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Getting Help

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6.390 is a challenging class, and it is totally normal to need help at various points as you're working through the material. And we are happy to help you as questions come up! However, 6.390 is a large class, and this makes it important for us to find effective ways to communicate. Please follow the guidelines on this page when asking for help (and note that the best way to get help depends on the kind of question you have).

Table of Contents

1) Who (and how) Should I Ask?§

As a general matter of policy, please do not e-mail individual staff members unless there is a good specific reason to reach out only to one staff member. We ask this not because we don't want to hear from you, but because there are a lot of you (and far fewer of us), and many questions are shared by multiple students. Instead of e-mail, please use the Piazza, which helps us keep things organized and helps us help as many of you as possible, as efficiently as possible. Here are some further guidelines for asking for help:

  • Before you ask your question, please start by searching the 6.390 web page, as well as the Piazza, to see if your question has already been answered.

  • For most questions, post on the Piazza.

    • For general questions (about course content, tech support, course policies, etc.), please post publicly so others can benefit from the conversation. Examples of good topics for public posts include:

      • I need help installing/configuring (some piece of software)...
      • I'm confused about (some general Python topic or course policy)...
      • In lecture, we did (some example), but I didn't understand it...
      • In this week's lab, can someone clarify (some unclear instructions)...
      • I can't find (some 6.390-related resource)...
  • For questions involving code you've written for a 6.390 assignment (or detailed plans for code you plan to write), please come to any of our open lab hour times (see this page for the full schedule) and talk with a staff member, as that is the most effective way to get help for these kinds of questions.

    For these kinds of questions, you can also try sending a private message on the Piazza including your code, as well as a description of what's going wrong and what you've tried to test/fix it. But debugging via the Piazza is generally very inefficient, and we can't guarantee that we'll be able to get to all questions of this form in a timely manner, so your best bet is to come to lab hours.

  • For sensitive issues, please instead send an e-mail to 6.390-personal@mit.edu. If you've spoken to a Dean at S3, feel free to CC them. Some examples of topics that should be sent via e-mail include:

    • I'm concerned about my performance in 6.390...
    • I've been really sick, and I'm falling behind in the class...
    • I have a disability and require accommodations in 6.390...
    • I'm feeling overwhelmed and want to talk to someone on staff...

2) Additional Tutoring§

Additional technical help may also be obtained from external resources, in the form of tutoring services.

The MIT Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science provides one-on-one peer assistance in many basic undergraduate Course VI classes. During the first nine weeks of the term, you may request a tutor who will meet with you for a few hours a week to aid in your understanding of course material. You and your tutor arrange the hours that you meet, for your mutual convenience. This is a free service. More information is available on the HKN web page.

Additional support may also be available through the Talented Scholars Resource Room (TSR2), sponsored by the Office of Minority Education. For further information, go to this page.

3) Disabilities and Accommodations§

We are committed to the principle of equal access, and we are more than willing to make arrangements to help accommodate students with disabilities or related challenges. In general, knowing about the kind of help you need earlier in the semester means that we'll be better prepared to provide that help effectively, in coordination with Disability and Access Services. If you have a disability and are not planning to use accommodations, it is still recommended that you meet with DAS staff to familiarize yourself with their services and resources. If you have been approved for accommodations by DAS, 6.390 staff are ready to assist with implementation. Please send these approved requests to 6.390-personal@mit.edu to inform us, and we will work to implement these accommodations.

4) Mental Health§

MIT is a challenging environment, and 6.390 is a challenging course. As such, it is normal to expect some level of stress (and a lot of hard work) during 6.390. A certain level of stress is healthy and is part of the learning process (if it were easy, you probably wouldn't be learning much!). However, too much stress can be a bad thing, and if you are feeling overwhelmed, we want to help, so please don't hesitate to reach out.

Additionally, if you or someone you know is struggling with mental health issues (including significant stress, mood changes, excessive worry, substance/alcohol abuse, or problems with eating or sleeping), we strongly encourage you to contact or visit one or more of the following resources, who may be able to provide additional guidance and support: