Spring 2014

Course Information Handout

Last Updated: Aug 18, 2013

Course Webpage: https://courses.csail.mit.edu/6.UAT
Literature Research Resources: http://libguides.mit.edu/6


  1. Course Learning Goals and Objectives
  2. Finding a Project
  3. Assignments
  4. Expectations
  5. Text, Materials and Other Resources
  6. Attendance Policy
  7. Grading Policy
  8. Getting Started
  9. Your Feedback

Course Learning Goals and Objectives

This course will (1) encourage you to think about effective oral technical communication, and (2) equip you with communication skills necessary to succeed in a professional technical academic/industry setting. We will provide you with opportunities to practice your skills and create mechanisms for feedback to help you strengthen them.

Upon completion of the course, students will have learned how to:

The course consists of a series of lectures, recitations and assignments. The lectures present material that address various aspects of communication, while the recitations and assignments provide a venue for reinforcement and an opportunity for practice.

Finding a Project for the 6.UAT Final Presentation

Your final presentation in UAT is a persuasive oral presentation (the "Proposal Talk") in which you propose a technical project to work on. For the purposes of UAT, you do not have to actually implement the project, but you do need to convincingly demonstrate that you've thought about how to implement the project.

Since you also have to complete a UAP/MEng Thesis in Course VI anyway, if you happen to have a UAP/MEng thesis lead, you can use it for this presentation. If you don't, and you are a senior, you should find one. If you don't, and you are not a senior, read on.

Defining Your Own Project: the Representative Project

If you cannot find a UAP/M.Eng. project by mid-semester, you can still finish 6.UAT by using a "representative project".

A representative project is a project that you define -- you identify a real-world non-trivial problem that has some technical merit and whose solution is of interest to someone, and then you propose an approach to solving the problem that is feasible and also original in some aspect. You can take this opportunity to choose something that is interesting to you and related to your areas of interest. You will use this representative project for your Proposal Talk. Note that if you are able to find a faculty member willing to supervise your representative project, and later sign off on it, then you have yourself a bona fide UAP/M.Eng. thesis project! It has happened.

If you complete 6.UAT with a representative project that does not develop into your UAP/M.Eng. thesis (i.e. your UAP/M.Eng. thesis turns out to be a project that is unrelated to your 6.UAT source project), that is perfectly okay. Will you have done double the amount of project work? Yes and no. You will have learned how to define a problem, understand its background and think of solutions for both projects, yes. But the difference is the your proposed solution for your 6.UAT source project does not have to be implemented in order to complete the 6.UAT assignment!


Be forewarned that this course can be a lot of work for some students -- particularly if writing/presenting is not your forte. As the semester progresses, written and oral exercises progressively get more involved, culminating in the aforementioned final presentation. Estimated completion times for each assignment are provided; these are based on feedback from students in previous semesters. Some weeks will have more than 3 hours of homework, while other weeks will have less -- this should average out over the course of the semester. You may find it useful to read the assignment early, think about your ideas, and plan your approach, instead of just delving into the writing of the assignment.

Note that all 6.UAT assignments for the semester are already available on the course webpage. Due dates have been determined for each assignment. As a result, you are expected to pace yourself accordingly as you already know what is due when.

If you have not completed all written and oral assignments, your final grade will be no higher than a C+. There are no exams.

Note that often the assignments are purposely left open-ended -- most real world tasks are open-ended, and we also want you to be creative and to take the initiative. If, however, you are unsure if what you plan to do is acceptable, or if need further clarification, please ask your instructor in advance of the due date. A complaint that 'the assignment was unclear' the night before the assignment is due is not grounds for an extension as these assignments have been made available to you since Day 1! Plan ahead.

  • Keep a backup copy.
  • Retain all graded assignments to guard against grade recording errors.

    The deadline is the online submission deadline, NOT when your recitation meets. All papers must be submitted online by this deadline unless there are extenuating circumstances and/or you have previously made arrangements with your recitation instructor. Late assignments will be accepted, but will be penalized.

