11 December 2019 Minutes

Minutes for the Informatics Board of Studies Meeting at 14:00hrs-16:00hrs, Wednesday 11th December 2019, Appleton Tower, Room 7:14

 Welcome to all members 

Present - Stuart Anderson (Convener), Anne MacKenzie (Administrative Secretary), Alan Smaill, Sharon Goldwater, Cristina Alexandru, Iain Murray, Rik Sarkar, Milos Nikolic, Adam Carter,  Paul Jackson, Paul Patras, Angela Nicholson, Michael Mistry, Paolo Guagliardo, Andreas Pieris, Kami Vaniea Vicky Mactaggart, Gillian Bell 

Apologies  -Jane Hillston,  Boris Grot, Mary Cryan, Tim Loderhouse and Simon Tomlinson


Minutes of Previous Meeting  - 16th November 2019 minutes approved 


Matters Arising

11122019_BoS Item 1) New Course Proposal - Software Engineering and Professional Issues - Cristina Alexandru and Conrad Hughes

Cristina (CA) presented the updates to this course proposal based on feedback from the 16 October BoS. The new course will be a 2nd year UG course replacing INF2-SE. Sharon Goldwater (SG) suggested that the course title should be INF2-SEPP. SG also identified a couple of issues (i) the 10 day turnaround on feedback should be removed for large class sizes. 10 days is too ambitious when calibration and moderation is factored in. Kami Vaniea (KV) added that if a student is given an extension of 1 week, when the work is done in groups, the whole group deadline is extended by 1 week.

Stuart Anderson (SA) thought that formative feedback turnaround of 10 days is desirable, but for summative feedback this deadline is not practical.

SG issue (ii) The breakdown of Teaching and Learning gives 22 hrs supervised practicals - 2hrs workshops over 11 weeks. 12 hrs are considered Summative Assessment hours. How can these be counted? This is not the usual interpretation of Summative Assessment - normally it would be by Examinations or in-class tests such as oral presentations or interviews.

Outcome: Approved subject to minor changes

Action: Cristina to re-allocate summative assessment hours to Coursework and to update the course title


11122019_BoS Item 2) New Course Proposal - Machine Learning Theory - Rik Sarkar

Rik (RS) presented the changes he had made to the proposal following feedback from the 16 November BoS. The course assessment will be 80% Examinations and 20% Coursework. There will be 3 Tutorials.

SG commented that the tutorials will need to be timetabled as Tutorials and noted that on p12 DRPS Pre-Requisite Courses are listed as IAML or MLPR. If including these it should also include IAML (level 11). However this may exclude Mathematics Students or MSc student who may not have done these courses. It may be worth considering replacing formal pre-requisites with a statement to say that concession requests will be considered from these groups with a couple of statements saying " UG Students normally expected to have a pass in ....... Non -UG Students......."

SA commented that the hours breakdown look fine.

RS clarified that the recommended text is available online and he will link to the download copy in DRPS , will be added to the Leganto List and the library will keep published copies.

Iain Murray (IM) suggested updating the words above the list of topics to give room for changes i.e an 'indicative list of topics'

In response to concerns raised at the last BoS about the effect on enrolment of other S2 courses  RS has created a poll which will be distributed to students after the start of Semester 2.

SG suggested amending the title to Introduction to Machine Learning Theory but after discussion agreed this was not needed. 

SA would like more details on the form of the coursework and to have identified which learning objectives map to Coursework and which map to the Exam.

RS gave a quick illustration that students would be given a scenario and have to provide a formal discussion on robustness - or would undertake a class exercise - in-depth.

Coursework would be mapped to Learning Objectives that require more in-depth responses not suitable for 1/2 hr answer in exam.

SA enquired why not 100% exam - usually LO are not naturally assessed by exams? SA requested an explanation to why summative assessment by coursework was needed  - which LO's need this, why it's 20% and to map the forms of assessment to the LOs - he pointed out that this information did not need to be brought back to the BoS.

IM suggested that this is a course we should be advertising to Mathematics students - assuming there is no programming requirement - if we include programming then this needs to be spelt out for non-informatics students. Considering the coursework elements, IM felt that programming is not a feasible option in the timescale of a 10 credit course.

Paul Patras (PP) commented that coursework is not popular with students.

Outcome: Approved subject to RS taking the actions listed below.

Action: RS to provide a clear mapping of assessment to learning objectives and to submit a sample of coursework, to clarify whether coursework needs to be summative or not. (If not, then assessment should be changed to 100% exam.)

