When we signed up to offer the free saas-class.org, we decided (wisely, in retrospect) to pipeline it to start a few weeks after the on-campus course.

The rationale was that we’d have a chance to field-test the homeworks and quizzes on real students, debug the questions and answers, and fix them up in time for the online class.

We just got through grading the first programming homework using the autograder.  Tellingly, students made a number of (understandable) errors that we hadn’t thought of, so we had to change our specfiles to give partial credit for cases where some of these unforeseen errors were made.  (The autograder runs a bunch of specs on each submission, possibly with different weights toward the overall score, and reports the overall score and which specs failed.)

We also found, not surprisingly, quiz questions that we thought were unambiguous but actually needed fixing.

And of course, we commonly make minor errors in lecture slides that are corrected after lecture, or add clarifications to lecture slides based on questions received in class.

So the bottom line is the online students will benefit from having had the lectures, homeworks and quizzes pre-tested by a talented (and patient!) group of students on campus.  The students of CS 169 Spring 2012 say “you’re welcome.”