23 February 2022 Minutes

Minutes Informatics Board of Studies Meeting 14:00hrs-16:00hrs, Wednesday 23rd February 2022, ONLINE BLACKBOARD COLLABORATE

Minutes for the Online Informatics Board of Studies Meeting at 14:00hrs-16:00hrs, Wednesday 23rd February 2022, Blackboard Collaborate


Present - Björn Franke (Convenor), Sharon Goldwater (Chair), Barbara Kulawik (Administrative Secretary), Michael Andrejczuk (UG School Representative), Stuart Anderson, Pavlos Andreadis, Aurora Constantin, Kousha Etessami, Paolo Guagliardo, Michael Herrmann, Vicky Mactaggart, Ben Morse, Iain Murray, Amir Shaikhha, Simon Tomlinson [list inclusive but not exhaustive due to online meeting arrangement]

Apologies received: Julian Bradfield, Christopher Lucas, Subramanian Ramamoorthy, Maria Wolters, Heather Yorston.

Previous Minutes: Accepted with no corrections.


Matters Arising

DPT updates:

23022022_Item 1 – Advanced Design Informatics_DPT Updates (Maria Wolters) 

Advanced Design Informatics_DPT Updates (61.02 KB PDF)

Iain Murray (IM) advised (on behalf of Maria Wolters) that the rationale behind the submitted proposal was to implement two changes to the existing DPT for the two year Advanced Design Informatics (ADI) Programme (running in parallel with the one year MSc in Design Informatics):

  1. Moving the Dissertation from Summer of Year 2 to Semester 2 of Year 2, with a view to ensuring clear progression, namely by ruling-out the risk of Students potentially failing the taught component and/or committing to a programme which will not contribute to their degree. It was noted that the summer deadline appeared to be a long overlooked DPT error.
  2. Restricting Course Choice in Semester 1 of Year 2, to mitigate the risk posed by the lack of clear progression structure (i.e. earlier removal of the compulsory course). The importance of implementing a clear time point (at the end of S1) for the assessment whether or not students have earned enough credits to be allowed to proceed to dissertation was stressed. IM concluded the proposal emphasising that the specifics of DPT updates would need to be discussed offline and confirmed by the course proposer (Maria Wolters).

BF asked IM to comment on the level of popularity of the year-long courses in question and the potential impact of the proposed changes may have on enrolments in general. IM responded that no immediate risk has been identified, however, it was felt that the suggested modification would enhance students overall progression by providing them with more time to focus on their dissertation project. BF suggested on offline discussion on practical ways of ensuring there are no accidental enrolments to semester 1 courses with semester 2 exam diet assigned to them.

OUTCOME: Approved in principle, subject to offline review.

ACTION:  The Proposer (Maria Wolters) to share the review outcomes and discuss the suggested changes in more detail in the next BoS meeting.


23022022_Item 2 – Data Science_DPT Updates (Paolo Guagliardo)

 Data Science_DPT Updates (528.8 KB PDF)

Paolo Guagliardo (PG) presented a proposal to remove the requirement for MSc programme in Data Science Students to choose 20 credits exactly of Level 10 and 11 courses in Group B of the and to introduce more flexible alternative, allowing Students to choose the total of 100 credits from both Groups A and B merged together.

OUTCOME: Approved (for both FT and PT version of the programme).

ACTION: ISS to update DPTs.


23022022_Item 3 – Cognitive Science BSc and MSc_DPT Updates (Frank Mollica)

 Informatics 1 - Cognitive Science_DPT Updates (130.89 KB PDF)

Frank Mollica (FM) presented the proposed changes, explaining the broader rationale for these, namely an aim to “revitalise” the degree ensuring it holds distinguishing features for graduates and provides more cohesive cohort feeling.

OUTCOME: Approved.

ACTION: ISS to make changes to DPTs.


