TC Minutes 12th September 2018

Teaching Committee Minutes for 12th September 2018.

Meeting Minutes

Informatics Teaching Committee Minutes

Wednesday 12th September 2018 14.00hrs, Appleton Tower room 7.14


Present:                       Alan Smaill, Convenor

                                         Stuart Anderson, Director of Learning and Teaching

Jane Hillston, Stephen Gilmore, Sharon Goldwater, Colin Stirling, Pavlos Andreadis, Ian Simpson, Chris Lucas, Iain Murray, Chris Lucas, Karen Davidson, Richard Mayr, Paul Anderson, Neil Heatley, Don Sannella, Ian Stark, Heather Yorston, Kousha Etessami, Tom Spink

In Attendance:             Gregor Hall (administrator), Gillian Bell


19.01   Apologies for Absence: Volker Seeker, Christophe Dubach


19.02   Minutes of Previous Meetings – approved


19.03   Matters Arising


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


(TC May 10th, Item 4) - Proposal to Remove Elevated Hurdles for Progression to Honours - B. Franke. MInf programme - UG2 to UG3 hurdle removed in DPT, UG3 to UG4 hurdle retained. Remaining UG2 to UG3 hurdles still in: BSc Cognitive Science, BSc CS and Management Science, BSc CS & Physics.

ACTION: Progression page to be updated by new Senior Tutor – COMPLETE.


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


18.41 - Exam Rubric Proposal – Sharon Goldwater. ACTION: ITO with Iain Murray to put in place for 2018/19 when he returns. COMPLETE. ACTION: ITO to update Exam PC and online guide/template.


18.59-01 INF1-OP Exam format

ACTION: Volker Seeker to provide report on INF1-OP exam for October TC meeting.


18.59-02: Course Moderation Guidelines / Non-Hons Convenor guide. The BoE Convenors are officially responsible for ensuring that moderation guidelines are available. It was suggested that a Sub-Committee would be a more appropriate arena in which to cover this.

ACTION: DoLT to refer this to sub-committee.

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.


18.60-02: Learning Technologist to produce an overview for the LEARN template – OUTSTANDING.

18.60-03: Degree Programme Management Tool - It was agreed that the DPMT specification should be brought to Teaching Committee; Tom Spink.

The MSc Dissertation co-ordinator went into some detail about how the DPMT system worked for the TC. The Honours Project coordinator also expressed his views on DPMT, adding that he explained how the system worked to his students, some of whom attempted to game the system to their advantage. Another TC member pointed out that the transparency of the system was not the only issue; seeing “who had been assigned what” after the allocation was also important. They believed this would be of particular benefit to new staff. One member raised the point that other universities used established software for such tasks as project allocation with success. The Honours Project coordinator was happy to publish the results of the DPMT selection, the MSc coordinator less so, as he believed this would generate more queries.

ACTION: Don Sannella to circulate the text that he uses to describe the DPMT’s function amongst the staff.


18.60-04: Publicising of Seminars. COMPLETE.


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.


19.04 Establishing a Welfare and Support Sub-Committee of Teaching Committee - DoLT

The DoLT introduced the proposal by reflecting upon the sad cases of suicide within Informatics over the last year. He drew attention to the issue that decisions made by the School did not automatically take into account the effect on the welfare of the student body. In effect the proposed Sub-Committee would act like an independent watchdog in welfare and support matters. The proposal was approved.

ACTION: The DoLT and Senior Tutor are to recruit the sub-committee.


19.05 Resit Examinations: considering how best to handle the issue of failed coursework - DoLT

The DoLT introduced his proposals on the topic of failed coursework. The new options presented are intended to bring Informatics into line with Taught Assessment regulations. The regulations state: “Resit methods need not be the same as those used to assess the learning outcomes at the first attempt, but all relevant learning outcomes must be assessed. Resit arrangements must give students a genuine opportunity to pass the course.”

A member described the situations we currently see where students who have passed the exam, but failed the coursework, have to take the resit and also pass with a high mark in order to pass the year. The difficulty of administering this situation was also mentioned, as EUCLID’s Assessment and Progression Tool does not create “resit” records for assessments that have already been passed; in essence, ITO have nowhere to record the resit mark.

The proposal offered three options:

1. Continue our current practice.

2. Set two written examinations, one that is a resit examination paper for the main diet paper and the second that is based on the coursework and attempts to use an examination to interrogate the students understanding of the coursework. Students would resit the components they failed in the main diet.

3. Set one written examination that includes at least one compulsory question on the coursework and covers all of the learning outcomes. The compulsory question should contribute the same proportion to the final grade as the coursework does to the overall course assessment.

