Course Information

Instructor Course
John Paul Helveston Wednesdays
Science & Engineering Hall, Office 2830 SEH 7040
+1 (202) 994-7173 Sep. 1 - Dec. 8, 2021 6:10PM - 08:40PM EST
@JohnHelveston Slack

COVID-19 Precautions

Please help us all stay safe so we can continue having in-person classes. Please wear a mask in class, and wash your hands often. If you’re sick, stay home and send me a message, we’ll work it out. Yes, the university does require that masks be worn in class, and I hope everyone understands why these policies are in place. Let’s work together on this folks.

Course Description

Official GW Bulletin Description

Analyzing data to inform design decisions in an uncertain, competitive, market, topics include consumer choice modeling, programming in R, survey design, conjoint analysis, optimization market simulation, and professional communication skills.

Unofficial Description

This course provides students with data analysis techniques to inform design decisions in an uncertain, competitive market; topics include consumer choice modeling, programming in the R programming language, survey design, conjoint analysis, optimization, market simulation, and professional communication skills. Over the course of the semester, students will learn and apply theory and methods to a team project to assess the market competitiveness of an emerging product / technology and use marketing analytics to generate design insights. At the end of the semester, students will submit a final, reproducible report of their project along with a 10-minute presentation of their findings. This course has a “flipped” classroom structure. Students will spend the majority of class time working through guiding practice exercises or working on their projects. To prepare for class, students must complete weekly assignments that involve watching and reviewing recorded lecture materials and answering related practice questions.


This course requires prior exposure to:

  • Probability theory
  • Multivariable calculus
  • Linear algebra
  • Regression

Each of these concepts will be applied throughout the course, and no time will be spent reviewing the foundational elements of each concept.

In addition, we will work in the R programming language throughout the course, but no prior programming experience is required. We will spend the first three weeks going through exercises to get up to speed in R.

Students are encouraged to complete this self assessment prior to registering for the course to self-assess familiarity with these concepts.

Learning Objectives

Having successfully completed this course, students will be able to:

  • Import, wrangle, visualize, and export data in R.
  • Design surveys to obtain informative data about consumer preferences for product features.
  • Build and estimate discrete choice models.
  • Analyze consumer choice data to estimate consumer preferences for product features.
  • Design and create effective charts and presentations.
  • Communicate results in terms of design insights.

Pep Talk!

Working in and learning a programming language can be as challenging as learning a new spoken language. Hadley Wickham (chief data scientist at RStudio and author of many amazing R packages you’ll be using) made this wise observation:

It’s easy when you start out programming to get really frustrated and think, “Oh it’s me, I’m really stupid,” or, “I’m not made out to program.” But, that is absolutely not the case. Everyone gets frustrated. I still get frustrated occasionally when writing R code. It’s just a natural part of programming. So, it happens to everyone and gets less and less over time. Don’t blame yourself. Just take a break, do something fun, and then come back and try again later.

If you’re finding yourself taking way too long hitting your head against a wall and not understanding, take a break, talk to classmates, ask questions in Slack, and try it again later.

I promise, you can do this

Required Texts & Materials

All texts and software for this course is freely available on the web. This includes:


Go to the Course Software page for detailed instructions on how to install the software we’ll be using. Here’s a quick list:


Class Participation

Regular class attendance is essential. Much of the class time will be spent doing exercises and working with your team on your project. Multiple unexcused absences, inappropriate or unprofessional behavior during class (such as monopolizing discussions or being rude or disruptive), not participating in classroom exercises, and not being prepared for class will result in poor performance in this class.


There will be 5 quizzes given about once every two weeks immediately at the beginning of class. Quizzes cover material presented in previous classes and assignments during the weeks since the most-recent quiz. Quizzes are short (~5 minutes) and are designed to identify areas where additional study is needed. Quizzes are low-stakes - your worst one is dropped, and the rest count for just 12% of your final grade. If you do poorly on one, use that as feedback on where you need additional improvement.

Why quiz at all? Research shows that giving small quizzes throughout a class can dramatically help with retention. It’s a phenomenon known as the “retrieval effect” - basically, you have to practice remembering things, otherwise your brain won’t remember them. The phenomenon and research on it is explained in detail in the book “Make It Stick: The Science of Successful Learning,” by Brown, Roediger, and McDaniel.