    Procedures for Oral Assignments

    All oral assignments/exercises, except for your final presentation, will take place during recitation time before your peers and your recitation instructor. Each oral assignment specifies a minimum and maximum length of time for the talk. During your presentation, a series of signals/warnings will mark your progress in terms of time.

    If you cannot attend and need to be excused from a recitation during which you are supposed to speak/present, it is your responsibility to contact your section instructor ahead of time, and to arrange to make it up within two weeks (all exercises must be completed in order to pass).

    Please submit your slides online under the appropriate assignment. It is okay to submit multiple version (you can't unsubmit previously submitted slides). This serves as a backup in case you need to download your slides for some reason before your presentation.

    Ignore any late penalties that the system may show for submitted slides; they will not be used in the computation of the 6.UAT final grade.

    Depending on the assignment, you may be using your own laptop, another student's laptop or your TA/RI's laptop. As a result, you should beware of cross-platform issues -- a powerpoint file created on a PC may project differently on a mac or another PC.

    Course Expectations

    Many of you are about to enter the 'real' working world. You are expected to conduct yourself in a manner that is professional and to manage your time accordingly. As you will all be learning from each other, you are also expected to provide your fellow students with clear, respectful, honest, concrete and sensitive feedback.

    Class Etiquette

    Please refrain from using your laptop, cell phones, ipods, smart phones, electronic gadgets, etc. during class. It is distracting to the speaker and to those around/behind you.

    Please arrive on time -- it is unprofessional and disruptive to walk in during the middle of another person's presentation. Too many late arrivals will affect your final grade.

    Academic Integrity

    Your work should be your own. You should acknowledge your sources and cite references when appropriate. Inappropriate behavior (e.g. plagiarism, cheating) will result in a failing grade for the assignment and could lead to further disciplinary action.

    Text, Materials and Resources

    There is no required textbook. Appropriate readings will either be distributed in class or made available online. Some useful reference books are available for the interested reader.

    Additionally, the MIT Libraries have assembled some useful materials at (http://libguides.mit.edu/6) specifically for seniors and students in 6.UAT.

    You will need access to slide creation software. When you upload slides, preferred formats are: pdf, ppt, pptx.

    In the event that you need transparencies, you can get from them your thesis project advisor or from your recitation instructor.

    Attendance Policy

    We do not expect you to pull all-nighters for this class (indeed, you have all the assignments already, so if you pace yourself and plan ahead, you should not need to do so); what we do expect is for you to come to class, pay attention and participate. This is especially important for a class of this nature, for unlike other technical classes at MIT, you cannot simply learn the material from reading a textbook and completing the assignments alone.

    Just as you should notify someone in a workplace setting when you are out, help your TA minimize surprises by emailing them when you are absent, ideally beforehand if you know about it ahead of time. Your attendance record is available online for you to check.

    If you are absent, you are responsible for any announcements made, material covered, and work missed. Not being there, and not knowing about something, will not be accepted as an excuse.

    Lecture Absences

    For Spring 2014 only, you are allowed 4 lecture absences without penalty.

    Lecture attendance is mandatory, but you are allowed three lecture absences during the semester without penalty. These absences can be for any reason, legitimate or not (e.g. laziness, interview, illness, busy, sleep, etc). An absence is logged as an "unrecovered absence" in your online lecture attendance record.

    Lecture absences cannot be recovered, however absences can be excused by a Dean's note. An excused absence will not count towards your allotment of allowed absences.

    Note that an interview is NOT an excused absence because you can choose when to interview and most companies understand if you can't make a particular interview date for academic reasons. If the company cannot reschedule, a letter from your company will suffice. Be forewarned that at the final grades meeting, multiple absences due to interviews may be seen as an abuse of this privilege and if you are borderline, these absences may hurt you.

