Thanks for a great semester!

I required my Ph.D. students to maintain a blog about discrete optimization this semester.  Sadly, the semester has come to an end and we will no longer maintain this blog.  I enjoyed reading my students’ posts and sharing in their encounters with the material.  Please read the old posts.  You can keep up with me on Punk Rock Operations Research.

Some stats:

  • We wrote 45 posts this semester.
  • We received 1759 hits over the semester. Not bad! (Update: there were a total of 3300 feed hits by the year’s end).
  • The top search term that linked to the blog (by far) was “dynamic time warping.” Go figure.
  • Other search terms that linked to the blog include “unified foraging theory,” “dtw speech,” “2d bin packing no rotating.”  Many other search terms linked to the blog but with fewer total views.
  • The top two posts of the semester was “More on DP and Speech Recognition”  and “Dynamic programming in cricket.”

To summarize the semester, here are a few lessons learned:

  • Students do a great job of going out and finding material related to the class.  I was introduced to much new material this semester.
  • Students like to play it safe with their blog posts.  The first week of blogging set the tone for the semester, and the post topics and structure did not vary a whole lot after the first week.
  • I had hoped that students would be more creative with their post styles, such as using other social media (like twitter) or linking to their slides that they created for class presentations.  I even wrote in the assignment that “not every post needs to be an essay.  Be creative—I encourage experimentation.”  I learned just how much I have to push conscientious students to take risks in the (virtual) classroom.
  • Requiring students to comment on at least one post a week is a great way for them to keep up with their peers blog posts. I am glad I thought of that.
  • Non-technical courses often use student blogs (although students often have to each maintain their own blog), where the blog posts often replace student writing assignments.  Some advice from edublogger is here.
  • It takes more than a semester to find one’s blogging voice. Given that, I was impressed with how quickly the students seemed to find their way with the blog.
  • Related to the last point, it takes students longer to write a blog post than it would take me.  I should have kept that in mind when assigning blog posts and homework in the same week–I found myself giving blogging extensions to maintain the quality of the blog posts.
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