TC Minutes 10th October 2018

Teaching Committee Minutes for 10th October 2018.

Meeting Minutes

Informatics Teaching Committee Minutes

Wednesday 10th October 2018 14.00hrs, Appleton Tower room 7.14


Present: Alan Smaill, Jane Hillston (Head of School) Stephen Gilmore, Sharon Goldwater, Pavlos Andreadis, Paul Anderson, Richard Mayr, Volker Seeker, Bob Fisher, Don Sannella, Neil Heatley, Adam Lopez.

In Attendance: Gregor Hall (administrator)


19.09 Apologies for Absence: Stuart Anderson, Iain Murray, Gillian Bell, Myrto Arapinis, Christophe Dubach.


19.10 Minutes of Previous Meetings – approved


19.11 Matters Arising


18.04 - Moderation of IPP marks - course co-ordinator working on the issue with input from DoLT- ONGOING.


18.29-01 – The Convenor raised the ongoing subject of software options for coursework submission. ACTION: to establish sub-committee to investigate options - ONGOING.


18.59 INF1-OP Exam Format

Volker Seeker provided a report on the INF1-OP exam, which has a historically high failure rate. Volker explained that he used an auto marker to do a first run through the exams, and followed this by manual marking. Volker checked 49 students this way, which was not too arduous, but clearly doing this for 400 students without additional resource would be impractical. Examining the cases where students received zero, only a few were of such a standard that the overall mark would have been a pass had the programme compiled; the majority were poor quality. He looked into methods of mitigating this, one of which would be to add more questions that compiled separately, which could be tricky to design. Factors contributing to the failure rate could include the submission process and the time given for the exam, both putting the students under pressure which is absent from labs or practice. Using positive marking (rather than negative marking) was considered by several members of the committee to be a good idea. It was recommended we do not implement any solutions that require large amounts of resource. A member questioned the fact that this exam tests programming ability only, and not conceptual understanding. Another declared that real-life programming is about conceptual understanding AND detail, and it was asked if we as a School want to assess both of these in first year. One member mentioned that they provided students with a marking feedback sheet which resulted in little pushback, and Volker replied that he supplied his students with the test report form the auto-marker.

ACTION: Volker to write the INF1-OP exam in the format as described in his report.


18.59-02: Course Moderation Guidelines / Non-Hons Convenor guide. The BoE Convenors are officially responsible for ensuring that moderation guidelines are available. ACTION: DoLT to refer this to convenors - OUTSTANDING. Ian Simpson has provided a “quick start guide to being Convenor” and will upload to the intranet. COMPLETE.


18.59-03: Exam Script Loss - DoLT to speak to ITO about the audit process and discuss options. ONGOING.


18.60-01: DoLT to raise the possibility of PhDs “help hours” in a sub-committee. Requests for support should be modified to include an additional section covering this. ACTION: Alex Welsh / Vicky MacTaggart to look into this. ONGOING.


18.60-02: Learning Technologist to produce an overview for the LEARN template. Alex Burford has done so. ACTION: Learning Technologist to provide a report to TC to illustrate how this has been received.


18.60-03: Degree Programme Management Tool. ACTION: Don Sannella to circulate the text that he uses to describe the DPMT’s function amongst the staff.

Discussion regarding the DPMT ensued, one topic being the number of choices permitted to each student. Students can submit five choices, and it was asked whether analysis had been performed to determine whether this is the best number; the response was that five was empirically the best number. The Honours Project co-ordinator expressed the opinion that one of the biggest problems was supervisors telling students that they were unsuitable for projects just before the deadline.

ACTION: Don Sannella and Richard Mayer were to modify the text Don has used previously for dissemination.


18.63: Teaching Programme Review – DoLT. A meeting should be arranged in October or November with a named TPR team – to be discussed at next Teaching Committee. OUTSTANDING.


19.05 Resit Examinations: considering how best to handle the issue of failed coursework.  Amended proposal was suggested by G.Bell in discussion following the last Teaching Committee. OUTSTANDING.


19.06 Proposal to limit UG/MSc project Report Lengths, S.Goldwater. ACTION: DoLT and proposer to carry out wider survey of reaction to this proposal.

Don Sanella has been working on the text of a document providing guidance for Honours Project length. The proposer stated that it was probably too late to set a limit for the Honours Project but a document for MSc Dissertation could be brought to the next TC. One member pointed out that different topics might require different lengths by necessity; for example one project report may contain large number of images and therefore need more pages.

ACTION: S. Goldwater to bring proposal for MSc.


19.09-01 Student reps to be found for Teaching Committee. ACTION: ITO to find. ITO Have contacted year reps to ask for volunteers. No response from year reps.


19.09-03: Policy on Late Coursework to be clarified. ACTION: DoLT & Informatics Student Support to bring a formal proposal to next TC. OUTSTANDING.


19.12 Provision of DPMT for CDTs - A. Lopez.

The proposer was requesting that DPMT handle marker allocation for CDTs and the topic was opened for discussion. A member advised that there had previously been a plan to change DPMT so that CDT marker allocation would be done jointly with MSc allocation but this did not go ahead. (DPMT had been created by T.Spink as part of a PhD project.) One member expressed concern that DPMT, an application with a vital function, was supported solely by an individual with no link to Computing Support. Another member concurred, stating that Computing Support definitely needed to be involved. This raised the wider issue that Computing Support had no representative at TC.

It was mentioned that the CDT dissertation is differently sized from the MSc one and that this should be taken into account in any modification of the allocation system. The proposer emphasised that he needs to know what the process is before the allocation takes place.

ACTION: (1) Computing Support to be contacted, and a representative to attend TC. (2) R.Mayr to liaise with T.Spink regarding this modification.


19.13 Proposal for Informatics 1B course – P.Anderson, V.Seeker.

The proposers introduced the item. One of the aims of the proposed course is to develop a higher level of programming ability amongst a cohort with a wide range of abilities. Group work is part of the delivery, based upon that offered in the Introduction to Java Programming course. This is due to the concept that a single exam is inappropriate assessment for practical programming, as it does not take into account the realities of programming – the use of libraries, interacting with other programmers, badly documented existing code, etc. The aim is to prioritise learning over assessment. P.Stevens, not present at the meeting, asked that her contribution be read out – please see the following attachment:

A member reminded the board that not all IT professionals work in programming. The proposers were asked about the level of programming ability being taught, the reply being that it wasn’t a particularly high one; a hash map was given as the example of the most complex thing covered. The proposers advised that students should be able to write an application from scratch.

One member expressed concern at the value of programming in groups by year 1 students, as in their experience they had often observed that one student would end up doing the work and the others would just watch them do it. The proposer’s reply was that the students would be allocated well-defined and separate tasks. This raised the criticism that they would not then be being tested on the same things. It was asked if this format was really a group project or just a method of encouraging interaction, and the reply was that the intention was to mimic a real situation. The committee was reminded of issues with SDP group work to do with the division of labour, but the proposer stated that in DP the students decide this themselves, whereas in INF1B the work would be allocated by staff.

ACTION: the proposer is to produce a second generation of this document.

19.14: AOCB: none raised.

19.15 Next Teaching Committee Date:  14th November 2018.