Each week, students will be assigned readings and exercises to prepare for the next class period. Students will need to submit reflections on these readings each week, which may involve answering some practice questions. These are graded using a check system:

  • ✔+ (110%): Responses shows phenomenal thought and engagement with the course content. I will not assign these often.
  • ✔ (100%): Responses are thoughtful, well-written, and show engagement with the course content. This is the expected level of performance.
  • ✔− (50%): Responses are hastily composed, too short, and/or only cursorily engages with the course content. This grade signals that you need to improve next time. I will hopefully not assign these often.

Notice that this is essentially a pass/fail system. I’m not grading your writing ability and I’m not counting the number of words you write. I’m looking for thoughtful engagement, that’s all.

Final Project

Throughout the semester, students will work in teams of 3-4 students towards a final project. The project is broken into multiple phases with key deliverables due throughout the semester. See the Project Overview page for more details.

Final Exam

The final exam is a take-home exam, and we will spend a portion of the last day of class going over the solutions together.


Category Breakdown

Final grades will be calculated as follows:

Item Weight Notes
Reflections 27 % Weekly assignment (9 x 3%)
Quizzes 12 % 5 quizzes, lowest dropped
Project Proposal 7 % Teams of 3-4 students
Survey Plan 4 %
Pilot Survey 4 %
Pilot Analysis 9 %
Final Survey 5 %
Final Analysis Report 14 %
Final Presentation 8 %
Final Exam 10 % Take home exam

Here’s a visual breakdown by category:

Grading Scale

Grade Range Grade Range
A 94 - 100% C 74 - 76.99%
A- 90 - 93.99% C- 70 - 73.99%
B+ 87 - 89.99% D+ 67 - 69.99%
B 84 - 86.99% D 64 - 66.99%
B- 80 - 83.99% D- 60 - 63.99%
C+ 77 - 79.99% F < 60%

The course instructors may choose to change the scales at their discretion. You are guaranteed that your letter grade will never become worse as a result of changing scales.

Getting Help

This class can be challenging - don’t suffer in silence. Look at the “Getting Help” page for ways to get resources that can help you succeed.

Course Policies


  • You get 5 late days - use them however you want, but you can’t use more than 2 late days on any one assignment.
  • If you’re not sure about something, talk with me and we’ll figure it out.

Late Policy

Each students is allowed 5 late homework submission days - use them however you want, no questions asked. No more than 2 days can be applied toward a single assignment. Late days are meant to cover illness, family emergencies, and religious holidays. Assignments submitted more than 2 days after the due date will not be graded. In extreme circumstances, contact the instructor.


Cheating results in a penalty on the first offense, and failing the course on the second offense. Cheating on assignments can include:

  • Copying or stealing any amount of code from someone currently in the class or someone who has taken the class before.
  • NOTE: Copying is never okay, whether the code is provided electronically, visually, audibly, or on paper.
  • Providing code you have written for an assignment to anyone else in the class.
  • Finding code online and using it in the assignment. One exception: you may use code from the course website.
  • Putting code solutions from the course assignments online.
  • Receiving code-level assistance from any person not associated with the course.
  • Getting someone else to write the assignment code for you.
  • Asking questions about the assignments on any online services outside of the course office hours / Slack.

Cheating on quizzes, assignments, or the final project can include:

  • Referring to any external resources while completing the assignment (phones, notes, etc.).
  • Copying part of an answer off of another student’s paper, even if it is very small.
  • Using solutions provided by students who previously took the course.


Violations will be reported to the Office of Student Rights & Responsibilities. Penalties are decided by the course instructors, and can vary based on the severity of the offense. Possible penalties include:

  • Receiving a 0 on the assignment/quiz in question.
  • Receiving a full letter grade deduction in the course.
  • Automatically failing the course.

Depending on the student’s prior academic history, violations may also be accompanied by a letter to the Dean of Student Affairs, again at the instructors’ discretion. This can lead to university-level penalties, such as being suspended or expelled.

