Minutes of Meeting on 15/03/2017

In attendance: Bjoern Franke (Director of Teaching), Christophe Dubach (UG3 Course Organiser), Paul Jackson (MSc Course Organiser), Jennifer Oxley (Computing Support)

Bjoern said that the some of the 10-credit point courses are soon coming to an end of their

No Reps in attendance.

No Reps in attendance but the UG2 Staff Student Liaison was held in the morning.

No Reps in attendance.

AGTA the last coursework is due on the same day at the 4th year Project hand-in, Bjoern will talk to Kousha Etessami the lecturer.
ALE coursework 2 was 5 days late in being realised and the coursework is the same as last year, it hasn’t been updated. Bjoern will talk with the lecturer Helen Pain.
CN coursework 2 is quite overloaded with having 4 literature papers to read, the students feel it could be a bit more refined.

MLP deadlines was extended as there was an authentication error and the students didn’t have access to the cluster, so it made sense for the deadline to be extended. It was asked about the impact these deadline changes have on part-time students, Bjoern will look into this.

It was also asked about the late submission policy, at the moment these guidelines are set by College but each School has wiggle room in their own policies. Teaching Committee will discuss our current 0 mark for any late submissions, but the School is looking at ways to define “substantial parts of assessment” for which a 5% deduction per day of being late can be applied.

PM and CQI are very good.

It was asked if IRP tutorial attendance is mandatory, Bjoern will also look into this.

RC was discussed off-line with the lecturer.

The students are not happy when they collect their coursework from ITO, as some lecturers require the students to put their names on the front and other students are able to see their marks, Bjoern will look into this.

It was also asked if students were able to find out where in the ranking do they fall in the coursework marks being returned. The School deliberately does not provide this information for (at least) two reasons: (a) It does not support or enhance the students’ learning, and (b) it potentially increases pressure on vulnerable students, e.g. suffering from anxiety or other mental health issues, which could be exacerbated through continued comparative information related to one’s individual academic standing with respect to the overall student cohort.


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29 Responses to Minutes of Meeting on 15/03/2017

  1. s1317459 says:

    Any further details regarding the offline discussion about RC? I take this course and would like to know more about this.

    • bfranke says:

      Before the meeting the student reps reported some complaints regarding the course content, level of difficulty and low marks for parts of the coursework, and availability of worked examples. The lecturer has been given an opportunity to respond to specific criticism and, indeed, has provided a detailed answer. I’ve been speaking with both the student rep and the course lecturer and have offered to discuss things further should the need arise.

  2. helen says:

    re ALE assignment 2: it was later than intended being handed out: I did say week 7, however it was late in week 7, rather than Monday. It is not the same as last year.

  3. s1678551 says:

    The budget for Forrest Hill should be increased. Many facilities (e.g. toilets) are out of order for weeks on end without any fixes. Some computers are broken and it seems like there aren’t any regular check ups to identify and solve these issues. Half of the computers are more 10+ years old and could use an upgrade. We keep hearing “next year” in proposed solutions but based on things I read online (e.g. thestudentroom) this has been a common saying at this university for many years, and I’m surprised by how often I hear these two words when issues are being addressed (and it doesn’t quite solve anything for MSc students).

    • s1317459 says:

      Which toilets have been out of order? I’ve experienced no issues with the facilities in FH, and I’m here at least five days a week. I’ve often seen members of university staff visiting FH in the early hours of weekdays mornings to clean and check the condition of the facilities.

      • s1678551 says:

        For example, the male toilet on the uppermost floor was out of order for a few weeks. Also, one of the toilets on the ground floor was out of order for a few days. The soap machines in the small toilet on the first floor (not drill hall toilets) are currently broken (destroyed even). That being said, there have been recent improvements and overall it’s been significantly better this semester.

        • s1317459 says:

          True, I have noticed the damaged soap dispensers. Replacing this would be good. As for the toilets, fair enough, I haven’t seen them out of order. Usually there is more than enough working cubicles for us to use though.

