TC Minutes 13th March 2019

Teaching Committee Minutes for 13th March 2019.

Meeting Minutes

Informatics Teaching Committee Minutes

14.00hrs, Appleton Tower room 7.14


Present: Alan Smaill, Ajitha Rajan, Stuart Anderson, George Karabassis, Gillian Bell, Sharon Goldwater, Katey Lee, Alex Burford, Paul Jackson, Iain Murray, Cristina Alexandru, Pavlos Andreadis, Heather Yorston.

In Attendance: Gregor Hall (administrator)


19.39 Apologies for absence: Aurora Constantin, Paul Anderson, Qais Patankar.


19.40 Minutes of Previous Meetings – approved


19.41 Matters Arising


18.29-01 – Software Options for Coursework Submission. DoLT has contacted the RAT unit and Learning Technologist to consider options.

The Learning Technologist presented the report. They stated that more work is to be done, as all the course organisers need to be surveyed (A survey was sent out on 26th March to all teaching staff) and one to one conversations had, covering the topics of managing communications, the role of ITO, the move to anonymous marking, and online students. The first surveys showed that lots of courses were served well by the existing submit tool, but there were outliers. As “submit” has security issues, it was decided that the production of a replacement should be investigated. The convenor mentioned that development time is limited, given the time frame of deployment in 2019-20, so the RAT-unit is to estimate the resource required. One member stressed the importance of thorough testing of this replacement software. Another mentioned the need to cater to non-Informatics students who might not be conversant with command-line interface and would prefer a web front end. The access provided to the “submit” folders for student markers was raised, as was the need to provide anonymity and its practicality. The necessity of occasionally breaking with anonymity was mentioned. ONGOING.

ACTION: Learning Technologist & RAT Unit to report on progress to April TC.


18.59-02: Course Moderation Guidelines.

The BoE Convenors are officially responsible for ensuring that moderation guidelines are available. DoLT has contacted the convenors about this and hopes they will be able to report back for the December meeting of TC.

ACTION: The DoLT is to contact the Convenors on this. OUTSTANDING.


18.60-02: Learning Technologist to produce an overview for the LEARN template. (Alex Burford has done so). ACTION: Learning Technologist to run focus groups with students and to look at the staff engagement with LEARN for TC.

Alex Burford ran sessions with the IS Usability Service Team looking at any usability issues with the presentation of course content on a typical Learn course site (a copy of Computer Security was used for testing purposes). The findings were discussed at a workshop on 1 March and Alex has written a summary of these findings on the Informatics Learning Technology Service blog site here:

Alex also requested the addition of a free-text question to the Evasys end of semester questionnaire sent to students in December. The question asked: "Please add any other comments you have about the presentation of course materials online and their accessibility”. With the exception of one respondent, feedback regarding Learn was largely positive - especially for Inf1A, where the course organiser worked closely with the learning technologist to present the material in a clear and consistent manner. Alex is currently seeking guidance regarding if and how she can share more widely these findings.

One member‘s opinion was that the partial adoption of LEARN made the School look unprofessional. It was pointed out that some courses did not even have a link to the old-style pages. There appeared to be confusion about who should be amending LEARN pages – was it the ITO or the course coordinator? The DoLT pointed out that lecture recordings were available in LEARN so students would be using LEARN (if only for the recordings) and the ITO manager alerted the board to the fact that tutorial groups, soon to centrally timetabled, would be in LEARN from year 2019-20.



19.06 Proposal to limit MSc project Report Lengths, S.Goldwater.

Action 1: Convenor to speak to the Design Informatics Dissertation coordinator – OUTSTANDING. Action 2: Masters Dissertation coordinator to report on progress.

RESPONSE: “MSc course pages updated:

All MSc students and all MSc supervisors notified by email about the thesis format.”

The proposer of this item asked for the following action:

ACTION 3: MSc coordinator to send another email to teaching staff with this information before the dissertation begins.

ACTION 4: Bjoern Franke as IPP coordinator should remind the students of the consequences of not adhering to the limit.

I.Murray stated that all last year’s dissertations were checkable for length.


19.26 Mandatory Unconscious Bias Training for Tutors/Demonstrators - N.Heatley / B.Fisher.

This will be included in the Semester 1 training for 2019/20. It was pointed out that the current Teaching Support Staff may not have done the training. One member asked how this would be tracked and enforced, and it was suggested that any application for a new position would involve a check of this training certificate. Cristina Alexandru (the trainer) intends to hold a compulsory training session. In case this process has the effect of making hiring more difficult, the DoLT suggested that we be flexible in the first year.

ACTION: ITO to inquire into accessing training certificates with Vicky MacTaggart and Alex Welsh.


