22 October 2018

Start of the dissertation module

I was a bit nervous about this one! Dissertations are important. The students agree with that. It is pretty much the pinnacle of your BSc education, and it showcases your abilities to do independent work. And being in charge of it all (after the previous module leader retiring) gave me a bit of a headache. But to be honest, most things I'm responsible for for the first time give me a bit of a headache.

One of the first things that needed doing was making sure I had everybody on the module website who would be supervising students, and nobody who wouldn't. I mailed the people who had been  listed last year as supervisors if they wanted to be on it this year, and I mailed those who hadn’t  (and who I thought would be possible candidate) if they wanted to be added. There was some faff with some people who didn’t respond, who wanted but weren’t eligible, who were in two minds or who I had forgot (oh dear). I was still adding and deleting people until the day the students started choosing. In the end the site went up!

Then I gave a lecture about the dissertation module. It went OK, I think! And afterwards two ladies walked up to me. They were doing a combined Ocean Sciences and Biology degree and wanted to be able to choose biological topics. Oh dear, I had not been prepared for that! But I was in Bangor anyway, and I popped by the bloke who organises the biological dissertations. And we sorted something out.

Then there was the first issue. I heard from the staff-student liaison officer the students weren't happy that if several students wanted to do the same topic, I would take the grade they had received in the science communication module into account. As far as I know this has always been the case. But they thought it was unfair. They also thought they should have known this in advance. I agree with the latter statement! So the module organiser of that module should make it clear. And if he doesn't, we should. Regarding the first point though; one needs some criterion, it has to be traceable (if I can't justify my choices I am open to accusations of nepotism), it can't encourage low grades, and it has to be limited in how much time it takes. That sort of limits the options! Luckily the students agreed with that.

Then one of the staff who had indicated he would be happy to take on students threw a wobbly and wasn't sure if he could. He wanted to hear from the Head of School he was eligible; my word didn't suffice. And he didn't want to ask himself. Sigh! But the HoS was rapid in his response and the staff member is on board.

Another issue was that I needed to find two days in timetabling for the student presentations. Somehow this event wasn't there in last year's timetabling request. And as it doesn't take place on campus I don't need a room for it. But I need all the students, evidently! That was a bit stressy too. But I sorted it. With the timetabling people. They are always very helpful!

Soon I will have to assign a topic to all 130 of the students! I hope that won't be too tricky! And then things should be fairly quiet until the next term starts...

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