Children in class

I applaud all of you who attend school with children! It is difficult to balance academic, work, and family commitments, and I want you to succeed. Here are my policies regarding children in class:

  1. All breastfeeding babies are welcome in class as often as necessary.
  2. Non-nursing babies and older children are welcome whenever alternate arrangements cannot be made. As a parent of young children, I understand that babysitters fall through, partners have conflicting schedules, children get sick, and other issues arise that leave parents with few other options.
  3. In cases where children come to class, I invite parents/caregivers to sit close to the door so as to more easily excuse yourself to attend to your child’s needs. Non-parents in the class: please reserve seats near the door for your parenting classmates.
  4. All students are expected to join with me in creating a welcoming environment that is respectful of your classmates who bring children to class.

I understand that sleep deprivation and exhaustion are among the most difficult aspects of parenting young children. The struggle of balancing school, work, childcare, and graduate school is tiring, and I will do my best to accommodate any such issues while maintaining the same high expectations for all students enrolled in the class. Please do not hesitate to contact me with any questions or concerns.

Lauren’s Promise

I will listen and believe you if someone is threatening you.

Lauren McCluskey, a 21-year-old honors student athlete, was murdered on October 22, 2018 by a man she briefly dated on the University of Utah campus. We must all take action to ensure that this never happens again.

If you are in immediate danger, call 911 or GWU police at 202-994-6111 (GWPD).

If you are experiencing sexual assault, domestic violence, or stalking, if you report it to me I will listen and connect you to resources or call GWU’s Counseling and Psychological Services (202-994-5300).

Any form of sexual harassment or violence will not be excused or tolerated at GWU. GWU has instituted procedures to respond to violations of these laws and standards, programs aimed at the prevention of such conduct, and intervention on behalf of the victims. GWU Police officers will treat victims of sexual assault, domestic violence, and stalking with respect and dignity. Advocates on campus and in the community can help with victims’ physical and emotional health, reporting options, and academic concerns.

Use of Course Materials

All course materials available on the course website are developed open source - you are welcome to post and share them following the licensing guidelines listed in the license page.

However, all solutions to assignments and quizzes are proprietary. Don’t post them online or try to sell them - this is a violation of the student code of conduct.

What To Do if the Instructor Does Not Arrive

Wait 20 minutes, after that you’re free to leave. One member of the class should be selected to notify the EMSE Department of the Instructor’s absence by calling the EMSE Department 202-994-4892 on next business day.

University Policies

University Policy on Religious Holidays

In accordance with University Policy, students should notify faculty during the first week of the semester of their intention to be absent from class on their day(s) of religious observance. Official university policy here:

  • Students should notify faculty during the first week of the semester of their intention to be absent from class on their day(s) of religious observance.
  • Faculty should extend to these students the courtesy of absence without penalty on such occasions, including permission to make up examinations.
  • Faculty who intend to observe a religious holiday should arrange at the beginning of the semester to reschedule missed classes or to make other provisions for their course-related activities.

Support for Students Outside the Classroom

Disability Support Services (DSS): Any student who may need an accommodation based on the potential impact of a disability should contact the Disability Support Services office at 202-994-8250 in the Rome Hall, Suite 102, to establish eligibility and to coordinate reasonable accommodations. For additional information please refer to:

Mental Health Services (202-994-5300): The University’s Mental Health Services offers 24/7 assistance and referral to address students’ personal, social, career, and study skills problems. Services for students include: crisis and emergency mental health consultations confidential assessment, counseling services (individual and small group), and referrals.

Academic Integrity Code

Academic dishonesty is defined as cheating of any kind, including misrepresenting one’s own work, taking credit for the work of others without crediting them and without appropriate authorization, and the fabrication of information. For the remainder of the code, see:

In addition to the formal code of academic integrity, the instructor expects that students will treat this course with the level of professionalism required in the workplace. Remember that real firms are sponsoring student projects throughout the semester; in a workplace setting, these firms would be paying clients for the analyses being conducted. This course prepares students to succeed in the workplace, and maintaining a high degree of professionalism is expected.

Super Heros

Once you have read this entire syllabus and viewed the course schedule, please send me a picture of your favorite super hero in a direct message on Slack.

For real.

Brownie points if it’s animated.

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Some content on this page is inspired by and / or modified from other sources:

EMSE 6035: Marketing Analytics for Design Decisions (Fall 2021)
Wednesdays | 6:10 - 8:40 PM | SEH 7040 | Dr. John Paul Helveston |