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8:57pm on Wednesday, 18th May, 2011:

Annoyingly Popular


I had a meeting with the departmental secretary and the computer support officer today to discuss timetabling requirements for next year.

I teach two modules: CE217 and CE317. They're both 20 hours long. Last year, I had 10x2-hour lectures in autumn for CE217 and 10x2-hour lectures in spring for CE217. "Short, fat" modules are the university's preference for some reason, however "long, thin" modules are allowed if you can make a case. I argued that because CE317 has a programming component to it (I teach Lua in it), it should be long and thin — 20x1-hour lectures, half of which are in autumn and half of which are in spring. This would have meant I would have 3 lectures in the autumn for every 1 lecture in the spring, though, so it also made sense to spread CE217 across two terms, too.

I wasn't expecting my request to be accepted, but pleasantly it was. I'll now have two sets of 20x1-hour lectures, which means I can give CE217 assignments that don't overlap, and also perhaps give a third CE317 assignment (not sure if I will yet though). As an added bonus, I won't have to start writing summer exam questions in November.

One of the other things I was looking forward to with CE317 is that with more weeks of lectures I can have more discussion classes. These are two hours long, once a week, and in them I go through an academic paper, or a book chapter, or some other piece of writing. The students contribute to the discussion, and hopefully learn to think about design in the process. At the moment I only have 8 of these, but with twice as many weeks I could have 16 (the other 4 weeks have Lua programming labs). I was looking forward to getting the students to play some games for discussion, too.

Last year, which is the first time I tried this, I only had four students regularly turn up out of six students registered. This time, I had more like 7 or 8 (not the same 7 or 8, just that many overall) out of about 12 students registered. That was stretching it a bit; students were getting into "if I speak, me peers will think I'm a jerk, and I'd rather mess up this degree that's costing me all this money rather than have my peers, whom I'll never speak to ever again once I've left university, think I'm a jerk" mode. I was hoping, therefore, that of the 24 or so students who took CE217 last year, at least half wouldn't continue with CE317.

Unfortunately, in discussing how big a lab I'll need for teaching Lua, it emerged that so far this year 27 students have registered for CE317 next term. It's my own fault for not making CE217 a prerequisite, of course, but as it isn't actually a prerequisite it would have been dishonest to claim it was. There's no way a discussion class of 27 will work, so I'll have to split them and have half one week, half the next.


I thought Computer Games was supposed to be bait, to attract misty-eyed sixth-formers to the department with the intention that they switch to do straight Computer Science once they realised they could get paid 150% as much programming washing machines and container ports than they could get programming games. It seems the message isn't getting through, though. Well, either that or word has somehow got out that my lectures are better than than they actually are.

Damn! I may have to do more actual work next year.

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Copyright © 2011 Richard Bartle (richard@mud.co.uk).