Lessons Learned

 

Here are some observation of this course, with conclusions in boldface. You may be running a corresponding course with multiple lecturers and assistants, but the experience gained with this course instance at AUEB may still be helpful in planning and carrying out the course.

A large part of the course was lectured by a single instructor in 3 45-minute lectures each week, with 15 minute intervals. This allowed the presentations on related subjects to avoid repetitions. The student presentations however were individually developed, therefore they sometimes repeated the same information, which made these presentations longer than necessary.

Plan the lecture schedule for students so as to avoid large overlaps between the papers to be presented on the same day. For example, papers on different ICN approaches have less overlap than papers on different DNS modifications.

The papers assigned to students varied in length and difficulty, something that made them nervous about the level of detail they should present and whether it would fit in the allocated time slots. This led to a lot of individual coaching for students assigned with the most difficult or lengthy papers.

Make clear to students in advance that each presentation should take the same time, therefore the level of detail will vary depending on the paper, and that presentations will be judged by taking into account the complexity of each paper.

All lectures were attended by the instructor, but usually one or two Ph.D. students working in the field were also present in both the instructor’s and the students’ presentation. These students were encouraged to ask questions on student presentations, something that was found to encourage other students to ask questions, with the overall effect of making the student presentations seem less like oral exams.

Try to have some advanced students in the audience and encourage them to ask questions to stimulate dialogue.

Students were worried about their reviews, since they had no benchmark to compare their work with (unlike with presentations were they followed the instructor’s example). After numerous discussions, it was decided to deliver the reviews in two phases, first in a draft form one month before the end of the course, and then in its final form at the end of the class, with the instructor providing feedback in between.

Have the reviews delivered in two stages, so as to be able to provide feedback to students early on.

Students were equally worried about the exams, since the material is advanced, long and diverse. It was decided early on to have exam questions that would require writing essays and allow students to have available all materials used in the course, so that their preparation would focus on understanding the crux of each paper rather than trying to memorize details. The exam format chosen was a standard in-class exam, with a number of questions that required relatively short answers and the students being able to select a subset of the questions. The questions required combining multiple papers to compose the answer. An alternative format would be a take-home exam that would require expanding further on a specific topic; this did not seem to the instructor to be so appropriate for the undergraduate students in the course.

The exams should concentrate on understanding, since there is no point in memorizing advanced research material. Either in-class short essays or take-home longer essays can be used, depending on student level and experience.