Elements of Programming Languages (EPL)

Response to 2016/17 survey feedback for EPL.

I have taken note of the feedback from students in this course survey, and have the following comments in response.

  • I (and the TA/s tutors) are very grateful for the generally positive comments which indicate that our effort in trying to create an enjoyable course have been effective, though further improvement is obviously still possible.
  • Some students suggest that weekly assignments would help students by reinforcing concepts more frequently. In fact this is what we already do: there is a lab in week 2 and tutorial groups (with assigned problems) in weeks 3-10.
  • Some students suggest that it would be better for all three assignments to carry some credit, instead of having two feedback-only and one marked assignment at the end. This is a 10 point course, and according to School workload guidelines there should be at most one marked assignment. However, the three assignments build upon each other and completing the third without first doing the other two is not recommended. This structure is intended to give students greater flexibility to do the first two assignments at a time of their choice, getting feedback on whatever they have completed by the handin deadlines.
  • Some students indicate that they enjoyed the course but did not find the course "100% challenging". Our goal is not to make the hardest possible course that would be accessible only to students who are already knowledgeable about the basics of programming language design and theory (more advanced courses, such as APL or TSPL, might be preferable for them). Instead we hope that the course serves as a gentle, but rigorous introduction to these topics that may help attract people who otherwise might be put off by a more "hard core" course. Students who want to do something more "hard core" are encouraged to take APL or TSPL instead, or get in touch with us regarding UG4/MInf/MSc projects on more advanced topics.

James Cheney, September 2017