I just received this e-mail:

Congratulations on hanging on through the first week of class! Starting a new class is always difficult - there are brand new terms to learn, new concepts to get your head around, and for our programming assignment, new software and code bases to grapple with. This will only get better, as we spend the rest of the class fleshing out Bayesian networks and Markov networks; already, some of you have asked on the forums about how to perform inference and learning on PGMs, which we'll spend a good bit of time on in the rest of the class. If you've been busy learning the ropes of Octave and our submission system, you'd also be happy to know that we'll be using the functions you wrote for this assignment in the rest of the class, so the time you took to understand the code and get everything to work was time well spent.

That said, we've heard your feedback that the programming assignments can be a challenge, and have decided to follow the model of ml-class and offer two separate tracks for the class: a basic track, and an advanced track. The advanced track follows our original scoring plan, and the basic track requires only the quizzes and the finals, but not the programming assignments. More details are below. We hope that this will help those of you who don't have the time to complete the programming assignments, but who still want to do the rest of the class. Of course, if you can spare the time, we believe that doing the programming assignments will help you to internalize the material. Conversely, if you don't have the time to do any assessments, you're still more than welcome to just stay and watch the videos.

Now for some news for this week: the problem sets and programming assignment for week 1 are due on Tuesday (27 March), though there's still a week-long grace period for them. Week 2's lectures and exercises are out, and for those of you who'd like a head start, the lectures for week 3 have also been released.

We also have two exciting new features to announce:

1) Our own PGM-class wiki at https://share.coursera.org/wiki/index.php/PGM:Main! If you have the time, please contribute to it; you'll not only help out your fellow students, but enhance your own understanding of the material. In the past week, you have been amazingly responsive and helpful on the class forums, and we're very appreciative of that!

2) Editable subtitles at http://www.universalsubtitles.org/en/teams/coursera/p/pgm. Please help us to improve our English subtitles, and add subtitles in other languages that you're fluent in. Subtitles are very helpful to non-native speakers of English, and will go a long way towards helping your fellow classmates learn.

Thanks, and have fun with this week's content!


Looks like I'm not the only one have problems keeping up.

asked 27 Mar '12, 07:56

EdK's gravatar image

EdK ♦

This class definitely requires plenty of time and effort and I am happy CS373 is almost finished so I can really focus on it. I do not think that I will take another class in parallel apart maybe from the Caltech one, just to see how different it will be from Andrew Ng's class.

For what is worth there are statistics in PGM class regarding the first week's problem sets and the indications are that 2 to 3 thousand people have tried to answer them so far...