23022022_Item 4 – BEng Computer Science_DPT Updates *for information only* (Sharon Goldwater)

 BEng CompSci_DPT Updates for BCS accreditation (120.33 KB PDF)

SG presented an item for information only, indicating some relevant updates and actions to be taken by ISS admin team. The Committee Members were advised that the accreditation was sought and granted for BEng Computer Science programme only. It was noted that Students who fulfil the standard University requirements to progress or achieve an award, but do not fulfil the BCS requirements will be permitted to transfer to the BSc Computer science (which has the same DPT as the BEng but is not accredited by BCS.

Stuart Anderson (SA) questioned whether re-sits could potentially be allowed, to which SG responded stating that the general School’s approach would be to avoid these.

OUTCOME: BoS Committee to take note with NFA required as item approved offline.

ACTION 1: ISS to notify UG3 and UG4 BoE Convenors to ensure that they are made aware of these changes and check them at the relevant boards.

ACTION 2: ISS to add the three notes to the BEng Computer Science DPT as described in the paper.  


23022022_Item 5 – EPCC_DPT Updates (Ben Morse)

EPCC_DPT Updates (144.13 KB PDF)

1. EPCC‐ specific course codes (as noted below).

Ben Morse (BM) submitted a proposal to create replacement course catalogue entries for all EPCC courses using the following schema:

· EPCC prefix for all on‐campus teaching · EPCD prefix for all online teaching (to reflect INFD split as already exists)

The rationale behind the change was to: 1. to better distinguish ‘true’ Informatics courses from EPCC courses; 2. to make the distinctions easier for Students and Student Support teams for course selection; 3. to provide a better distinction for QA processes.

OUTCOME: Approved.

ACTION: BM to make changes to the listed courses:

INFD11021 Performance Programming

INFD11022 Advanced Message-passing Programming

INFD11023 Advanced Parallel Techniques

INFD11024 Design and Analysis of Parallel Algorithms

INFD11025 Numerical Algorithms for High Performance Computing

INFD11026 Project Preparation (HPC and HPC with Data Science)

INFD11027 Project Preparation (DSTI)

INFD11028 Dissertation (HPC)

INFD11029 Dissertation (HPC with Data Science)

INFR11163 Message-Passing Programming

INFR11164 Dissertation (HPC with Data Science)

INFR11166 Dissertation (HPC)

INFR11167 Performance Programming

INFR11168 Parallel Design Patterns

INFR11169 Advanced Message-passing Programming

INFR11170 Advanced Parallel Techniques

INFR11171 Data Analytics with High Performance Computing

INFR11172 Software Development

INFR11173 Project Preparation

INFR11174 Numerical Algorithms for High Performance Computing

INFR11175 HPC Architectures

INFR11176 Fundamentals of Data Management

INFR11177 Programming Skills

INFR11178 Threaded Programming

INFR11179 Design and Analysis of Parallel Algorithms


2. Changes to EPCC mid‐Semester assessment

Ben Morse (BM) summarised the proposed changes to the assessment model first introduced in response to COVID‐19 disruptions in S2 of 2019/20, indicating that in the current form these are likely to have a continuous negative impact on student engagement in the middle of the Semester due to a perceived need to revise for mid-semester class test. BM touched on the issues that have been identified to date, and advised that exact proposals would be delivered to the next BoS.

BF commented on the importance of balancing the course material and proposed assessment methods, namely by looking at the ways of re-risking the failure as opposed to generating an increased volume of workload for both Students and staff involved in coursework marking.

OUTCOME: The Board supported the submission of full proposals.

ACTION: BM to submit detailed proposals to the next Board of Studies.


