Spring 2016 Hackademics workshop. Hacakademics is a relatively recent initiative that helps Princeton students crowdsource in-depth analyses of the courses offered here. Each participant in the “hackathon” contributes by choosing a course that hasn’t already been documented during previous Hackademics, and analyzing it in-depth to help students who plan to take the course in the future.

On Saturday, I joined 20 other students at Whitman Private Dining Room to participate in the McGraw Center’s Spring Hackademics Workshop!

The workshop started with Nic Voge, the associate director of McGraw’s Learning Program, giving us an overview of how the hackathon would work. He talked about the need for great course analyses and introduced us to Principedia, the online database of all the course analyses done at past Hackademics. Previously, I thought that the only organized resources we had for choosing classes were the mandatory course evaluations on TigerHub. While those course evaluations are helpful, they frequently present readers with conflicting pieces of undetailed information; I could really see the motivation behind Principedia. Plus, all Hackademics participants got to take lots of cool swag — and they raffled off two coffee machines!

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Five Tips to Tackle Winter Break  

My wonderful mom keeps sending me pictures like this - this one captioned, "incredible morning sunrise!" I'm pretty excited to be home.
My wonderful mom keeps sending me pictures like this – this one captioned, “incredible morning sunrise!” I’m pretty excited to go home.

In a few days, I’ll be home in sunny Kona, Hawaii. I haven’t been back since June, and by now I’m hankering to feel the warm Pacific on my skin. I’m going to eat homemade chocolate truffles, free-dive with my dad, catch up with old friends…and also write an entire junior paper, and review a semester’s worth of organic chemistry. Gulp.

Last Friday, hoping to figure out how to juggle it all, I attended a workshop at the McGraw Center: Balancing Work and Play During Winter Break. Here are five essential take-aways:

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Principedia: A Wiki for Better Learning!

Last Saturday, I joined around forty students and faculty members gathered in the Mathey common room as part of Principedia’s fall Hackademics. The goal? In the words of McGraw Associate Director Nic Voge, sharing what students have learned about the hidden curriculum at Princeton.

Students working hard at the Spring 2015 Hackademics! Image courtesy of the McGraw Center for Teaching and Learning. Used with permission.
Students working hard at the Spring 2015 Hackademics! 

Whether or not they call it by name, most students have recognized the “hidden curriculum” of learning expectations and demands behind every Princeton course. I’ve often had to puzzle out the best learning strategies for my classes– from watching MAT 202 video review sessions before exams to talking through principal parts with friends in language classes– by trial and error. Online course evaluations are usually emotionally-charged and of limited help, and professors and TAs don’t always give students concrete advice. Continue reading Principedia: A Wiki for Better Learning!

Syllabi, Charts and Research Plans: Your Best Friends for Effective Information Management

Have you ever looked at a class syllabus for the first time and been absolutely shocked by the sheer volume of information you are expected to process? This is exactly how I felt when I first saw the syllabus for an urban studies seminar I’m currently taking. The class curriculum is stacked with dense articles, complex lectures and hundred-page textbook readings. How could I possibly manage, retain and use all of that material?

It turns out that that immensely overwhelming syllabus can actually be my best tool for successfully managing my workload.

This is my friend Morgan feeling very overwhelmed by all the material in her textbook, articles and lecture notes. We’ve all been there.

Recently, I attended a McGraw Workshop entitled Efficient Learning Strategies: Managing Large Amounts of Information. This hour-long session focused on exactly what worried me when I looked at my seminar syllabus: how to effectively approach classes that throw vast amounts of information at you. Nic Voge, the Associate Director of the Undergraduate Learning Program, led the workshop and helped the attendees work through common concerns students have about information management. These included being able to discern important information, make connections, summarize material and prepare for assessments—each of which is particularly pertinent for research-based classes and projects. Continue reading Syllabi, Charts and Research Plans: Your Best Friends for Effective Information Management