answered 27 Mar '12, 09:38

mrigaki's gravatar image


Any Idea how many people registered for the class? I'm curious how many people dropped in the first week. I have put more time into PGM than the other three classes I'm actively taking put together (I dropped one), and I have not yet finished the programming assignment that is due today.
(27 Mar '12, 09:46) EdK ♦ EdK's gravatar image
I decided to dismiss this class: I've got a full time job and my spare time would be some evenings or Sunday. But it requires 10-15 (and for me surely it is 15) hours per week with the disclaimer that they need to be hours in which you are well awake and focused. More over I'm enjoying MITx so I will focus only on it. I dare say that, for my timing, if this course would have started at late January there would have been good chances for me to keep up, at least in the first weeks where you have to cope with the gap between your knowledge and the level of the course.
(27 Mar '12, 09:55) antonio_mason antonio_mason's gravatar image
@EdK I have not seen any official comments but the statistics for the second week will be an indication. Also, I just saw that the number of people that attempted the first problem set of week 1 is getting bigger, so as we approach the deadline I would expect it to grow more.
(27 Mar '12, 10:05) mrigaki mrigaki's gravatar image
I would expect adding the basic track to both increase the number of problem set attempts and decrease the number of programming assignment attempts. Are there stats on how many have attempted the programming assignments? Any idea how that compares to those attempting the problem sets? I'm just glad I'm almost finished with SaaS. That and PGM are taking significantly more time than any of my other classes and both together are overloading me at the moment. @antonio_mason good points about "they need to be hours in which you are well awake and focused" and "first weeks where you have to cope with the gap between your knowledge and the level of the course". I haven't noticed the need to be sharp while doing the lectures/work nearly so much in other classes.
(27 Mar '12, 11:52) rseiter ♦ rseiter's gravatar image
I've watched most of the lectures twice. At 125-150% speed, I find I focus best in that speed range, my mind wanders at 100%, and I get lost at 200% I will sometime go to 175% for the parts I think I understand on the second pass.
(27 Mar '12, 12:45) EdK ♦ EdK's gravatar image
@EdK you can follow Daphne at >100%?! Wow! I watch at 100% and am frequently pausing to take notes and think. I am (so far) only watching once and relying on my notes for review. I'm old school with this, I find the process of taking notes helps me imprint the information and enables quick and selective review later (7 dense double sided pages of notes for the first two weeks...). Just wish I had time to do the reading (which requires even more focus than the lectures IMHO), right now I'm only reading selectively when I encounter problems I can't solve. I wonder how frightening the Stanford theory problems mentioned here https://class.coursera.org/pgm/forum/thread?thread_id=18 are...
(27 Mar '12, 13:08) rseiter ♦ rseiter's gravatar image
I am doing the reading. This may make it easier to follow the lectures. I frequently pause the lectures to check something in the book. I do not take many notes, but do highlight the book.
(27 Mar '12, 13:19) EdK ♦ EdK's gravatar image
I dropped the class as well. I have no problem putting in extra time to understand complex subjects, but I don't spend time unnecessarily. The course is difficult because they make it difficult, and for no other reason. I do much of the first 3 weeks' syllabus for my day job, and recognize the inelegant, awkward, and difficult-to-follow presentation. The subjects taught are not that difficult, but the course is a weeder for good reason. I've downshifted to auditing the videos.
(29 Mar '12, 00:03) Barrabas Barrabas's gravatar image
@Barrabas Which part of the course you find they made difficult to follow? The actual videos or the programming assignments? Also since you are using some of this material in real life, can you elaborate on which tools you're using, etc? I think that there might be usage in what I am learning in PGM in an upcoming project at work. It would be nice to get some additional ideas on how to approach this.
(29 Mar '12, 07:16) mrigaki mrigaki's gravatar image
I can't figure out the programming assignments. I can solve all the problems on a white board, but can't seem to figure out the data structures I'm suposed to use. I have used Matlab extensively on two jobs, admittedly the last time was about a decade ago, but it's not like I've never seen the language before.
(29 Mar '12, 11:27) EdK ♦ EdK's gravatar image
@EdK I've had trouble figuring out the data structures as well. I found the FactorPrettyPrint function from https://www.coursera.org/pgm/forum/thread?thread_id=186 very helpful for visualizing what a given factor means (I also wrote FactorListPrettyPrint which calls FPP on all factors in a FL, that was very handy for counting CPD entries ;-). Wrapping my head around what IndexToAssignment and AssignmentToIndex do was a big part of understanding how to work with the data structures. I've had more success with favoring conceptual simplicity over efficiency/slickness in the code I'm writing for PGM. @Barrabas I can definitely see how an easier presentation of this material is possible. What I'm not sure about is whether that easier presentation would give an equivalent level of understanding (and how valuable any increased understanding is vs. effort expended). I'm expecting there to be a payoff from the extra effort. Can you recommend any better presentations of the material we could use?
