This class will use a class web page, individual and group email, chat, file sharing, white boards, discussion groups, individual websites, and the telephone to allow all of us to communicate. The purpose of this communication will be to aid in the successful completion of the course and to maximize the efficiency and the amount of learning from the course. Each mode of communication will have its Purpose. When seeking help in the class, you will need to follow the following priorities:
1. Try to solve the problem on your own until ‘thrashing’ occurs.
2. Check the class website (Announcements, FAQ, Sessons, Resources), Book, or Discussion groups.
3. Try to chat, call, or Messenger with a classmate or me online
4. Email someone in your study group, or post a question to the Help discussion group
5. Email or call the instructor
Scroll down to find out more about each method. Be SURE to follow these steps in order. Why? Read below:
Purpose of each type of communication:
1. email: Use this for private or group interaction that does not need to be immediate in nature. One problem is spam. Use the Bulletin Board if you are not sure that most of the folks you send your message to will be interested in what you are saying. If you post to a Board you give folks the opportunity to come to you instead of demanding their attention via email
2. Chat: Use this for getting help immediately or for discussions in real time. It is a great tool, so use it. Immediate messaging will let you know who is on line. You can set up a NetMeeting to have a bigger chat area or to use the other features of NetMeeting like file sharing or the whiteboard. Here you can send a program to another student, have them comment on it and get it pack in a few minutes.
3. Discussion groups: We will use WebX for this task. Here I will post questions where you can respond at a time convenient to you. You can post questions for other students or post what you have figured out on your own (GWIFO). Since other students must come to the WebX site to read your comments, it is less intrusive than email.
4. Individual websites: Similar to boards in that students will come to your site as they wish, but you will have much more control over the content. You will publish some of your applets. You can tell more about yourself here, including pictures. You can also publish your portfolio online.
5. Phone: Do not dismiss the good old tele for getting help. You can use the traditional phone or IM or NetMeeting allow you to ‘call’ online. You can discuss code you are both looking at that you emailed or sent via chat/whiteboard. The Internet phone, though it is free, can be of poor quality if you have a slow internet connection. Do not be afraid to pick up the ‘old’ phone and place a call!
Solve the problem on your own:
This is critical to your success. If your question is about a fact, class policy, or other concrete piece of information it IS appropriate to ask a question right away, given you have looked at the class website first. Most problems you will have in this class, however, will relate to problems you have with a program you are trying to get working. If you ask first and think later you will not learn the fundamental problem solving skills you need to be a successful programmer. If your program does not work, look at the error messages. Come up with a reasoned hypothesis on the cause of the error. Review the book and website. If you solve the problem on your own you will have practiced the most important skill of programming. At some point, however, you will start to ‘thrash’. You will work very hard and no work will get done. You will start wasting time and you will get frustrated. This usually happens when you start guessing without making a reasoned hypothesis on a solution. DO NOT THRASH! If you are fresh out of ideas, go down the HELP! list. Do not punt too early! Give it the old college try (and then some). If you do figure out a problem, consider posting it to the GWIFO board for others to profit from.
Check the class website and book:
This step is really a substep for trying to solve the problem on your own. If you can solve the problem from existing information, you have really solved the problem on your own! Do not skimp on this step. If you do NOT find the answer, you need to spend a little time formulating a well though out question. You are going to ask someone else to help you. You need to be specific on what you need. For example, lets say you are having problems getting the first output applet to work correctly. Instead of asking online or via email a question like “how do you do the first program anyway??”, which gives little direction to someone trying to help you, refine you question. Asking “How do you change the color of your text?” would be better, but a question like: “ When I try to use the setColor method I still get text printed in the old color. I have tried ……… and ………. To solve the problem, but it still prints everything in black. Here is my code. Suggestions?” This is a pretty focused question and lets folks know that you have thought about the problem and tried several possible solutions. It should net you some help from the options below. If you answer a question, make sure you include the WHY and not just the WHAT of the solution.
Chat or Messenger:
Once you have formulated your question, it is time to ask it. Go online. See who is there. Hopefully the classmates in your study group are studying at the same time. Ask your question. Use NetMeeting if you need its added features. Call if you need to. Ask me if I am on line. Check the class website for when I will be online. This way you will get immediate help and hopefully an answer to your questions.
Email or Post a Question:
If you cannot get immediate help, it is time to go to a wider audience. First group email your study group with your question. If that does not work, try to post a question to the Help board. The last resort is a group email to the class. Give the first couple of options a chance first. You might also consider posting a question on a java newsgroup board or doing a web search using, say, google.com.
Email or Phone the Me:
You may have already reached me through the earlier steps, but if not and you are still stumped, be sure to get in touch with me. Again, think about your question first. Call or email me.