3. New programme‐specific 20 credit integrated Programming in Software Projects course 

Ben Morse (BM) summarised the rationale behind the proposed changes, namely merging two 10‐credit courses into a single 20‐credit course, with a view to increasing capacity for students by leaving the existing 10 credit options available for external students. It was stressed that given the high level of interest in the programme and the cap on student numbers for the courses, the suggested merge was likely to be very well received. BM emphasised the suggested more balanced spread of the practical and theoretical learning material across S1 & S2 and noted that due the time constraints, the exact proposal was yet to be finalised and presented to BoS for further discussion. A further comment was made to indicate both positive feedback and multiple notes of interest received from several Schools (including Physics and PPLS). Simon Tomlinson was supportive of the idea and commented that the courses in question would also be of interest to School of Biological Sciences Students. BF queried the enrolment mechanism, specifically whether there would be a requirement to negotiate on student quotas. BM advised that for the time being the discussed prospective enrolments were to be seen as approximates only, and that formal arrangements in this respect would follow in due course.

OUTCOME: The Board supports the submission of full proposals.

ACTION: BM to submit detailed proposals to the next Board of Studies (Apr 2022).


23022022_Item 6 – Informatics Entrepreneurship_Preliminary Course Proposal (Björn Franke)

 Preliminary Course Proposal_Informatics Entrepreneurship_Bjoern Franke (37.13 KB PDF)


BF presented short proposal for a new course on Entrepreneurship Project to be taken by 3rd year Informatics Students as an alternative to SDP, which was considered to be a valuable addition to the overall curriculum. It was noted that the School has received funding for hands-on training sessions to be delivered by external training provider. BF explained broader rationale behind the course, being a mixture of lectures and group-based projects and presentations focusing on the business plan and prototype development. Learning outcomes are expected to be aligned with the SDP.

Iain Murray raised a comment that 1st and 2nd years can currently take the following 20 credit entrepreneurship course: drps.ed.ac.uk/21-22/dpt/cxbust08024.htm, suggesting to check potential prohibited combinations in this regard.

The School UG Representative, Michael Andrejczuk (MA) was supportive of the proposal and felt that it would attract a high level of interest. A question was raised in terms of the estimated intake of both CS and Informatics Students. BF responded that at the preliminary stage of the proposal it would be difficult to estimate, however, a survey was to be conducted in due course.

MA suggested exploring an option of getting Business School involved in this initiative, with a view to sharing feedback and expertise on entrepreneurial activities (particularly, in the context of “3 day start-up” project run by the School). BF commented that it may prove difficult, as Informatics Students enrolment into Business School courses continues to be challenging. A further question was raised on how this new course would potentially differentiate from SDP in terms of the expected level of focus the course would require on both business-plan aspect and prototype-building related activities.

James Garforth (JG) commented that SDP has yet to be consulted on this matter, emphasising that the proposal raised a great deal of concern among SDP Lecturers, namely in terms of the potential risks of learning outcomes overlap. It was noted that Entrepreneurship Project is highly likely to bring a number of difficulties to the SDP course delivery (which already proves challenging) not only by inviting comparison between the two courses and the subsequent requirement for quality assurance, but also by making the cohort and expected Students’ skillset distributions significantly less predictable. BF agreed that learning outcomes overlap was a valid concern, yet disagreed with JG on the predictable numbers argument, commenting that fluctuation in this respect is generally to be expected across the curriculum. Following up on JG concerns, MA felt that there was a high likelihood that, based on the new course content, a number of students interested in Project Management would choose this option over the existing SDP, making the Project Management group harder to fill. SG emphasised the importance of including the said group of Students in the planned survey, in addition to SDP COs/Lecturers, and suggested that further discussions should be held offline.

Kousha Etessami (KE) raised his concern that the course could be seen as less desirable option if not linked with or benefiting in some way from Business School expertise in the field of entrepreneurship.

Stuart Anderson (SA) agreed that there was a case for a distinctive Informatics-version of the Enterpreneurship-oriented course, however, was not convinced that the current version of the proposal adequately conveyed this. As a remedy to this, greater emphasis on software products/products in data software was suggested.