    • bfranke says:

      Forrest Hill (FH) is managed by the Estates Department (ED) of the University. Following earlier reports from the student reps we got in touch with ED and very recently received this reply: “The drill hall at Forest Hill continues to be very busy – I know that waste dept are looking at providing more bins in this area as even though they are emptied by our staff first thing in the morning and then done again before the full time staff leave at 2pm they are overflowing when the cleaners arrive in the morning. I am also going to arrange for the sanitary units at Forest Hill to be changed more frequently because of the volume of footfall ( and also because I had not realised that because the female cubicles are quite small they put in a smaller than standard size unit in the toilets at Forest Hill). With the exams coming up there is a good chance that the drill hall will get even busier and I thought that it might be a good idea to extend the weekend cover during April and May to both Saturdays and Sundays.” We hope that these improvements should make a big difference.

      In fact, there are regular check-ups on the computers to identify problems. I’ve asked Alison Downie (Head of Computing User Support Unit) to respond directly.

      Whilst I don’t have the exact numbers I would be surprised if you would find a single computer in the machine halls, which is more than 10 years old. Again, Alison can comment on this better than myself.

      I don’t know what you have read elsewhere, but independent survey results, e.g. from the National Student Survey, among UG4 students indicate that >95% of the students were very satisfied with the IT resources the School provides and similarly high ratings are reported for our provision of specialised equipment. If there are specific problems or concerns I am happy to hear about these.

      • s1678551 says:

        Thanks for responding. I have indeed seen improvements this semester with regards to Forrest Hill, and I hope that they continue.

        With respect to the last paragraph, I agree that the IT resources provided are good, but I feel that there is space for improvement. Take for example the students taking Machine Learning: they have to use a tiny cluster that is not nearly good enough to serve the more than one hundred students taking ML courses. For MLP, many are struggling trying to run experiments on their own laptops because the cluster is unbearable (and only students with Nvidia GPUs can attempt this), and some are even paying for Amazon Web Services in order to complete their coursework. I think that – as a top 20 university – the university could increase this budget to better accommodate the requirements.

        • bfranke says:

          Yes, you are right that the cluster used for various machine learning courses is not ideal. Several lecturers are right now as we speak evaluating the transition to the Google Education Cloud Programme, which we have been given access to (only one other European University, ETH Zürich, has similar access to this programme). Some students are already using the Google cloud for their projects, of course free of charge, and it is anticipated that some of the larger machine learning courses will routinely use the Google cloud services routinely in the next session. Since we have only been granted access to the Google Education Cloud Programme very recently and access is still limited as Google is still in a beta-testing stage with this programme we can only roll it out for classroom use in 2017/18, i.e. this September.

      • s1686947 says:

        Since Appleton tower is currently being fitted out and I am assuming that they are going floor by floor. Can the finished floors be opened up to students?

        • bfranke says:

          No, work is not going to happen floor-by-floor, but it will be done concurrently – on a very tight schedule – to get all of Appleton Tower ready for us to use in September. Some parts *may* be completed earlier than that, but the contractor only hands over once they’re done.

    • alisond says:

      Hi there,

      I can assure you that none of the machines in FH labs are anywhere near 10 years old! The oldest machines (due to be replaced this summer – and they will be!) were bought in 2012. We carry out an annual replacement of lab machines during the summer vacation. It would be too disruptive to do this at any other time of the year. Of course, if a machine physically breaks during semester, we will replace it! We monitor machines regularly – we can, for example, pick up on machines with a mouse or keyboard missing, ones which haven’t had software updates recently and ones which appear to be off the network. However, we don’t always pick up every case so we also ask students to report any issues to us using the support form which can be found at : http://computing.help.inf.ed.ac.uk . We will respond as quickly as possible to reported issues. You can also visit us in person in 3D.09 between 2 and 4 during semester (Mon – Fri). Hope this helps!

      • s1678551 says:

        Thanks for the reply.

