The content of this course is spread over modules, and usually (but not always) a module is equivalent to the amount of work that is expected for one week. The module in which you are reading right now, does not contain scientific content. It provides practical information about this course, it explains the rules of the game, and gives you access to the video page for the live feedback webinars.
If you take this course in sync with the live feedback webinars (September-December), then you should go through the current module during (or before) week 1 of the fall term (see all due dates here). The first scientific module (setting the stage) is work for this same week 1 too. If you take this course at your own pace, then… hey, you decide whether or when you tackle this module.
Are you a person for whom this course can be useful? The answer is probably ‘yes’ if you answer positively to at least three of these four questions :
(1) I am
(2) I have a general science background, at least up to about the final bachelor year.
(3) I am interested in how interactions at the smallest length scales in materials (atoms, electrons) determine their properties.
(4) I want to be able to use dedicated software to calculate materials properties myself, starting from knowledge on their atoms only.
If you are expecting a very mathematical course, then you might be disappointed. We try to be exact and correct, but at a conceptual level rather than at a technical level.
This course is designed to serve simultaneously international volunteering students as well as students at Ghent University (Belgium) or other universities in Flanders who take the local Computational Materials Physics course (yearly, in the September-December time slot).
International volunteering students can take this course at any time, for free, wherever they are in the world. There is no exam for them, and they do not get an official certificate (there is an inoffical honour’s certificate, though). Students from Ghent University or from other Flemish universities can take this as a for-credit course during the fall term (Sep-Dec), and are bound somewhat more strictly by due dates (see hereafter).
If you take this course in September-December, synchronized with the live feedback webinars, then this is what you can expect:
The fall term has 12 weeks. Each week corresponds to a section of this online course. You are expected to watch the videos of that week, and to make the associated tasks. When you submit your answer to a task, there is in most cases immediate automatic feedback. If after this feedback you still have questions, you can submit your question to a dedicated forum. Your fellow students might help you out, or they can second your question. Every week there is a feedback session where those questions are discussed that were not answered, or that are shared by many students. There is no lecturing during the feedback session, all lecturing happens online via prerecorded videos. Those feedback sessions can be attended in person on campus, but they are also livestreamed and a recording is made available afterwards (that’s why we prefer to call them feedback webinars rather than sessions). Students from Ghent University are free to choose whether they attend these feedback webinars on campus or online.
You can choose to work on a computational project during this course (not mandatory). After a couple of weeks, teams will be formed to collaborate on this, and their results have to be submitted at the end of the course.
Students from Ghent University are graded for this course. Part of the credit is for submitting weekly reports in time. The other part is for the project, or for the final exam, depending on the assessment option one has chosen. More details about this during the first feedback webinar. There is no official exam nor certificate provided for students that are not enrolled at a Flemish university, but for those students there is an inofficial honour’s certificate if they complete the required parts of the online course.
If you take this course at your own pace, at any time of the year, then this is what you can expect:
You go through the course at your own pace. You submit your answers to the tasks, and you get immediate automated feedback when available. If the feedback doesn’t clarify everything, or if you have additional questions, you can put them on the fora. If there is a fellow student around in the same time slot, he or she might help you out. If your question does not get answered, it may be addressed during one of the feedback webinars in September-December.
If you follow the course out of sync with the live sessions, you cannot participate in teams that work on the project. You are free, however, to work on the project individually, or to team up with other students that are around at that time. There is no coordination provided by the course organizers for the formation of such ad hoc teams, however.
There is no official exam nor certificate provided for students that are not enrolled at a Flemish university, but for those students there is an inofficial honour’s certificate if they complete the required parts of the online course.
Studying in an online course is a little different from studying in a traditional face-to-face (f2f) course. Here are some hints that can help you to study in the most efficient way.
It can be a reassuring feeling to have all lectures permanently available as videos, only a few mouse clicks away. And this definitely has advantages. But be careful this doesn’t lure you into a trap. Merely watching a video is not the same as studying. And merely watching a video five times, doesn’t have much added value either. Whenever you watch a video, do the following:
If you watch the videos in this way, you will be studying efficiently and the need to rewatch videos will be reduced to those sections where it really makes sense for you. That doesn’t mean it is forbidden to rewatch everything. Some students who did take good notes prefer to watch every video a second time before the exam, and get even more out of it with all the background knowledge they accumulated since then. Study habits are personal – go on and find the one that suits you best.
