I know that tackling specific projects, especially if they involve collaboration with others, is my preferred style of work and gives me the most motivation. Since my school days projects in my subjects were always the things I enjoyed and are what I remember most about my school days. A study of future transport in cities, a resource gathering and post board display of the products of the industries of the West Riding of Yorkshire, stroboscopic photography of gymnasts, etc.
So I had great fun and put a lot of energy and effort into the ULOE11 Learning Challenge… in which I chose the task of learning an element of the skills of a Junior hairdresser with the support of an expert trainer, Karen Temple, at the salon I normally go to for my haircut.. I probably put in way more than is needed specifically for the course… but I reasoned that that surely was not the only outcome I am seeking by involvement in the MSc. I learned a lot. The more I went into it, the more interesting it became. The specialised tools, brushes and combs were fascinating. I had access to the training manual and even the on-line e-Teaching portal used to support professional qualifications at the QCF or SVQ training level 2. Its also been a fun, and amusing to them, challenge to speak with colleagues, family and friends about. The results are at http://atate.org/mscel/hair/
Solid Blocks of Badly Laid Out Dense Text
But the extreme opposite is the volume of recommended readings on all the MSc courses I am taking to date (IDEL11, ULOE11, EDC11) which are almost all old fashioned academic journal type papers, often really badly laid out 19th Century looking texts where the clearly commercial publishers really make it clear they cannot be bothered. Pages are dense and difficult to scan. Fonts and line spacing make the papers difficult to read. Section titles are squeezed in, references are ludicrously over voluminous to let the authors show off. Summaries are not in an easily scanned and memorised form. I contrast that to something like IEEE Intelligent Systems with its modern type faces and layout, good design, serious editorial assistance, information boxes are used so that the flow of main paper is not broken by side issues, and deliberately limited (i.e. must be worth reading further) references.
IEEE Intelligent Systems is one of the top cited journals in the field of AI, focusing on applied research, and communicating to a general computer sciences readership. It exceeds the quality rating of old fashioned journals such as the long running Elsevier published “Artificial Intelligence Journal” which looks the same now as it did 30 years ago.
Examples of a couple of my own papers in IEEE Intelligent Systems (to eyeball as an indication of style and layout only) are at:
Tate, A., Chen-Burger, Y-H., Dalton, J., Potter, S., Richardson, D., Stader, J., Wickler, G., Bankier, I., Walton, C. and Williams, P.G. (2010) I-Room: A Virtual Space for Intelligent Interaction, IEEE Intelligent Systems, Vol. 25, No. 4, pp 62-71, July-August 2010, IEEE Computer Society.
Tate, A. (2006) The Helpful Environment: Geographically Dispersed Intelligent Agents That Collaborate, Special Issue on “The Future of AI”, IEEE Intelligent Systems, May-June 2006, Vol. 27, No. 3, pp 57-61. IEEE Computer Society.
I raised this to start a discussion in the IDEL11 and ULOE11 WebCT discussion forums. What surprises me is that in an area where modern educational technology and advanced graphics are used, that so few of the very many recommended readings use modern presentation approaches.