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6.UAT Oral Communication
Fall 2018

Frequently Asked Questions(FAQ)

When I(Tony) started compiling this FAQ, I didn't think it would end up being so long! If you explore the links on this website once you have created an account, especially semester-specific information, you'll find answers to questions like:
  • What's the percent grade breakdown?
  • Where can we find out what day we are presenting?
  • How do we contact the staff?
  • When/where are office hours?
  • How long is each talk assignment?
  • For the Proposal Talk, does everyone in the group get the same grade?
  • Where are lecture handouts?
The rest may be answered below!

Contents

  1. To UAT or Not To UAT?
  2. Pre-Registering for 6.UAT
  3. Choosing a Recitation
  4. Lecture
  5. Recitation
  6. Workshops
  7. Office Hours
  8. Website
  9. Comics
  10. Grading
  11. Miscellaneous

To UAT or Not To UAT?

What does 6.UAT stand for?

No idea. 6.UAT was originally called 6.199/6.ThT (to be taken in conjunction with 6.UAP and 6.ThG respectively). So maybe 6.UAT resulted from the smashing together of 6.UAP and 6.ThT?

What is 6.UAT about?

In short, the communication of technical material to different audiences.

When should I take 6.UAT?

You are encouraged to take it before your senior year because the skills you work on will be useful during your internships and undergraduate coursework. Freshman have taken the course (and have done well!)

Why not defer it till my last semester at MIT?

Nothing stops you from doing so, but you run the risk of a course conflict and not getting into a recitation (if you wait too long and the sections fill up).

Are there prerequisites?

You do not need to have any presentation experience in order to take this class. All you need is some technical coursework and/or experience under your belt (e.g. from an internship or a project in a course) so you have something to talk about.

Is this class hard if I have stage fright?

In all honesty, you will probably dread coming to class. But what better way to start working on that stage fright than by taking 6.UAT? We all experience nervousness, but over time, at least for me, it becomes manageable and isn't as handicapping.

What if I hate public speaking and just want to graduate?

Then take 6.UAR. You may eventually want to work on your fear of public speaking though.

Is this class too easy if I have given a fair number of presentations?

Even Faculty have remarked that they've learned something new in the course (and then tried them in their own talks). You can certainly find ways to be creative, try something different and proactively challenge and find value for yourself.

What prevents me from coasting and doing as little as possible.

Nothing. You could do that, but then it would be a waste of your time and ours. You get a fair amount of individual attention in this course, and since you have to take the course and do the assignments anyway, might as well try to derive some value from the time spent. That value is up to you to define, but it could be, for example, how can I be efficient by spending the minimal amount of time and still give a memorable talk (e.g. get an A on it).

English isn't my first language. Will I be at a disadvantage?

While we hold everyone to the same standard, plenty of non-native English speakers have done well in the course. If you are an undergraduate here at MIT, then your English is good enough for 6.UAT (because there is an English language proficiency requirement for admission)!

I have an accent. Is that a disadvantage?

Well, the audience does need to be able to understand the words you are saying, but usually it means you just need to work on enunciation and pronunciation. It doesn't mean you have to get rid of your accent. In many cases, it is an asset and makes your voice interesting to listen to. I have listened to many talks (in 6.UAT and outside of 6.UAT) in which the speaker had an accent and their speech was riddled with grammatical errors, but I understood the message just fine.

What is the expected amount of time per week?

6.UAT is listed as a 9 unit class (3-0-6) - three contact hours per week (usually two hours of recitation and one hour of lecture or workshop) and six hours of homework each week. Estimates are provided for each assignment. These are the averages reported by past 6.UAT students. Furthermore, there are some weeks when you have nothing due for 6.UAT, so it should average out. That being said, how much time you spend on an assignment will vary from individual to individual, and there are other factors involved (study habits, course load, experience, etc).

6.UAT used to be six units, why did this class become nine?

Two reasons.
1. Nine units better reflects the amount of time students were already putting into the six unit version of the course.
2. And all CI-M courses have to be at least nine units. When 6.UAT was six units, students had to take a second course to complete the CI-M requirement. Now, you only need 6.UAT - one less class for you to take!

What is the structure of the class?

The course has three tiers: large group meetings (lectures), mid-sized meetings (workshops) and small group meetings (recitations).

What are lectures for?

Lectures focus on the assignments. We go over term-specific logistics, discuss any expectations and then suggest ideas for how to approach the assignment. We will assume that you have read the assignment and any other assigned readings beforehand. You only need attend m out of n lectures, where m < n. (Note that m and n vary each term, but usually m=n-2.)

Lecture conflicts with another class; can I still take 6.UAT?

I wouldn't recommend it. 6.UAT is offered every semester; hopefully you'll find a semester without a conflict!

What are workshops for?

Workshops are meant to be hands-on sessions in which you either work on a particular aspect of delivery or practice a particular skill related to oral communication. Workshops usually occur during a lecture slot (in lieu of lecture) and sometimes you even have a choice of concurrently offered workshops, allowing you to customize your experience and choose workshops about skills that you want to work on. You only need attend m out of n workshops, where m < n. (Note that m and n vary each term, but usually m=n-2.)

What are recitations for?

Recitations provide a safe venue for you to practice and reinforce your communication skills. You'll give all of your talks during recitation. As a result, you'll work closely with your RI, TA and fellow section mates. It's important to stress that what happens in section, stays in section (e.g. if one of your section mates is struggling with a particular skill or does something poorly, it probably not the best dinner conversation topic.) You only need attend m out of n recitations, where m < n. (Note that m and n vary each term, but usually m=n-1.)

Note: The Course Info link contains more information that is specific to the semester.


Pre-Registering for 6.UAT

Why should I pre-register?

You are encouraged to pre-register if you are interested in taking 6.UAT this term. Pre-registration gives us a sense of enrollment so that we have enough staff to accommodate everyone. Furthermore, an email is sent to all pre-registered students (some time within the week before Reg Day) informing them when the website is open. Students can then (1) create an account on the course website and after they receive an email with their password, they can log in and (2) select a recitation section. (If the password email doesn't arrive within a minute or so of account creation, something is awry so you should email tleng[at]mit[dot]edu.)

I didn't pre-register; can I still take the course?

Yes, of course! As long as there is space in a recitation.


Choosing a Recitation

How do I select a recitation?

Recitations are not assigned by the Registrar. Instead, you log into the website and choose your own recitation. As long as there is space, you can join any recitation or move between recitations. This gives you flexibility in choosing a section and/or staff that you want to work with. However, it is first-come first-served. Once a recitation has 8 students, that recitation is full (unless someones switches to a different section, thereby opening a spot).

If I drop 6.UAT, what should I do (aside from filling out an Add-Drop Form)?

If you are in a recitation section, it would be awesome if you'd "unsignup" from the recitation section (or email Tony and he will free up your slot for another student).

I am already in a recitation, but have a conflict and need to change recitations. However, the section(s) I want to switch into are full - what do I do?

Check out the wiki clearinghouse to see if anyone can swap with you! If no one can swap with you, add your name to the appropriate waitlist on the wiki clearinghouse. and list the hour you are in as well as the hours you can make.

I am not currently in a recitation and all the sections that I can make are full - what do I do?

Add your name to the appropriate waitlist on the 6.UAT wiki clearinghouse page. Please list the hours that you can make.

I hope to graduate this term and am not in a recitation - what should I do?

Email Tony as soon as possible to let him know that you are trying to graduate and include your TR availability. However, do not expect a miracle - if a spot opens up you will be given priority and moved in. Under no circumstance will we ask a student in a recitation to defer taking 6.UAT just to make a spot for you (so don't ask).

How does the waitlist work?

Students shift around and unsignup from sections during the first week, so if you happen to notice a spot in an open recitation that you can make, switch yourself in and remove yourself from the waitlist. Otherwise, as spots become available, Tony will move students into sections based upon their ordering on the waitlist. In the case of a tie, preference will be given to students who are up to date on all the material and work (e.g. they have gone to class and completed the assignments so far). If we cannot get you officially into a section by the end of week 3 (or by the time the first assignment is due, whichever is latest), then you will have to defer 6.UAT to a later semester.

I'm not in a recitation, but I attended a recitation that wasn't full; can I go to that one?

We need to first make sure that the absent student has indeed dropped. Once the drop is confirmed, then one of two things can happen - (1) they unsignup and open up a spot that is taken by another student who happens to notice the opening, or (2) Tony removes them and gives their spot to the next person on the waitlist that is available at that hour.

