Week 10 Meeting Report

This meeting had student reps from fourth-year and above, as well as Iain Murray (MSc year organiser), Kendal Reid, Michael Rovatsos, and Ian Stark. Items discussed included the Informatics Student Ceilidh, use of quiet labs, the late submission policy, and facilities in Appleton Tower.

Students reported that the Ceilidh last weekend had gone well; with thanks to the reps organising it and in particular to James Hulme for his unending work making it go smoothly. The event was sold out on eventbrite and well attended by undergraduate, MSc and PhD students. James is keen to hand over information on how to run the event, and the ITO have already booked the space for next year during Innovative Learning Week.

Quiet Lab

Since last meeting, Kendal had restored the missing sign on Computer Lab North, the designated quiet lab. Ian invited the reps to put up additional notices, labelled as being by them with the student-reps@inf.ed.ac.uk email, as a further step to inform users of the room’s status. ITO have agreed to print and laminate these on request.

Some reps reported that this lab has been booked for teaching sessions, in conflict with School web pages saying that the quiet lab is always available. Ian will follow up with the ITO regarding bookings.

Late Submission Policy

Stan Manilov, UG4 rep, proposed that the Informatics policy of strict coursework deadlines was too draconian, and asked whether the school would consider following others in permitting late submission with a daily penalty. Michael explained the background to the policy, and Ian reported that the University explicitly permitted either of these two policies, but no other — there is no flexibility to do anything different. Several of the reps spoke, some defending the strict deadline as clear, and helpful in simplifying the tradeoffs when managing multiple tasks: where permitting late submissions might just mean one piece of work runs on to delay another. There was agreement that both policies have their advantages, but there was no clear mandate to push for a change.

Reps also asked that the variety of submission mechanisms be kept as low as possible; and in particular that courses should not use email directly to the lecturer for credit-bearing coursework.

Lab space and use

Emily Balloun, postgraduate EUSA rep, reported on pressures of space in the computer labs and tutorial rooms. Having various different sizes and kinds of study space was popular, but sometimes almost all of these are booked for teaching sessions leaving little for other remaining students.

Lab space is often messy, with litter and food crumbs. Ian asked whether students would favour strictly forbidding food and drink in the labs: this was not popular, although reps recognised that this “Appleton Tower lifestyle” was linked to the mess. Emily asked whether the school could install hand-gel dispensers for the labs. ITO will investigate this.

Postgraduate students have also asked for a separate postgraduate lounge, and facilities for keeping and heating food. With space being at a premium — as already discussed — it was not clear where space could be found for a lounge. Ian reported on the history of fridge and microwave in the Appleton Tower study areas: the last fridge had been removed from the building when the quantity of mould became a hazard to health. Some reps vigorously opposed the introduction of cooking facilities, on the grounds they would inevitably become unusably filthy whatever cleaning plans or rotas were set up.

Ian suggested that an appropriate way forward would be for school reps to petition EUSA to introduce common space in their buildings for students to heat and eat their own food. At the moment EUSA only has commercial food sales, but DIY space would be useful for all students, not just those from Informatics.

Iain reported on several issues that had been raised around these courses. In particular, one of the tutors had been extraordinarily late in returning reports with feedback to students: this was a failure, and the work will now be taken over by a substitute, with timing of both this and the second coursework hand-in being managed together. More generally, there have been concerns about variability between tutors: while for some groups this allows very successful alternative approaches, for others this has meant less effective support. The course organiser plans to introduce stricter guides for tutor activity next year. There were also differences reported in how much MSc project supervisors engaged with their students during this semester, before the start of the project period proper.
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