“The Structure of Networks,” widely known by undergraduates to be one of Yale’s most popular and least rigorous courses, has been capped and will now include a final exam this semester.
Last spring, more than 500 students took the course, which currently has a workload rating of 1.6/5.0 on CourseTable. But professor of applied math Ronald Coifman, who teaches the course, said that this year, no more than 100 students can take his class, attendance will be more strictly enforced and the course will be more difficult than it used to be.
“Last year, at least 80 percent of the class received an A,” he said. “But this year there will be more homework, participation requirements and the two exams are no longer take-home.”
Students interviewed suggested that these changes may impact demand for the course. Owen Jones ’18 said he decided to take “Structure of Networks” in order to decrease his workload, but the course’s increased difficulty might push him to take something else.
Varsity hockey player Henry Hart ’18 said many athletes take “Structure of Networks” because of its reputation on campus.
“I’m in an all-athlete group chat from a fall economics course, and it blew up about ‘Structure of Networks,’ which is supposed to be a good fit for athletes because of its low rigor,” he said. “It seems like it is a class that doesn’t require a lot of work and lets you focus on other things.”
Some students interested in the course also voiced concern that they will not be able to take it due to the new 100-person limit. But Coifman said the cap, which was put in place for logistical reasons, would not prevent students from taking a different class on networks.
Chris Reese ’18, who had originally planned to take the course, said the newly introduced cap is not only unnecessary, but also unfair. It adversely impacts hundreds of students, he said.
“I’m angry I can’t take ‘Structure of Networks’ anymore,” he said. “There are tons of classes with more than 100 students, so I don’t see the need for a cap.”
Because course materials for “Structure of Networks” used to be posted online, Coifman said just 50 to 150 students came to lecture. Now, the cap will enable him to insert a participation grade, which should lead to increased student attendance, he said.
Coifman added that “Structure of Networks” should be more demanding of its students because it fulfills the quantitative reasoning distributional requirement. However, Kyle Deakins ’18 said easy QR courses benefit students focused on the humanities, so there should be more of them.
Mathematics professor and Director of Undergraduate Studies Andrew Casson said his department does in fact keep humanities students in mind when designing its courses.
“We have introduced non-technical introductory courses that don’t, for instance, require calculus,” he said. “Instructors were interested in teaching them to students who wished to take quantitative courses rather than a sequence of quantitative courses.”
Maddie Welte ’15 said that classes with a light workload could be a good fit for students trying to balance five classes.
But Welte added that taking a course because of its lax reputation could backfire on students.
“What happens a lot of the time is people take these classes and expect them to be easy and then don’t do as well as they thought they would,” she said.
As of Monday night, 365 students were signed up for the class on Online Course Selection.