I am on the waitlist - what now?

You should continue to attend the course and keep up with the work - i.e. go to lecture and attend any recitation that you can make. That way, should a spot open up, you have nothing to catch up on and can easily insert yourself into the course.

I am on the waitlist - what are my chances of getting in?

Hard to say. During the first week of class, students shop around, so it is highly likely that a number of slots will open up. Then when the first video assignment is due, a few students will likely drop. And finally when the first presentation is due, a few more will likely drop as well.


Lecture

Why is lecture at 10am? It's too early!

Not as early as 9am! It used to be 4pm, but then students had to stick around on campus.

But lectures still conflict with certain classes at 10am...?

Can't win them all! The only other time slots with fewer conflicts is before 10am and 4pm. See answer to above question.

Sine we don't always have lecture, how do we know when lectures (workshops and recitations) are?

Check out the calendar! A reminder email is also usually sent out each week, the subject line for which indicates which days you have 6.UAT lecture/recitation. For example, the following subject line: [6.UAT] Week 10: M T R conveys the following schedule: lecture/workshop on Monday, recitations on Tuesday and Thursday.

Then why is lecture listed as MW10am?

This is a relic of the past, but currently, mainly retained as a logistical convenience.

In past semesters, some weeks there would be two recitations and one lecture, and other weeks there would be one recitation and two lectures. We've since entirely moved to the two recitation and one lecture (or workshop) version. However, because of weird calendar issues (some weeks like the first week of class don't have a Monday class, some weeks like Thanksgiving week don't have a Wednesday class, etc), we've kept the MW10am slots and used the slot that "made the most sense".

This can be confusing which is why the 6.UAT calendar is made available before Reg Day and a TA sends out a weekly Sunday email that contains the schedule of the week. We've also found it useful to use empty lecture slots to accommodate make-ups (e.g. due to snow days or extenuating circumstances) because in theory everyone is free at that time so scheduling is a lot easier.

When the calendar permits, we try to schedule everything to be mostly on one of Monday or Wednesday to reduce confusion. So for example, for Fall 2018, if you consistently come every Wednesday (until Thanksgiving Break), then you will have fulfilled your lecture/workshop requirement. (There are some Monday workshops, but if you don't miss any of the Wednesday ones, then there's no need to attend any Monday ones - unless of course you want to because of the topic of the workshop.) This way, you can just reserve Wednesday 10am for 6.UAT so hopefully this simplifies things.

I heard lectures used to be optional. What happened?

We ran an experiment for two years in which lectures and workshops were optional. We found that students who came to class did better in the assignments and in the class overall. The teaching staff found that they had to waste recitation time going over information and material covered in lecture (for those that didn't go to lecture). And at the suggestion of staff and even students, we reverted back to a required attendance policy.

Why are there no online lecture videos?

Logistics are different every semester; lectures get updated with different examples; watching a video is different from experiencing it live (e.g. you can't look around at the audience).

Isn't everything obvious?

Yes. Everything should seem like common sense. But things are only obvious in hindsight. And even though something may be obvious, it doesn't mean you necessarily do it in your presentations. Let lectures serve as a reminder for things you should be doing / things you might want to try.

Recitation

What presentation accessories will be available to me?

You're TA will have a timer (for you to keep track of time), a clicker (for you to advance your slides) and various dongles (for HDMI, USB-C and Mac Thunderbolt). If you need a dongle for a different type of connector, pleae let Tony know and we will try to procure some.

Why do you record our recitation presentations?

They allow staff to refer back to the talk if needed, but more importantly, they allow you to evaluate your own performance, identify things you did well, and reflect on potential areas of improvement.

The videos are uploaded to the website, but who has access to these videos?

Until we can figure out a way to efficiently give each student access to their own individual videos only, everyone in your recitation has access (they potentially witnessed it live anyway). The expectation is that you will not download someone else's video and share it without their explicit permission.

I got no feedback on my talk - what do I do?

Your RI should justify the grade that they gave and should give you constructive feedback for how to do better in the future. If you didn't get enough feedback on a talk, please let someone on the staff know right away (don't wait until the end of the term).

Why don't my RI and TA just email me written feedback about my talk?