Action: RS Survey students after the start of semester 2 (coordinate with IM and COs for IAML)

Action: RS to make other minor updates requested:

  • prerequisites: either include Level 11 IAML or remove formal prerequisites and update ‘other requirements’ instead.
  • Wording to show topic list is indicative.


11122019_BoS Item 3) New Course Proposal - Introduction to Practical Data Science (DL) - Adam Carter

Adam (AC) presented his paper as the 1st half being a fairly small adaptation from an existing taught course that needs changes made to the assessment element. The course will be available under the DSTI Programme to employed students and will not be offered to existing students. This will be a fixed 10 week course starting in March 2020 and run online to finish in time for the appropriate exam boards.

Broadly DSci, DEng and DMgmt students, entirely online and will be assessed by 1 coursework (online)

Learning Objectives are reduced from 5 to 4 and kept broadly at level 11 (existing). Originally the call was for a level 7/8 course  - longer term aim to diverge further to a lower level stand-alone CPD course (not PDP postgraduate)

SA questioned whether any credits could be awarded to any UoE students on PG programmes? AC replied No award - only credit for the course. Student cohort would be UoE but not graduate or alumni.

IM questioned - are we giving a different CPD/PDP? EPCC DL Courses already use INFR codes?

AC clarified that only Master courses in EPCC use INFR. DSTI and online courses use INFD

- the question was raised whether EPCC DL courses should appear separately - the DPTs for EPCC are not a problem as these are restricted, but the courses are not restricted in Informatics, so can be seen by Informatics students. PJ would like clarity that INF students cannot take these courses. SA replied it is clear that INFD courses are not for INF students. There is an issue with the 20 hrs Coursework being described as summative contact hours.

SA confirmed that awarding credit needs to go through a BoE and suggested the same BoE as Introduction to Practical Data Science. He pointed out that if the 10 week course starts in March, then this will coincide with the Resit Board and not be in cycle for the BoE

OUTCOME: Approved subject to changes

Action: AC to amend 20 hrs not Summative Assessment. Bring the description into line with other DL courses i.e. video of class is not 'contact hours'

Action: AC to schedule the 1 hr weekly contact time to fortnightly, but to run weekly at different times to offer alternative timing for students.

Action: Gillian, Vicky, Stuart and Adam to decide which Exam Board these should come to.


11122019_BoS Item 4) New Course Proposal - Principles of Data Management - Andreas Pieris

Andreas (AP) introduced his proposal as the intention to replace Advanced Databases which has dropped in numbers to 10/20 students per year.

He proposed that instead of cancelling this unpopular course, something new could be created to build on the long tradition of database theory and would want to keep the technical content that is not accessible to graduate students. The course would aim to provide a formal treatment of database management that works in real life. This would treat database related problems in a mathematical way. The proposal is for a 10 credit course with fewer topics, a relational database model, the basics, query language, efficient fast queries, recursive query languages and inconsistent/incomplete data issues.

AP said that following feedback from SG regarding the 5 learning objectives and problems to students of a 100% coursework model, he would need time to think. Formative essays - papers will be given for analysis and critical thoughts using the basic relational model. The project element - same as PSA - summary with analysis and critical thoughts - asking the students to discuss ideas - new contributions and reasonable directions.

AP said he can map the assessment to the LO. He has no formal pre-requisites, but complexity theory and database familiarity is welcomed.

AC commented that Data Management is an overloaded term and KV suggested that students would associate the title with Ethics, Privacy and GDPR issues.The three new database course proposals have issues with titles. The courses proposed by Milos and Paolo could be 'intro' and Andreas 'advanced' but advanced courses need pre-requisites so they had decided against this.

PP asked what are the 'take home' tests about? AP said that these would be subjects requiring more than a half hour exam answer - likely to be (1) the relational model (2) datalog - recursive query language and (3) Uncertain data - incomplete, inconsistent or probabilistic

PP asked if the course needed tutorial hours - AP probably yes a couple of lectures to discuss the essay and formal revision hours.

RS agreed with PP that it was not clear to students why to take the course and how it differs from the others - from the description. SG felt this could be partly addressed by changing “underlying principles” to “underlying theoretical principles” in the Summary and that the reference to database systems would be confusing with Paolo's course.

SA - the assessment description states the essay is formative - is this a preparatory piece for the project? AP answered it is to force understanding of the basic relational model

SA expressed concern at the 100% coursework model submitted in revision week before final exams i.e. beginning of April - how much work is expected from each student - they need to be given an expectation of task size. There needs to be a clear explanation of what a student has to do to pass the course.

