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Meeting Minutes

Informatics Board of Studies

2pm Wednesday 22 August 2012
Appleton Tower Level 4


Present: I. Stark (Convenor), M. Rovatsos (Academic Secretary), D. Aspinall, V. Nagarajan, P. Stevens, H. Thompson, A. Simpson, C. Stirling, C. Williams, M. Herrmann, J. Cheney, S. Anderson, N. McGillivray, G. Bell, V. Swann (Secretary)

1. Apologies for Absence: J. Bradfield, J. Longley, J. Hillston, M. Cryan, I. Murray, J. Wright (Maths), A. Maciocia (Maths)

I. Stark explained that this additional Board of Studies meeting was scheduled to consider changes in assessment arrangements for some courses for 2012–2013 in response to specific requests from the Board of Examiners meeting this summer. College have confirmed they are willing to accept these changes provided that they are approved by the Board before the end of August.

2. Minutes of the Previous Meeting

The minutes of the previous meeting were accepted as a true record. Most actions have now been completed, as recorded by notes in the minutes. The following actions remain:

3.2. F. Keller to raise the issue of course workload for IJP and AGTA at Teaching Committee
Teaching Committee have not met since the last Board of Studies, and this action passes to M. Rovatsos as incoming Deputy Director of Teaching
3.5 Opening up Computer Programming to Informatics students
It has since been agreed that CP should not be open to Informatics students except by special permission. Any further discussion should be brought to a later meeting of the Board.
10. Course Update for IVR
Provisional Approval had been granted by the Board on the condition that samples of the proposed assessment. M. Herrmann has recently provided these and they are being considered for approval.
UPDATE Due to a change in circumstances, this proposal has now been withdrawn. No action further action is required.
14. Proposal for Amendment to PhD Research Areas
The proposal has been circulated and the approved Programme titles have been updated in EUCLID and the online prospectus.

3. Matters Arising

Nothing further reported.

4. Course Change: Computer Security – D. Aspinall (Proposal)

D. Aspinall proposed the reintroduction of credit weighting on the existing coursework, to contribute 25% to students' final grade. Assessment in this course had been changed a few years ago to exam-only, with the aim of reducing pressure on students from (real or perceived) coursework overloading. Sadly, in practice this has meant students have placed much of their effort elsewhere and Computer Security has had very disappointing tutorial attendance with few students undertaking the assessed coursework. The lecturer feels this has led to poor exam performance and the recent Board of Examiners commented on a very long tail in marks. The proposed change is intended to improve students achievement of the learning outcomes for the course, and also their exam results. The change is to revert to the previous format of the course, making existing assessed exercises contribute to final course grades. In principle this is no change in workload, although in practice the hope is that students will now do the coursework rather than not.

P. Stevens noted that this was one of many observations of students only doing coursework when it directly counts towards their final grade, rather than when it might be helpful for their learning. She pointed out that this is a bad thing which we do not wish to encourage, yet these proposals validate and reinforce the practice.

There was some discussion around the wider issue of making changes to courses so near to the start of the academic year and the impact on students who may already have made their course selection; with a specific proposal from P. Stevens to delay the change until 2013/2014. The Board judged that while some students might be so affected, the proposal was a reasonable one and on balance it would be more detrimental to the class as a whole to delay its implementation.

It was clear that the issues are related to how the whole collection of courses affect each other, and there was a recommendation that Teaching Committee should look again at the issue of overall workload.

OUTCOME: Approved.
ACTION: Change in EUCLID for 2012/2013. (COMPLETED 2012-08-23)
ACTION: M. Rovatsos to raise coursework load at a future Teaching Committee meeting

5. Course Change: Language Semantics and Implementation – C. Stirling (Proposal, Sample Exercises)

C. Stirling reported a similar rationale for the change but also highlighted the additional impact that the System Design Project has on exam-only courses in Semester 2. The proposal is to reorganise existing coursework and have it contribute 20% to students' course grade. This coursework will also be more fully integrated with the exercises at tutorials.

M. Rovatsos asked what precautions were in place to identify plagiarism or collaboration in the coursework. C. Stirling stated he did not expect this to be a problem with these exercises.

OUTCOME: Approved.
ACTION: Change in EUCLID for 2012/13 (COMPLETED 2012-08-23)

6. Course Change: Logic Programming – A. Smaill, A Simpson (Proposal, Sample Exercise 1, Sample Exercise 2)

A. Simpson also identified similar issues with the exam-only Logic Programming Course, even though this is a Semester 1 course and therefore not in competition with SDP. He reported that, in contrast to Computer Security, there was good tutorial attendance; but low submission of coursework for assessment and feedback, particularly from the third-year undergraduate students. The course will be assigned additional marking support in the expectation that more students will do the coursework.

OUTCOME: Approved
ACTION: Change in EUCLID for 2012/13 (COMPLETED 2012-08-23)

7. Course Change: Probabilistic Modelling and Reasoning – C. Williams (Proposal)

C. Williams proposed reducing the number of assignments from 2 to 1 and the coursework weighting to 20%. The second assignment will remain as this attracted the most interest, whilst the first assignment will be addressed, in less detail, in tutorials. This course already has significant student participation in tutorials, and these changes are intended to reduce the pressure of additional coursework. A. Storkey will take over the course in 2013/14 and supports these changes.

C. Williams also requested that the course be examined in December, as he will be on sabbatical after the New Year. This change will not be relevant the following session as the course will move to Semester 2. I. Stark reported a comment by email from M. Cryan: the original discussion about permitting MSc courses to be examined in December was that these were courses which do not involve “deep learning”, and she felt PMR did not fall into this category. M. Rovatsos also commented that Semester 1 examination adversely affected final-year undergraduates on the course, as they use this period for their project work. C. Williams responded that it is a level 11 course aimed chiefly at postgraduates: this year around 8 of 80 students were undergraduates. Moreover, the Board had taken a policy decision that level 11 MSc courses could use the December diet. Nonetheless, it was emphasised that the December exam must be advertised early and clearly to students so that they can plan accordingly.

OUTCOME: Approved subject to providing a study pattern for the descriptor
ACTION: C. Williams to send study pattern to I. Stark and M. Rovatsos for approval. (COMPLETED 2012-08-27)
ACTION: Change in EUCLID for 2012/13 (COMPLETED 2012-08-27)


Nothing further reported