OUTCOME: The Board supported the submission of a full proposal following offline consultation

ACTION: BF to consult further with relevant stakeholders (students, SDP organizers, BDEs, ideally the new Entrepreneurship hire, and possibly Business School) and present it again in an upcoming BoS meeting.


Course updates:


23022022_ Item 7 – Introduction to Databases_Course updates (Paolo Guagliardo)

IDB_Course Updates (415.34 KB PDF)

Paolo Guagliardo presented a proposal to change the assessment model from 40% coursework and 60% examination to 100% exam, as per the initial proposal put forward in February 2019 and approved, and subsequently changed to the current ratio in response to COVID-19 outbreak.

Michael Andrejczuk (MA) raised a few comments on the proposal, based on personal experience of taking the course under 100/0 ratio. MA expressed concern with moving back to 100% exam as this would likely hinder Student’s opportunity of developing SQL skills that could be put into practice more easily if the coursework component was to be maintained. It was felt that this correlated well with the performance and proved to be highly popular if not a preferred model among Informatics Students. A further comment was made on labs greatly enhancing both Student communication and skills development.

SG shared a concern on whether or not exam can appropriately assess the practical skills. PG explained that the coursework element would remain to allow formative feedback but would not be marked. It was stressed that exam questions would also be designed in a way to help students develop practical skills, with an added benefit of greatly limiting the risk of plagiarism. A further comment was made that a large number of students appears to study and ask questions shortly prior to sitting the exam and rarely takes the advantage of the office hours.

The BoS committee was concerned that reverting back to 100% wouldn’t prove to be the best option in terms of student experience and progression. Several concerns were raised on the disadvantages such model is likely to pose on students with disabilities, autistic spectrum or dyslexia. A more flexible and open model was suggested, allowing to accommodate students cognitive characteristics, increased engagement and more systematic learning methods.

SA commented on the potential of bringing back 24-hour exam option, to which BF responded stating that such alternative was no longer possible within the School.

OUTCOME:   BF suggested offline discussion to gather more feedback and reach the middle ground and ensure sustainable solution (namely in the context of the marking resource).

ACTION: Proposed course updates to be reviewed/updated by PG in light of the discussion and submitted to SG/BF for final approval.


23022022_ Item 8 – Software Testing_Course updates (Stuart Anderson)

Software Testing_Course Updates (371.56 KB PDF)


Stuart Anderson (SA) presented a proposal to change the Software Testing assessment model to 100% coursework, with a view to allowing students to gain strong experience in software testing.

With the move of the course to semester 1, it was felt that it would be beneficial for students to gain experience across the full spectrum of testing techniques and demonstrate that experience on the chosen software project, subsequently developing a comprehensive software testing method.

SG was supportive of the idea in principle, however, taking into account the course size, raised a concern over the potentially underestimated resourcing requirements, namely in the context of tutoring and time allocation required for effective group discussions. A further question was raised on whether or not this has been discussed with the CO - Ajitha Rajan. SA confirmed that detailed consultation was yet to take place, nevertheless, the subject was discussed in due course with ILP CO - Stephen Gilmore (SG) given a close relation between the two courses. SA advised that, in terms of the scalability, it was felt that the suggested approach, namely the portfolio-based model would mitigate the potential risks and resourcing issues. 

Based on personal study experience, MA noted his concerns regarding the estimated resourcing, stating that for the tutorials to be heavily discussion-based, groups of 10 are likely to be too large to provide quality engagement from Students. Additionally, a comment was raised that the course could potentially see a decrease in enrolments if the current balance between the coursework and exam was to be reduced. A further concern was voiced in relation to the implementation of the ILP component, to which SA provided further explanation.

OUTCOME: Offline discussion and review of the proposed resource and tutoring group sizes was proposed. Conditionally approved pending evidence regarding these issues.

ACTION: SA to discuss the specifics of the proposal with Ajitha Rajan (where possible), review the tutorial groups’ size and source the cohort of Tutors and to provide an update to SG/BF for consideration.