Going through this course in a serious way, requires quite some effort. We therefore try hard to allow you to spend your time efficiently. Correct planning is an important aspect of this. That’s why every page has on top on indication of the amount of time you’ll probably need to complete it. This information is based on time records provided by your predecessors in this course. In order to keep these time estimates relevant and up to date, you are strongly encouraged to submit time reports yourself as well. There is a ‘report time spent’ item in the footer of each page, to make this easy. Please keep track about the time you spend (roughly) on each page, and take 5 seconds to submit this.
Campus students who take this course as an official course on their study program, have to submit weekly reports. The due date is always on Sunday early morning (UTC). This is to make sure that there is sufficient time for the instructors to prepare the feedback webinar, one day later. It is definitely allowed to run ahead of the due dates. For instance, if you foresee you won’t have much time in week x+2, but you have less work in week x, it would be wise to cover the material of two weeks during week x.
International volunteers who take this course in sync with the live feedback webinars are strongly encouraged to observe the same due dates. This makes sure their questions too will be addressed during the feedback webinars. The richer the pool of questions is, the more all of us can learn.
International volunteers who take this course self-paced, should not care about the due dates.
For students from Ghent/Flanders: 4 out of the 20 exam points for this course are given for timely submitting your answers/reports. You get these 4 points already at the start of the term. If you submit your answers/reports before the due date, you keep them. Every week you do not submit your answers/reports in time, one of these 4 points is subtract (with a floor of zero). Correctness of your answers does not matter (it’s the learning phase, hence it is allowed to make mistakes). Points will be subtracted only if a report is missing, or is clearly copied or made without fair effort.
Due dates for the academic year 2023-2024
Be aware that times are given in UTC (use this site to convert UTC to your local time zone). Mind the change after a few weeks, which is due to the transition from Daylight Saving Time to Winter Time in Europe (nothing changes for local students, due dates are always at the same time on the local clock).
tentative exam dates (only for students from Ghent/Flanders — please block those days in your agenda, and defend them when negotiating about exam dates for other courses) : 08/01/2024 (afternoon), 09/01/2024 (afternoon), 15/01/2024 (afternoon) and 16/01/2024 (afternoon). We’ll pick one of these dates in due course, when the exam dates for the centrally organized exams are known
During the September-December time slot, there will be a weekly feedback webinar. On this page, you find the dates and times of these webinars. You can watch them live. After the webinar, a recorded video of the feedback webinar will be added after the corresponding section of the course. Students living in Ghent (or Flanders) can attend some of the feedback webinars in person, if they want.
Timing of the feedback webinars for the academic year 2023-2024
Although we try to avoid it, changes to this schedule can happen. For instance, some live webinars might be replaced by a prerecorded video. This list will be adapted as soon as we know about a change.
Be aware that times are given in UTC (use this site to convert UTC to your local time zone). Mind the change after a few weeks, which is due to the transition from Daylight Saving Time to Winter Time in Europe (nothing changes for local students, webinars start always at the same time on the local clock).
If you intend to take this course in sync with the feedback webinars during the fall term at Ghent University, then it is recommended to subscribe to a Zulip forum for (1) receiving housekeeping messages (e.g. changes in the schedule, information in case of website downtime,…) and (2) discussing questions with your fellow course mates.
These are the steps to follow:
At the end of every module/week — in the ‘exit’ section — there will be a link to a discussion place where you can post questions about the topic of that module/week. And — even more important — where you can help out your colleagues by answering their questions.
If you post something there during the week when the corresponding module is being studied, and before the due date of that week, then your question will be dealt with in the feedback webinar for that module.
If you post something at any other time (e.g. about a module that has been dealt a few weeks before, or if you take the course self-paced), then you may be answered by whoever else is studying the course at that time. Instructors will not follow up on these posts systematically. The forum then plays in the first place the role of a tool to get help from peers.