AP replied that essays would be 6 pages - high level summary of a paper

PP said they would need criteria for how the essay would be judged

SA commented that if more students were to be attracted, they would need clarity in the level of commitment needed by the student

Outcome: Agreed in principle but the paper should be resubmitted with more tightly specified assessment component and the course description needs more detail on what is expected from the essay/project and time commitment on the take-home test.

Action: AP to propose a new title with the word ‘Database’ along the lines of 'Principles of Databases (or Database Systems) or Database Theory or Theoretical Principles of Database Management Systems.

Action: AP to resubmit with more tightly specified assessment component and the course description needs more detail on what is expected from the essay/project and take-home test.


11122019_BoS Item 5) New Course Proposal - Introduction to Databases - Paolo Guagliardo

Paolo (PG) described his proposal as maintenance of the existing database course  - this is an introductory course covering the theoretical and practical foundations of databases. The current course numbers are healthy with stable good enrolment numbers. PG explained that he really wanted to flip the classroom style and bring to the BoS as a minor change for 20/21 but there was no time to do this. - He therefore planned to leave things as-is but will start showing some videos in class.

SG queried the implementation - what do you do with the class time? PG explained run examples.

KV suggested that if running a few videos, this would be a good opportunity to tell students in advance and seek feedback.

SG commented that you can't have millions of small tutorial groups - what happens in large classes?

Outcome: Approved 


11122019_BoS Item 6) New Course Proposal - Advanced Database Systems - Milos Nikolic

Milos (MN) introduced his course proposal as a much needed update to 10 yr old course content. The current course is not covering new developments, cutting edge research, no practical lab systems yet described as a practical course. This proposal plans to extend to include cloud database and to be more attractive to students. He did want to change the title to Database Systems, but Paolo has Advanced Database Systems. The course will be extended from 10 credits to 20 credits with practical sessions and updated content. Coursework will be 30% programming assignment. Practical sessions will be on a toy database system implementing different components (3 practical sessions) C++ programming - increasing in difficulty and an external exam.

PG offered his support that it becomes a 20 credit course and said it would be a nice course that students would like.

MN said he expected student numbers to be 55 - 60 students although 20 credits might reduce these numbers. The course would be more aimed at UG than MSc level 

MN commented that the current UG4 course is level 11 and this is a PG level, SG agreed there is some inconsistent labelling and if it’s UG4 it should be labelled UG (even if level 11). The current split has somewhat more MSc but also a lot of UG students. Advanced DB students in 17/18 and 18/19 were more MSc (30 MSc, 20 UG).

19/20 – so far is higher MSc– but students change courses in January. MN commented that some of them drop when they discover the C++ requirement and in late January the numbers will stabilise.

Outcome: Approved


11122019_BoS Item 7) New Course Proposal - Robotics and Autonomous Systems Group Report - Michael Mistry

Michael (MM) introduced his proposal for 3 courses required for 4 year PhD students of Robotics and Autonomous Systems. These are shadow courses so that Edinburgh led CDT courses on schedule

Bucket courses - allow transcript credit only - i.e 30 credits

Vicky Mactaggart (VM) commented that College had already asked for these to be set up

SG - commented that we need clarity on the administration side and that more courses were not necessarily a good idea - but could see why the course is preferable to the transcript in a student record.

If student exists as MSc - create a transcript at school level

The old MScR old CDT - shadow course for required courses and the 3 in this proposal are all required courses.

[SG added after the meeting: if shadow courses are needed, the names should be consistent with our other CDT courses, i.e. ‘Group research project (XX)’ and ‘Individual research project (XX)’.]

Outcome: Approved - subject to agreement of whether shadow or bucket applies

Action: VMac, SG, SA and MM to discuss with Admin/College which route is best and decide final courses titles.

KV asked can we put a degree course as a pre-requisite - SG replied that she does not think so.  -if looking at arbitrary courses

KV commented that several courses are already limited to degree programmes and questioned whether this already causes trouble?  Agreed to ask BB after January how much trouble was caused?

11122019_BoS Item 8) New Course Proposal - Data Visualisation Upskilling - Benjamin Bach

BB not present at meeting.

SG noted that she has questions that she will direct to Benjamin


Action: SG to discuss with BB and bring back to Jan BoS


AOCB (Any Other Current Business)