19.27 Exam Marking Policy - Director of Learning and Teaching

ACTION: DoLT to provide a full policy document. OUTSTANDING


19.28  Student Surveys - Feedback Officer.

ACTION: DoLT to consult with ITO and to publish what we do.

RESPONSE: The ITO Manager referenced the student course feedback pages which detail what we do in response to student comments:

The Convenor asked if it affected practice, and one board member asked if anyone had ever actually looked at her comments. The DoLT mentioned that this information is now to be included in the staff member’s Personal Development Review. COMPLETE.


19.35 Hons/MInf projects - minor modifications - Honours/MInf Project co-ordinator

ACTION: Honours/MInf Project co-ordinator to investigate the best options for paperless submission. RESPONSE: Students have been informed that submission is now paperless, and a new submission form is now available here:



19.36 Recruitment Report - Recruitment Officer.


  1. Cyber-Security numbers ONGOING.
  2. Send information to applicants via DotMailer (COMPLETE)
  3. Convenor to locate a staff member to provide Cognitive Science information.

Action 1 provoked the outraged comment that staff are being crushed by the work involved in teaching ever-increasing numbers. Action 3: Problem students are significant, to be discussed with Helen Pain.


19.37 Peer Observation of Teaching - ITO and Director of Quality.

ACTION: DoLT to contact IAD with view to holding Teaching Lunch. RESPONSE: Teaching Lunch date fixed for Wednesday the 15th of May, Forum room 4.31. COMPLETE.


19.42 Preliminary Exam Marks - I.Murray

The proposer introduced the paper and discussion ensued. The ITO manager had made enquiries across the College if exam marks had been provisionally published; Geosciences had tried it one year but did not repeat it. The ITO manager was of the opinion that provisionally releasing marks in the very busy period before the boards would result in a very large number of enquiries which would prove disruptive. The January Boards are normally scheduled for the end of January due to the deadline for entering ratified UG results (31st January) whereas the PGT publishing deadline is Thursday the 21st of February. Mathematics have their Board of Examiners very early in semester 2, but this would probably be impractical for Informatics as ITO rarely have all the marking in at this stage. The DoLT asked if it would be possible for PTs to provide advice to students without releasing the mark itself. The student rep drew attention to the fact that PTs have varying degrees of knowledge about each course. Another member said that as results must be released through official channels only, this would leave us open to accusations of surreptitiously releasing marks. One member said that they understood ITO’s concerns, but also mentioned that we have a tendency to not attempt solutions if aspects of them appear worrisome. One idea was prioritising the “need to know” queries in large significant courses such as IAML. The proposer underlined the fact that MSc students are often new to the University, and as a result need more feedback than, for example, Non-Honours students. The student rep asked about the possibility of marking the important courses quicker. The DoLT’s reply was that the Christmas Holiday was a valuable period of respite for Teaching Staff in the busy academic year. It was suggested that if we did provisionally release marks before the board, any queries could be replied to with a boilerplate reply, and the possibility of getting in temporary help was mentioned. A member observed that Informatics assessment was unusual within the university, being more weighted towards exams, whereas courses that were more weighted towards coursework balance gave more feedback throughout the semester and thus provided students with a better understanding of their progress. The ITO manager proposed the alternative of asking examinations to move the MLPR and ANLP courses to the start of the diet, and setting the MSc BoE to Friday the 10th January to get results out in week 1 of Semester 2.

ACTION: ITO manager to meet with Examinations manager to discuss scheduling of MLPR and ANLP exams.


19.43 INF1-CG Essay Extensions - R.Shillcock

The proposer was not present, but the subject was discussed. A member said that this would be against regulations, so the proposal was not accepted.


19.44   Student Administration & Support - Service Excellence (for information only, no discussion.)


19.45 Recruitment Report - Recruitment Officer

The officer introduced the report, and started with MSc programmes, mentioning the hard admission deadline in April, which the School has no say in, although the Head of School has been speaking to Admissions. In the previous year there had been 4000 applications by April, with an estimated 450 applications in “Conditional Firm” status. The Convenor asked if this was separate for Design Informatics, and the response was that there was no cap, the applications were processed through the school, the Coordinator M.Wolters looking at each application. There are program specific upper-limits, due to the fact that Artificial Intelligence is over-subscribed. For Undergraduate programmes, international applications were closed early, and the total is up by 15%. Unconditional offers were down by 16%, conditional offers were down by 25% as Admissions were stricter than last year. Conversion rates for Postgraduate Taught programmes were high, over 90%, and a member asked if Admissions were aware of this fact. Around 1100 applications were on hold.

19.46 Date of next Teaching Committee - Wed 10th April 2019

19.47 AOCB