19 February 2020 Minutes

Minutes for the Informatics Board of Studies Meeting at 14:30hrs-16:30hrs, Wednesday 19th February 2020, Appleton Tower, Room 7:14

Welcome to all members 

Present – Stuart Anderson (Convener), Sharon Goldwater, Michael Fourman, Paul Jackson, Julian Bradfield, Rik Sarkar, Adam Carter, Cristina Alexandru, Ben Morse, Raul Garcia-Patron, Valerio Restocchi, James Garforth, Claudia Chirita, Paul Anderson, Philip Wadler (by Skype), Vicky Mactaggart, Gillian Bell, Karen Davidson, Anne MacKenzie (Administrative Secretary)

Apologies  -Jane Hillston,  Iain Murray, Maria Wolters, Mary Cryan, Heather Yorston, Ram Ramamoorthy, Milos Nikolic, Qais Patankar, Kousha Etessami, Paolo Guagliardo, Judy Robertson and Angela Nicholson


Draft Minutes of Previous Meeting  - 15th January 2020 minutes approved 


Matters Arising


Item 6 was taken first to allow Philip to attend the meeting by Skype.

19022020_BoS Item 6 Proposed changes to the Assessment of Informatics1A-FP - Introduction to Computation: replacing programming exam with continuous assessment / course work - Philip Wadler

Philip Wadler (PW) explained that the rationale behind the proposed changes detailed in the Board paper for INF1A-FP is to address a number of issues:

Student Engagement, Multiple Exam Sittings/ Exams not aligned, Class Exams and Main Exams marked by “Marking Parties” supervised and managed by Philip.  

He summarised the main changes as in-class quizzes to replace the class exam, emphasising learning and marking by stages

Sharon Goldwater (SG) raised a concern that the changes proposed appeared to only affect the FP half of the course. She pointed out that given the intention to integrate the two halves of INF1A, making both halves different would further confuse the students and she asked if Michael Fourman had been consulted on the changes.

Michael Fourman (MF) confirmed they had not really discussed these changes yet. If there is a move to continuous learning, then he thought it would be sensible to include the integration of Haskell with the Computation part in the coursework. Additionally plagiarism could be dealt with by introducing some Functional Programme questions in the final exam. (1 in 5) or as part questions. Michael acknowledged that writing code was not suitable for a paper based exam, but suggested reading and critiquing code and bug finding would be suitable.

Stuart Anderson (SA) confirmed that the department would be happy to resource the development work needed for these changes as INF1A is a major course.

PW confirmed he is happy to include FP questions in a final exam.

 SG asked how do these proposed changes relate to the Common Marking Scheme (CMS)?

MF replied that more integration between CL and FP would make it easier to use the CMS and also if the tutorial marking was made such that full marks would only be given for progress on advanced tasks then this approach would be compliant with the CMS.

PW suggested that the deviation from CMS was not a huge problem and there would be a reasonable distribution of marks from the course. MF stressed that CMS should apply to both halves of the integrated course. Paul Anderson (PA) pointed out that the details could be agreed in a separate meeting outwith BoS and he would be happy to participate in this.

SG raised an ongoing concern about the lack of integration between the two halves of the course. MF confirmed there is agreement to have a final exam and to have continuous assessment. It was agreed that the Course Description could be amended to read 50% C/W 50% Examination without attributing the split to FP or CL.

PW asked MF whether he would introduce an element of continuous assessment into CL – MF replied - Yes – a bit.

Gillian Bell (GB) asked for clarification regarding a forced fail when there is mix of Exam and Continuous Assessment. This was left open.

SG - confirmed there will be another BoS this year (now confirmed as 29 April) and requested that a more detailed integrated proposal be submitted in April.

PW raised a concern about the WiFi bandwidth at George Square Lecture Theatres for implementing Quizzes using something like TOPHAT. SA confirmed he had had a discussion with Gavin McLachlan (Prof of Maths & CIO Digital Transformation) who had assured him that this was being addressed – although there remains a question about whether it is feasible to get enough bandwidth for 400+ students.

