The everyday blog of Richard Bartle.
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3:19pm on Tuesday, 22nd November, 2005:
It's study week in the Electronics Department this week, which means I don't have any lectures to give. Time for some research, right?
No, sadly not. Instead, I'm going through all the lectures I have yet to give, bringing them up to date and rewriting them as necessary. EE114, in particular, is being extensively redone because I found last year and the year before that few first-year students have the programming skills to produce something worthwhile (and the ones that do have the skills are so way ahead of the rest that it's embarrassing). They're writing a design spec/doc this year instead.
Why would I want to fix the content of my lectures now, though, rather than closer to the time I'm actually going to deliver it? After all, computer games is a fast-moving subject and things can change rapidly and unexpectedly.
The answer, in a word, is exams. I have to set a bunch of examinations so far ahead of their actually being sat that I need to know exactly what I'm lecturing months in advance. Yes, on the day I'll still check the URLs I reference and make any last-minute factual updates, but I won't be able to change the topic. If I did, the exam wouldn't work.
Students may not realise it, but exams take far longer to set than they do to sit. As an examiner, I have to know all the answers to all the questions, and I have to cover all the course (although there is some leeway there). I have to make the questions balanced, yet different to what was asked the previous year. I have to ensure that I don't ask stretching questions in part A and that I don't ask foundation questions in part B. I have to check for mistakes (factual, conceptual or typographical) and make any changes suggested by the External Examiners (although I can refuse to do it). Then, after the exams have been sat, I have to mark them. I also have to have a set of papers ready in case someone failed insufficiently badly to be asked to retake the year, but instead qualified for a reset paper.
So today I stayed at home and did (and am doing — I'm having a tea break right now) EE314. I'll look over EE214 tomorrow, then get back to EE114 which I already started but need to go onto campus to complete. Then I can have the fun of writing the exam papers.
Still, I'd rather be on this side of the process than the other...
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