Some voluntarily do so, but most don't have the time to do so. With 32 students, even if it only takes 10 minutes to type up feedback for a student (it doesn't; it takes more), that would already be at least 5 hours. We will however send written feedback at least once during the term (for the revision of your Intuition Talk).

Why do I have to take notes when receiving feedback?

Technically, you don't have to, but you are encouraged to get in the habit of doing so. Most people don't remember all the feedback they receive unless they write it down. It's also more efficient for us to give you immediate feedback orally because it's (1) faster than writing it all out in an email, (2) it's fresh in our minds, (3) you can ask questions if something is unclear and (3) sometimes we can even demonstrate what we mean. There's probably some benefit to write it down as well (in terms of retention/learning).

Why can't you just include the feedback in the video?

Some people feel less comfortable giving feedback if that is recorded. Plus there is some benefit to writing things down. (We don't expect you to record the feedback verbatim; instead, process it, ask questions to clarify, then note it in your own words.)

Until when will I have access to my presentation videos?

If you want any of your videos, download them before the last day of finals; after that, we begin preparing the website for the next semester and make no guarantees of availability.

My TA/RI said that I use too many filler words, but um they do too.

Filler words are part of every day speech however using them too much (and particularly using them to fill silence) is the issue. The goal is to first be aware of it and then to work on reducing them (by pausing when you are tempted to use one). The teaching staff isn't perfect; we are also works in progress!

Workshops

When are they?

Workshops occur during lecture time (instead of lecture).

Can I attend the same workshop twice?

We won't check that all your workshops are distinct, but why you would attend the same exact workshop twice — it will likely be a repeat of the exact same material and a waste of your time? Furthermore, in the case of a workshop with a participant cap, you’re depriving someone else of the chance to participate. I suppose it is possible that the same workshop topic taught by two different workshop leaders would cover different material, in which case, attending two workshops on the same topic would be okay.

I attended a workshop, but it seems random because it's not reinforced elsewhere in the class?

The workshops give students a chance to customize their time in 6.UAT. Since most workshop topics are only covered in the workshops themselves and not elsewhere in the course, there is no direct reinforcement because different students take a different subset of workshops. However, you should indirectly reinforce what you learned by incorporating the workshop ideas when applicable. For example, we certainly hope that you continue exploring and incorporating ideas from the gesturing workshop in your remaining talks!

Why do some workshops have a cap on the number of participants?

The workshop likely includes a time-constraining activity (e.g. each participant speaks 2 minutes before the entire group). Consequently, there is a limit on the number of participants in order to get through everyone.

How do I sign up for a workshop with a participant cap?

At some point, we will make available a link to a list of workshops and a description for each. If a workshop has a participant cap, that page will have a link to a signup page.

I didn't sign up for a workshop with a participant cap; can I still go?

You can still show up. It's highly likely that someone who signed up will show up, so you can "standby". Unfortunately, if they all show up, then it's up to the workshop leader if they can accommodate you or not.

Office Hours

What do TA office hours offer?

You can come to TA office hours to get help at any stage of your assignment. It's a chance for you to:
  • ask questions about the assignment.
  • run some ideas past a TA,
  • get help on your visuals,
  • do a consequence-free dry-run, and
  • experiment on something and get immediate feedback from a TA.

What if I can't make it to any of the offered TA office hours?

Feel free to request office hours with any staff member! Please do so ahead of time as we may not be able to accommodate last minute requests.

Website

Why don't you guys use Stellar?

Back when 6.UAT first started, we considered using Stellar but it didn't do everything we needed it to do, so we created our own website. Later on in 2015, we actually tried using Stellar, and well, we stopped and reverted back to our own website.

Why don't you create a new better 6.UAT website?

For a website that was clobbered together in a month back in 2004 (and hasn't changed much over the years), it's actually not bad at all. Even though we've patched it a lot (e.g. when component technologies are updated, things often break), it does the job, albeit in non-sexy-sometimes-clunky manner. No one had expected it to last so long, but it is hobbling along and definitely a source of stress each term. The creation of a new one is long overdue so if you are interested (or frustrated enough) and looking for a UROP, please volunteer!

Why is there a file-size limit on uploads?

This is a CSAIL restriction. (CSAIL hosts the course webserver.)

My video file is too big to upload, how do I compress it?

Here's a way to compress a video file. Alternatively, if you have a Mac, use iMovie (directions here).

I tried the above, but it is still too big. What do I do?

Email a dropbox link to your TA and they will upload it for you. There may be an upload penalty though.

Why do you have me put my name in the filename?

The short answer - take credit for your work.
The long answer - when we download files and they are all named "slides.ppt", we can't easily tell which slides belong to which student. It's a nice habit to have - a recruiter for example will appreciate a named file over "resume.pdf"!

Why can't you use MIT web certificates? (The timeout is annoying.)

We tried this back in 2010, but there was an SSL hole that Apple needed to patch (otherwise it would fail on Safari and Chrome). Last we checked (in 2014), Apple hadn't yet patched it. If you know otherwise, or have an alternate solution, please let us know!

Comics

What is the role of the comics?

The comics were originally created to teach graduate students how to communicate their research, but their message is relevant to 6.UAT as well. Each comic contains a single nugget of an idea. Think of them collectively as a (free online) textbook with some additional ideas relevant to 6.UAT.

Should I read them?

If you want a head start, feel free to read them before the term starts. We will assign certain comics to read for certain lectures, and eventually, you'll read all of them and add those nuggets to your toolkit.

How come you don't refer to them much in lecture (or recitation)?

Since I've written down everything I would have said in lecture, reviewing the comic in class would be repetitive. We will however assume that you've read them, and so we might refer to a comic in class and we certainly expect you to apply the various nuggets contained therein in your work when appropriate.

Grading

Why are grades on a 4 point scale and not a 5 point scale?

This is also a relic of the past. I don't remember how or why this came to be, but my guess is : A=4, B=3, C=2, D=1. There is no E, and so F=0.

How do I get an A in this course?

Come to class and try your best to give good memorable presentations. Since 3.5 is the A-B borderline, you'll want to be as far above it as possible at the end of the term.

Wait, is grading (of the assignments) subjective then?

Yes. Just like some people like a movie and other don't, not everyone reacts to a presentation in the same way. However, most talks you give in 6.UAT are graded by two members of the teaching staff (exceptions are two of the dryruns).

What if my RI/TA is a tough grader?

Just like some bosses are more demanding than others, some RIs are tougher than others. However, in all cases, they should be able to justify the grade by providing feedback. This feedback will tell you what they are looking for in the revision or in future talks (and consequently, how you can score higher).

Is any normalization or standardization done across the different sections?

No, however (i) each RI has more than one TA and graduate TAs are shared, (ii) staff are calibrated with a grading example in staff meetings, (iii) the Feedback recitation gives you an example of what we are looking for, and finally (iv) the Hall of Fame contains examples of what an A looks like.

Who determines my final grade?

We generally go with the RI recommondation, modulo any deductions for attendance, and consideration of issues of consistency and fairness.

Shouldn't the grade for a revised talk be greater than the grade of its corresponding dryrun?

If you improve your talk by incorporating the feedback from your dryrun, then in most cases, "all things being equal", yes. But all things are not always equal; a talk is never exactly thes ame twice. Things can happen in the revision that didn't happen in the dryrun, and these could negatively impact the talk.

You want us to experiment and try new things in our talks, but doesn't the fact that talks are graded discourage us from doing so?

The presumption seems to be that if you experiment, you'll get a bad grade. First of all, you are assuming your "new thing" will fail. And if it does,

  1. It may not negatively impact your grade that much.
  2. If you don't experiment and "play it safe", that doesn't guarantee that you'll get a "good grade" anyway.
  3. Use office hours to try out your experiment so that you have time to tweak it and you're not doing it for the first time when a grade is at stake.
  4. Experimentation doesn't have to be high risk. Try some of the lecture or comic ideas. There are plenty of ways to do something simple yet creative that will improve audience experience, engagement and understanding.

Miscellaneous

Some of presenters in the Hall of Fame examples do things that aren't allowed in the assignment?

Assignments change over time; it's likely that the assignment then was different from the assignment now.

The Hall of Fame examples aren't flawless either.. I heard a filler word go by!

The talks are in the Hall of Fame, not because the presenters did everything perfectly, but because they did many things well.

How do I suggest an additional question for this FAQ?

Email the instructor in charge, thanks!

There is an error on the website/FAQ - who do I tell?

Email the instructor in charge, thanks!