Course INF2A was highlighted as a course where the coursework is distinctive to the exam content and essential to the learning outcomes. In such a case it was proposed by a board member that a student failing this course but passing the exam should be given permission to re-take the course in the following year.

The Student Support representative pointed out that the Stage 2 (Progression Board) is only shown the final mark obtained, prompting the response that the Stage 2 board lacks the necessary information. One member expressed the opinion that they would be against writing 2 resit exam papers.

ACTION: Confirmation that no action is required to change the assessment criteria of the INF2C-CS and INF2-SE courses; following the Board of Studies meeting in February 2016, discussions with the INF2 team and the BoS and BoE Convenors agreed that the exam hurdle (at 40%) should be retained and that the course work hurdle should be removed.


19.06 Proposal to limit UG/MSc project Report Lengths - S.Goldwater

The proposer took the committee through the proposal and discussion was invited. One member who was in favour commented on the fact that research/conference papers tended to have an approximate 30 page limit. This was deemed irrelevant by one member who stated that the School is not training students to be academics. The question was asked whether or not a limit would be ‘hard or soft’ i.e. strictly enforced. Another member was against for several reasons; first, they thought the UG Project limit was too small, as in their experience the best projects tended to be bigger than the figure given; secondly, a page limit would depend on the format used; and thirdly that enforcement might differ between markers. One member said that since report writing is a transferrable skill used in many walks of life the point about academic papers may be a red herring, but there would be value in requiring a limit. The same member said that this may require a change to the course Learning Outcomes. They were also concerned about implementation, and suggested that a cap be employed if the project went over a certain length, which would not prove detriment to the poorer students.

The Head of School was broadly in favour of this proposal, but since it was acknowledged that supervisors offer different levels of advice with writing, suggested that some sort of assistance should be put in place. The DoLT offered their experience as an EE with Durham University where a twenty page limit is in place. They observed that this limit, in concert with comprehensive guidance on writing, produces a high quality of writing. It was however noted that Durham University has a much smaller cohort than Edinburgh. The HoS suggested we look at what Durham does and see if it would be applicable here. According to one member PPLS have a word count limit, but they also have fewer students, which may not work in Informatics.

The possibility that this proposal was being tabled because it is simply too much work to read the average project was voiced. Another opinion was that the necessity for help with writing should not be conflated with word limit, followed by the idea that different projects may need different lengths to be properly written up. Once criticism of the proposal was that a page limit would mean that the students would not have the conversation with their supervisor regarding the suitable length, and that this conversation was necessary to express the need for concise and relevant content. However the point was raised that a limit would teach editing skills to those students whose writing tends to be longwinded.

The committee voted on the proposal, with seven for, and four against.

The topic of how to best instruct in writing skills was broached. The DoLT was of the opinion that IPP tutors should be doing this currently, acknowledging that the undergrads were more of a problem. The Honours Project coordinator believed that he could sharpen the guidelines to encourage more succinct writing. The DoLT raised the possibility of moving the dissertation to Semester 2.

The admin aspects of this were tabled: the need for paper copies (as is currently done), and the necessity of electronic submission of any and all material involved in the project. The idea of providing only electronic copies of the project document did not generate any opposition, and it was reported that very large electronic submissions could cause submission issues that affected the entire submission system. It was admitted that supplementary materials were required for assessment only sporadically.

ACTION: DoLT and proposer to carry out wider survey of reaction to this proposal.


19.07 Summary of Curriculum Consultation, and Revised Proposal - S.Goldwater

The proposer had used the consultation to amend the proposal and tabled it at Teaching Committee. About half of the staff had responded to the original, and those who responded to the second version appeared happier.

One committee member believed that in general it was an improvement, but was concerned about the coverage of certain mathematical principles in the new curriculum. The concern was that the School of Mathematics coverage of probability and statistics was very coherent and that an attempt by Informatics to do this “piecemeal” would be insufficient. The proposer disagreed and expressed the need to teach the connections between concepts and their practical aspects. A lively debate on the subject ensued.

The Convenor asked about the how the proposal would be deployed, and the reply was that all new courses must go through Board of Studies. The Head of School wanted to test the water on how the Teaching Staff felt about the proposal and get an idea of the resources required. The proposer explained that some work on implementation was in progress, and mentioned modular resourcing would be used. Due to the scale of the proposed changes the plan is to make the year 1 changes first, and do the year 2 changes the following year.

This proposal will be covered at the next Board of Studies.


19.08 Date of next Teaching Committee - Wednesday the 10th of October, 2018.


19.09 AOCB


19.09-01: Student reps to be found for Teaching Committee. ACTION: ITO to find.


19.09-02: Heather Yorston to be added to teaching-staff mailing list. ACTION: Contact Tim Colles.


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