Rik Sarkar (RS) said he was generally supportive of the changes proposed by PW but was concerned about plagiarism and commented that marks are important to 1st and 2nd year students. MF agreed and commented there was often pressure from parents or funders for students to get either good marks or a pass in pass/fail situations.

MF said a quick outline could be drawn of what is being worked on could be produced in the next two weeks. SG said it must address 2 issues: 1. Description. 2. Feasible integrated plan.

Outcome: Not Approved at this stage, but a detailed proposal welcomed

Action: Philip Wadler and Michael Fourman to submit a final proposal for INF1A to next BoS. This proposal MUST be sent to SG and SA by 5pm on the 10 April 2020.


Items 1 and 2 were taken together and presented by Sharon Goldwater on behalf of Mary Cryan.

19022020_BoS Item 1 New Programme Proposal - BSc Graduate Apprenticeship in Data Science - Mary Cryan and Heather Yorston

19022020_BoS Item 2 New Course Proposal  - Honours project (Data Science Graduate Apprenticeship) - Mary Cryan and Heather Yorston

Sharon explained that the Data Science UG Apprenticeship had originally been set up in a hurry. The 1st cohort are now in their second year of the programme, but it was recognised that Year 3 and Year 4 do not work as detailed in the DPT. The programme is delivered jointly with the School of Mathematics and these Board papers are proposing some working constraints (nothing controversial) to both the DPT and the Course.

The 4th year honours project will be organised through DMPT and is similar to the normal 4th year project but requires a separate course code as is has some additional requirements – comprising a work placement and a soft skills assessment.

Ben Morse (BM) queried the first year that the fourth year of the DPT would be delivered – for resource planning on the EPCC course included in the DPT and SG replied 2021/22

Outcome: Item1 and Item 2 Approved

Action: Anne Mackenzie (AM) to create new course and update DPT


19022020_BoS Item 3 Revised Course Proposal -  INF2-SEPP

Cristina Alexandru (CA) explained why she was presenting a paper to modify the course proposal approved at the December BoS. The modifications seek to deliver feasible changes to the current course and transition towards the new course as approved in December.

The main differences are

  • The assessment structure will be:  60% Coursework and 40% Exam (from 100% Coursework)
  • The Exam component will be a 2 hour exam. (1 hr is too tight)
  • Coursework similar to INF2C-SE – 3 submissions, student work in pairs starting 20/21
  • No advantage given to students electing to work solo for coursework
  • Lectures increase from 19 to 30 (extra lectures given by guest lecturers)
  • Tutorials and Labs as INF2C-SE

SA commented that this was a scaled back proposal from the proposal approved in December. The board had no questions.

Outcome: Approved

Action: AM to update draft course in Euclid before publishing


19022020_BoS Item 4 Updates to UG DPTs - Sharon Goldwater

SG explained that the major revision of 1st and 2nd Year Courses requires updates to DPTs in 2nd Year onwards as identified in this paper.

SG also advised that the current Year 3 students are advised to avoid level 10 courses when faced with a choice between level 9 and level 10. This advice is no longer relevant and DPTs should be updated. SA suggested replacing the advice with the recommendation of ‘Year normally taken’ but SG replied that this field in course descriptors could not be edited. MF suggested that this is covered by Course pre-requisites and SG agreed that this was made clear to students in PATH.

The 3rd and 4th year DPTs for Computer Science and Maths and for Cognitive Science requires some changes. AI and Maths has been discontinued, so Computer Science and Maths has been made broader to allow for choices previously under AI & Maths. Cognitive Science has been tidied up, but may need a further update due to changes in Psychology pre-hons.

Outcome: agreed

Action: AM to update all DPTs as specified.

