11 April 2022

Dissertation presentations live again

 Our third year students are expected to write a dissertation, and present the results of it in an event that is designed to more or less resemble a scientific conference. We have traditionally rented space outside the main campus, and organised several parallel sessions and a conference booklet and all that. This takes place before the exams in May, so tends to be in the last days of April order first ones of May.

In 2020, I had just finalised the program for these presentations when it became clear we would not be doing them in person. We all had to do them online. And we did them online in 2021 as well. But in 2022 a lot of restrictions were lifted. We could do it for real again!

There was some faff involved in getting this organised. The reasonable week to do this would be the first week of May, but that holds a May bank holiday Monday. And timetabling eventually only given me one day instead of the requested two. And when I requested the second one they run into problems. There was also a big 3rd year module involving students from both the School of Ocean Sciences and the School of Natural Sciences needed three days that week. There was overlap in the students! Obviously, as literally every single student in the School of Ocean Sciences is in the dissertation module. So I needed two days, and my colleague needed three, all in a week that only contained four days. I'm sure you can see why this is an issue. And we sort of solved it by moving all students in my colleague's module to the first day of presentations, so they wouldn't have to appear on the second day, and just dedicate their time to be on the module. Still not ideal; they would have to run from the one to the other breathlessly, but timetabling just didn't see any other option. It would have to work.

Later another problem appeared; there was some miscommunication between me and the lady who organises the rooms you can rent on campus. She had misunderstood my request and rented out one of the rooms I wanted to somebody else! Now what?

I decided to go avant-garde. I normally schedule every single student. But there are always students who won't show up; some might be ill (especially this year, with covid numbers so high), several might apply for an extension which allows them to do their presentation later, and some might just not show up without telling us why. And some have special requirements and may be exempt from live presentations. And the extensions can come in the last minute, when the programme has already been made. So we tend to have gaps in the programme. And this year I decided to take advantage of them. Just assume that less than hundred percent of the students will be there. It would only take less than 10% of students not being there and I could fit everything into the remaining rooms! I actually quite like this; it seems wasteful to reserve a slot for every single student if you know they won't all be there. So I now just say which students will be in which session, and then they can decide on the day in what order those who are actually there will present. I have faith this will work! But watch this space... 

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