(29 Mar '12, 12:23) rseiter ♦ rseiter's gravatar image
Check out Intro to Solid State Chemistry over at MIT OCW. Skip the first lecture (administrivia) and check out any of the videos of content. Contrast and compare Dr. Sadoway's presentation style to Dr. Koller. Even if you're not interested in chemistry, Dr. Sadoway's style is so good it's hard to stop watching. It draws the viewer in. To identify one difference for discussion, Dr. Sadoway uses humor extensively in his lectures, while Dr. Koller uses none. When we laugh, for the next few seconds our brains are primed to remember what comes next. Public speakers make use of this to drive their point home - say something amusing, wait for the laughter, then summarize with one sentence. The audience will now remember that sentence. It works really well. To all appearances, Dr. Koller is unaware of this technique, or chooses not to make use of it in her lectures. Dr. Sadoway's presentation is pleasant and easy to remember, thus more effective. There are many differences between the two styles, differences which together can make simple material either "Pleasant and easy" or "Tedious and tiring". Presentation matters.
(29 Mar '12, 13:33) Barrabas Barrabas's gravatar image
Dr. Sadoway's class has been on my list to watch when I have time. I'll have to move it up in the priority queue.
(29 Mar '12, 13:57) EdK ♦ EdK's gravatar image
@Barrabas thanks for the recommendation! I took 5.41 to satisfy that elective rather than 3.091 so that sounds like a great way to learn some interesting material I missed in college. I see your point about Dr. Koller not using humor (perhaps also applies to other techniques to engage the viewer) in her lectures. I think she is a competent presenter, but not a great one (also not a poor one IMHO. FWIW some other opinions: http://www.ratemyprofessors.com/ShowRatings.jsp?tid=138111&all=true). In my experience it is all too rare to find people who are extraordinarily capable in their fields, excellent presenters, and manage to combine the two traits in effective teaching lectures.
(29 Mar '12, 14:41) rseiter ♦ rseiter's gravatar image
I enjoy DK's style. It is professional and competent. Nothing wrong with that. I am new to Matlab/Octave and the assignments are a challenge, but I don't doubt that having been pushed in the deep end I'm being forced to learn how to swim.
(30 Mar '12, 16:31) sfjjhs sfjjhs's gravatar image
with the disclaimer that they need to be hours in which you are well awake and focused I second (or third?) this statement. I watched the first week's worth of lectures but dropped the course after not being able to recall a lot of the concepts. Partly because I was drinking beer during the lectures, partly because of Comic Sans which drove me to drink further. And re: Sadoway, yeah, that guy's absolutely amazing. I mean wow...I despised chemistry but needed a review for a class I was taking and got sucked into the whole lecture video and couldn't pull myself away from it. I'm not sure even Sal Khan could keep my attention for that long, but the amazing thing is how old-school the guy is, chalkboard, handwriting style, suit and all. I think the best presenter of the classes I'm taking now is Roughgarden (#daa), just because of how smoothly the lectures go, interlaced with occasional subtle humor, but I don't think even he has anything on Sadoway.
(31 Mar '12, 00:26) beard beard's gravatar image
I'll second your positive comments on Tim Roughgarden (I'm looking forward to DAA2 already). He is engaging and I find his explanations incredibly clear while still maintaining sufficient rigor for my tastes. If Sadoway is better still I really need to act on the entry in my todo list I made after @Barrabas's comment above ;-)
(31 Mar '12, 00:37) rseiter ♦ rseiter's gravatar image
@Barrabas, my comments supporting DK (and I have acknowledged the truth in your points) come from having experienced truly horrible professors (both presentation and content wise). I also strongly value content over form and find the PGM lectures content rich, clearly explained, and relatively error free (compared to some of the other online courses). I can handle some droning to gain those positive attributes.
(31 Mar '12, 14:42) rseiter ♦ rseiter's gravatar image
Yes, I have had some horrible professors who had the ability to make even the simplest subject completely opaque.
(02 Apr '12, 17:57) EdK ♦ EdK's gravatar image
showing 15 of 19 show all

I really wanted to take this one but had already thrown a class overboard due to time constraints. As a Mets fan I know that, "It's never too early to panic."

If you are having problems keeping up, I will definitely schedule this class in a time slot by itself when I take it.


answered 27 Mar '12, 08:03

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robrambusch ♦

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