23022022_Item 9 – Informatics 1 - Cognitive Science_Course updates (Frank Mollica)

 Informatics 1 - Cognitive Science_Course Updates (95.43 KB PDF)


Frank Mollica (FM) advised that the primary aim for the suggested changes was to bring the Cognitive Science more in line with the current course material, and to update the Learning Objectives accordingly. BF questioned whether there has been any prior consultation in this regard. FM confirmed discussing the proposed adjustments with Co-Lecturers/COs - Christopher Lucas and Matthias Hennig who were supportive of these.

SG queried the programming component of the course, raising concern that the suggested changes could discourage less confident Students. FM confirmed that there’s been some feedback received from PPLS Students who were unclear on the pre-requisites (namely prior exposure to Python) and were effectively struggling with the course. It was felt that the said feedback supports the rationale behind the more explicit course description.  SG asked for further clarification on whether or not PPLS students were able to gain certain level of Python exposure in their programme course. FM explained that this was no longer being offered to them and they were getting exposure to R programming instead. SG queried the ratio of CSE/Non-CSE Students typically enrolling onto CS, to which FM responded by saying that a vast majority (up to 70%) of the cohort comprises CSE Students. It was noted that the course has proven to be highly popular among students, with the CS course class size increasing rather exponentially in a relatively short period of time.

BF asked FM to comment on the expected level of interest for an alternative, outside-of-Informatics course which is currently being discussed. FM advised that given there was no cap on student numbers and no other elective course available, an informal survey was conducted to gauge the level of interest, the results of which could be provided on request.

OUTCOME: Approved, with offline discussion to follow.

ACTION: ISS to make relevant changes.


23022022_Item 10 – Randomized Algorithms_Course updates (Kousha Etassami)

Randomized Algorithms_Course Updates_Kousha_Etessami (67.04 KB PDF)

Kousha Etassami (KE) proposed several changes to the Randomized Algorithms with a view to better reflecting the current content of the course. SG asked for further clarification on the proposed changes, namely lesser number of pre-requisites/specific requirements compared to the former version of the course. KE advised that it was assumed that Students would be expected to have prior exposure or comparable experience in the field, otherwise they would struggle with the course.

OUTCOME: Approved in principle, subject to suggested minor updates following offline discussion.

ACTION:  KE and SG to discuss the required changes and submit relevant details to ISS for actioning once finalized.


23022022_Item 11 – Computational Cognitive Neuroscience_Course updates (Peggy Series)

Computational Cognitive Neuroscience_Course Updates_Peggy Series (108.39 KB PDF)


Peggy Series (PS) proposed several updates to Computational Cognitive Neuroscience Course Description, with a view to more accurately reflecting current content of the course.

The BoS Committee was in support of the proposal.

OUTCOME: Approved.

ACTION: ISS to make relevant changes



AOCB 1.  Preliminary course proposal: Research Methods in Financial Computing (Felipe Costa Sperb) 

BF presented the item for information only as the Proposer (Felipe Costa Sperb) was not present at the meeting.

OUTCOME: Proposal to be added to the agenda and discussed in the next BoS meeting.

ACTION: Felipe Costa Sperb to present a proposal in the next BoS meeting.


AOCB 2. Initial Course Proposal –  Change of 10pts Extreme Computing Course into 20pts Large-Scale Systems for Data Science Course (Amir Shaikhha, Mahesh Marina)

Amir Shaikhha outlined the proposed change to transform 10-credit Extreme Computing into a 20 credit course, and to modernise the existing course name by adding some context related to Large Scale Data science.

OUTCOME: BF proposed offline discussion on the agenda item.

ACTION: Amir Shaikhha and Mahesh Marina to to discuss with BF and present the proposal at an upcoming  BoS meeting as appropriate.


BF thanked everyone for the active discussion and concluded the meeting.