I just came back to work this week after a long vacation and BAM, work started immediately and at full pace. The main thing that happened this past week was that mine and Elina's brand new course, "DM2720 Sustainable ICT in practice" started (Hanna Hasselqvist has also been part of planning the course and her pre-ph.d. experiences as an engineering student at Chalmers and later as a consultant have been very valuable).
This course of course starts right where our previous course (that we taught up until just before Christmas) finished, and the vast majority of students (80+%) who take the new course also just took the previous course. While that course was more theoretical and geared towards discussions, this course is more practical and geared towards current industry practices and "what industry wants" from students who have a competence in media technology/computer science and sustainability.
The main thing that distinguishes the new course from other course I have taught lately (or, actually, forever) is that there are only 17 students taking the course. With the exception of ph.d. courses, I can't recall ever having taught a course with that few master's students. And that's still a lot more that what we expected. Less than a week ago we had no idea how many students would take the course or even if enough students would want to take the course for it to be offered. There was a cut-off number somewhere around 10. We might even have been able to give the course with fewer students (as few as 8 or even 6) this once since this is the first time the course is given. It would have felt strange to haul in guest lecturers for a course with only 7 students though and 17 students is a much better base to build on.
With so few students, the whole ambiance changes. It's very easy to learn everyone's name and the connection between teacher(s) and students becomes very different (much less anonymous) compared to when there are 50 or 70 students taking the course - as has usually been the case for my masters-level courses. This in fact directly relates to two blog posts I wrote the better part of five years ago (in August 2012); "Bridging the distance between me and my students" and "De-anonymizing students".
Another huge difference is the fact that most of the 60+ students who took the previous sustainability course did so due to the fact that it's compulsory for some students and recommended for others, while choosing the new course is a 100% voluntary and active choice. That means the average student taking this course is a lot more interested (and knowledgable) in the subject - ICT/Media Technology & Sustainability - than the average student who took the previous course. One week into the course it really does feel like a privilege to give this course to these students.
The course itself is shaped around a project task that our students will work with in groups of 3-4 students throughout the course. The lectures and the literature chosen is based on what we think would be useful for the students to hear and read so as to support their projects. The project task itself forces the students to get in touch with companies working with ICT/Media Technology & Sustainability and we very much look forward to hear the students present the results of their investigations at the end of the course.