    Any absences beyond three will hurt your final grade. Excess excused absences may as well, depending on the nature of the excuse. If you have extenuating circumstances, please communicate with the staff.

    Recitation Absences

    Recitation attendance is mandatory, and you are allowed one recitation absence without penalty.

    If you miss a recitation, you should recover the absence within two weeks of the absence. How to recover a recitation depends on what the recitation activity was that you missed; due to the interactive nature of the course, some recitations are more difficult to recover offline than others. Consult your TA to find out how you can recover a particular recitation.

    If you need to miss a recitation during which you are supposed to speak/present, it is your responsibility to contact your section instructor ahead of time, and arrange to possibly make it up. The earlier your request and the more responsible you are, the more likely they can accommodate you. Since you chose your original presentation date, depending on the circumstance, your TA/RI may levy a late penalty (at their discretion).

    If you do not notify staff ahead of time, and simply don't show up to a recitation in which you were expected to present, your TA and RI will have the impression that you are irresponsible and unreliable. Your grade will be penalized by at least 0.5 (half a letter) for your make-up talk, and this will certainly come back to haunt you during the final grades meeting when we review each student's performance.

    Any unrecovered recitation absence will hurt your final grade. Excess recovered recitations (>=4) will also affect your grade. Remember, you should be in class - the ability to recover a recitation is a courtesy and is not meant to be a substitute for attending class. Again, if you have extenuating circumstances, please let the staff know.

    Grading Policy

    You all have the potential to get an A in the course; however, we have high standards. Grades are determined based on the following weighting:

    Written Assignments:                               	
         VideoAssessment             5%
         Online Final Assessment	 5%
    Oral Assignments:						
         Previous Project Talk	 5%
         Storyboarding Talk (revised Previous Project Talk)     15%  
         Intuition Talk Dryrun	 5%  
         Intuition Talk 	        25%
         Proposal Talk Dryrun	10%
         Proposal Talk              30%  


    • All assignments must be completed to be eligible for an A (of any flavor) in the course.
    • Late work will be accepted and graded, but there will be a penalty for lateness.
    • Requests for regrades must be submitted in writing to your recitation instructor. Please state the nature of the complaint and why the grade awarded should be otherwise. The paper/talk will be re-evaluated in its entirety.
    Computation of the Final Grade

    Each assignment will receive a grade from 0-4. At the end of the term, a weighted raw score is computed based upon the scores you received on your assignments. This raw score is a indicator of the quality of your written and oral work, and it serves as a basis for determining your final grade, which will also account for (1) attendance and possibly, (2) other factors.

    The effect of attendance is as follows:

    deduct 0.3 for each unrecovered recitation absence beyond 1, and 
    another 0.3 for each lecture absence beyond three.

    Other factors that may both positively and negatively affect your grade, particularly for borderline cases include:

    absences, participation,  punctuality, responsibility, attitude, 
    professional conduct, ability to follow directions, 
    creativity in assignments, improvement and effort.

    Note that the 6.UAT staff further reserves the right to grade on a curve and to make adjustments for special cases.

    Requests for Final Grade Re-evaluation

    At the end of the semester, requests for final grade reconsideration should be stated in writing, and sent to your recitation instructor and to tleng@mit.edu by the end of finals week.

    Getting Started

    To get started with the semester, read this handout, and register for an online account at the course website. You will be asked to pick a username, and you will also need to complete an initial self-assessment that take less than 20 minutes.

    Once you are emailed a password, you will be able to log into the system. This will allow you to, for example, sign up for recitation, read the announcements, view the assignments, upload your work, view your grades and attendance record, etc.

    Your Feedback

    This course is constantly being redesigned and improved. Your constructive input is an important part of this process. We will solicit feedback at the end of the course, but you are welcome to send us (anonymously if you wish) constructive feedback anytime during the semester. While we may be limited in how we can respond to any concerns you have, we will take them into account for future semesters.

    Have a good semester!