        It seems that I have overestimated the age of those computers, my apologies. Is there a plan to place bigger screens in the future for the older (“in-table”) computers? And thanks for informing about the support form. I will use it to report computers with issues when I come across them.

        • bfranke says:

          I will have to check with Alison Downie and Alastair Scobie about the School’s plans for future screen purchases. Though, I am aware that we won’t be buying any further (“in-table”) flip-desks since these are not particularly user-friendly, yet very expensive.

          • bfranke says:

            I have now received a response from Alison: “As far as I am aware, all the lab machines that are not in flip-desks have 24″ screens which were bought when we migrated to FH so there are no plans to replace them yet. We’ll buy 24″ screens for any additional machines that are required for our return to AT.”

  4. s1353182 says:

    In my opinion giving comparative rankings should be reconsidered. I am sure that many students (I include myself in this group) get anxiety or feel horrible precisely because they don’t know their standing and they don’t know general trends (e.g. was my performance subpar or was the coursework comparatively difficult for everyone?). I have seen this done in courses form other departments – such as some Electronics courses and Maths for Physics, so. The best way I have seen this done was by Maths for Physics. They didn’t give an exact ranking or such, but instead printed and made available the full distribution of marks. That way, looking at the distribution, students could estimate how well they did with respect to their peers (and could estimate their percentile rank). Concepts such as class rank are very common in the US, Japan and to be honest, most universities in the UK as far as I am aware.

  5. s1438687 says:

    Pretty frustrated by the lack of attendance by 3rd year reps. In lieu of them, are there any further updates on AILP?

    • bfranke says:

      I understand that the UG3 reps had some coursework deadline. No, unfortunately no news on AILP yet. My apologies! I have escalated this late return of marks to Head of School. I have repeatedly reminded Alan about the outstanding marks and he said it won’t be long any more, but I will only believe this when I see it.

  6. s1631755 says:

    Just a follow-up on last week’s question re. the inclusion of IRP/IRR marks in calculating your average –

    You said: “Award of a distinction requires both a course average of >=70% (across all courses from both semesters and including weighted coursework and exam marks for each course, and weighted by course credit value) and a project mark >=70%. IRR/IRP are included.”

    However, everyone who passed IRR received a mark of 50%, regardless of the quality of the work, since it was pass/fail. It feels a bit unfair to include this in your average. Can you give some more information?

    • bfranke says:

      Yes, I can. The University prescribes this in the Taught Assessment Regulations:

      In paragraph 56.4 of the application of regulation 56 it says: “In Regulation 56(a) above, where some of the 80 credits are pass/fail courses, then where these courses are passed, they can be included in the 80 credit total. However, a mark of 50% is the mark that is to be applied in calculations under
      Regulation 55 (b).”

      • s0958353 says:

        That doesn’t seem to be entirely true!
        §56 deals with progression, and §56(a) is one of the requirements for progression: about passing at least 80 credits at >= 50%.

        • s0958353 says:

          The only bit I found that was interesting was:

          60.4 For degree programmes which use letter grades in addition to numerical marks, the
          award of distinction will be made where the student meets the above criteria using
          the numerical mark

          Though TBH it doesn’t really clarify anything… if IRR is considered to be marked numerically.

        • bfranke says:

          Progression is the decision to allow a student to continue with the MSc dissertation after sitting the exams in April/May. The overall course performance (coursework and exams, including IRP/IRR) feed into the progression decision.

          In order to progress students need to pass at least 80 credit points worth of courses at 50% or higher (56(a)) *and* attain an average of at least 50% for the 120 credits of study examined at the point
          of decision for progression (56(b)) – plus degree specific constraints (56(c)). All of this is on page 46 of the document linked above.

          56.4 on page 47 then says that pass/fail courses can count towards these 80 credit points for 56(a). It also says that pass/fail courses count towards the average for 56(b). (Here’s a typo in the document, it says 55(b), but it should be 56(b): “However, a mark of 50% is the mark that is to be applied in calculations under
          Regulation 55 (b).”).

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