Action: For Cognitive Science, SG to check if the Psychology updates to 1st and 2nd Year Courses still work and to bring the changes back to the next BoS if need be


19022020_BoS Item 5 Course Revision - Introduction to Theoretical Computer Science - Julian Bradfield

Julian Bradfield (JB) explained that this 3rd/4th year course is a basic introduction to theoretical computer science and that some changes are required to address the fact that the 1st and 2nd year curriculum review has removed some things from 2nd year (lambda calculus and types). The proposed content changes update the course and are a better match for a 10 credit course.

SG queried whether the reference to INF2A was a typo and it should read INF2-IADS and said she will  send a list of typos to Julian.

Outcome: Approved subject to typos being fixed.

 Action: SG to send a list of typos to Julian. Update 24/02/2020 Action complete

Action: JB to send a final corrected copy to Anne MacKenzie (AM) to update Euclid.


19022020_BoS Item 7 Courses not to Roll Forward 2020/21

The Spreadsheet listing courses not running or closed for 20/21 was reviewed and requires changes to:

Computer Architecture – now running in 20/21 (this is because the 20 credit CARD Course will not run due to a lack of resources)

Paul Jackson (PJ) queried whether there were any dependencies for CD? SG – doesn’t think so as it’s not run for a year. 

PJ also queried whether any of the proposed not running courses need to be kept open Exam Only?


Action: AM to remove CAR from list of courses to close.

Action: Gillian Bell or Vicky Mactaggart to check if there is anyone at status interrupted who might be adversely affected by the proposal to close any 2018/19 courses?

Action: Following the above action, AM to suspend/close courses as required.


19022020_BoS Item 8 STN Exam Move to Semester 1 - Rik Sarkar

Rik Sarkar explained that STN is a semester 1 course that is currently examined April/May diet and this is a request to move the examination to December so that Visiting Students can also take the course.

SA queried whether there were any capacity issues caused by moving the exam.

Gillian Bell confirmed that since timetabling had started using the Edinburgh Conference centre for December Exams, there were not capacity issues.

Outcome: Agreed

Action: AM to update the Course in Euclid (changes will pull through to Examinations ) 


19022020_BoS Item 9 - Change of Name for Randomness and Computation - Kousha Etessami

Proposal to change the above name to Randomized Algorithms

Outcome: Agreed

Action: AM to create new course ‘Randomized Algorithms’ with acronym ‘RA’. All other information to be copied from existing course ‘Randomness and Computation’


19022020_BoS Item 10 EPCC CSE New Programme Proposal Stages 1 and 2 - PhD: High Performance Computing, Computational and Data Science, Software Engineering - Mark Parsons, Mark Bull

Ben Morse (BM) explained that this course proposal was designed to address an uptick in PhDs applications following the fallow years for EPCC PhD entrants and had been discussed in depth with Nigel Topham and Lindsey Fox.  As EPCC is now expecting more PhD students, these changes address the concerns College (CSE) have about the mix with ICSA students. This new programme code will clearly identify EPCC students. Student numbers doubled this year and are expected to double again next year before stabilising.

The proposal is a standard PhD clone of the ICSA version. They will not go for additional programme costs and expect students to be generally EPSRC funded.

SG asked who will be administering this programme IGS or EPCC? BM explained that his job description had changed to include support for PhD students – more in line with the support provision for MSc

Lindsey, Nigel and Agapi would help with EPCC admissions etc.

SG advised that we needed to improve the look of our PhD Programme Proposals. BM agreed saying that whilst he had consulted with the Academic Affairs Team, the proposal needed further work.

Next CCAB is in May and Vicky Mactaggart advised that the deadline for final programme proposals is 29th April


Outcome: Agreed in principle

Action: SA / LF to provide a good exemplar(s) from CCAB (SG admitted that it was embarrassing that programmes approved by BoS were not considered to be in good shape by CCAB)

Action: BM to consult further with Lindsey and the CCAB secretary to get the proposal in good shape for CCAB.

Action: Lindsey Fox, SG and SA to review stage 1 and stage 2 docs for EPCC proposal


Items 11 and 12 were taken together

19022020_BoS Item 11 New Course Proposal Programming Skills - Ben Morse, David Henty, Adam Carter, Mike Jackson

19022020_BoS Item 12 New Course Proposal Software Development - Ben Morse, David Henty, Adam Carter, Mike Jackson

BM explained that since the online MSc had been approved, two existing campus delivered courses were being revised for online MSc students and DSTI students. He confirmed that the course proposals were similar to the existing courses, but had detail differences in the Learning Outcome wording and some structural differences. Both courses would be similarly run but with different Course Organisers.

SA asked if courses will be run synchronously with the campus courses. Ans: Programming Skills – Yes, Software Development – No. All will be presented at a Jan Board of Examiners.

SG commented that she was confused re the delivery mode and asked if the on-campus courses were using video? Adam Carter (AC) and BM explained that although the syllabus and content were the same, the delivery mode would be different. With the delivery taking students in different time-zones into account. Synchronous plus flip classroom with help available for practical exercises.

Both Courses have a Linux environment – generally the student’s own set-up. BM confirmed they are using CIRRUS or DICE but could revert to CIRRUS if DICE use not appropriate. Action to check with computing support.

BM commented there is not a lot of computation in either of these courses.

AC confirmed that they use primarily virtual machines and whilst they do have access to DICE, they are encouraged to use their own machines with back up.

The on-campus version of Programming Skills is a pre-requisite for Software Skills but in the online version they are each co-requisite.

SG requested that the course acronym for all EPCC courses should contain EPCC/Course acronym. Vicky Mactaggart agreed to keep this format.

Outcome: Approved

Action: BM to check with computing support about getting DICE access for distance students.


19022020_BoS Item 13 New Course Proposal Data Visualisation for Professionals - Benjamin Bach

SG explained that Benjamin Bach’s proposal is for another online course. This is similar to the Data Visualisation – taught on campus, funded by Upskilling Fund. This proposal is an online version to be delivered this summer to people in work. The content is the same as the on-campus version with the logistical issues resolved.

AC also has an Upskilling funded course but this is run later and is very tight to meet deadlines for the June Examination Board.

BM and AC would both prefer a virtual board to address these two courses but had not yet spoken to anyone to request this.

VM and GB were asked if they had any concerns and replied that the fact they are 100% coursework resolves some of the issues.

SA asked if the 10 credit courses counted towards any programme? – AC replied yes, the Data Skills Workshop Development Programme managed by Bayes. SA replied if this contributes to a programme (shell) – there is no award of programme. AC agreed it is not an ideal set up but it was designed to give SFC what they ask for. (These funds replace the Highly Skilled Workforce Funds which were withdrawn)

SG asked whether the arrangements are just for this summer or if there will be more options for DSTI or EPCC?

AC replied no Upskilling courses in DSTI as they overlap too much with existing courses. The BB course proposal overlaps with the Data Visualisation 10 credit course. Note that if the course does become part of an awarding programme then it will need to be reconsidered.

GB expressed concern about the timing and logistics of the Examination Board. SA asked whether the school could do stage 1 and then Bayes do stage 2? (Stage 2 is normally the programme part)

BM asked if DSTI could do it? AC replied No. Michael Rovatsos (as director of Bayes) may be able to explain further how these courses will work logistically

Outcome: Approved

Action: AC to speak to Theresa re level 2 Board.

Action: MR to explain the programme this fits in to so that the appropriate administration can be determined.

Action: AC to determine how the Examination Boards will operate for this programme. Note there was an earlier action from the December BoS requesting that ITO/DoT/EPCC/DSTI meet to agree Examination Board solution. This has not progressed.


AOCB (Any Other Current Business)  

Paul Jackson presented a paper dealing with SDP course plans to cope with rising student numbers. He confirmed that with carefully identified actions, the Course Organisers can manage student numbers over the next 2 to 3 years and up to 30 to 40% more students.

The BoS are not required to take any action. The course organisers will need to take action to manage the numbers but believe this to be doable.

The BoS agreed overall that this had been a very useful exercise and thanked Paul for his work.