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Structure of a Module

Each module consists in three parts:

  • pre-study: a period of preparatory study—this may entail reading chapters from a set text, studying relevant research articles, attempting preliminary exercises, gathering data, or preparing a brief presentation.
  • teaching week: a single, intensive week in Oxford—comprising lectures, classes, workshops, and practical sessions; the balance between different types of activity depends upon the subject being taught.
  • assignment: a written assignment, completed during the six weeks following the teaching week, allowing students to develop and demonstrate their understanding of the material.

Pre-study

The intensive teaching weeks allow staff and students to explore a subject in depth, focussing exclusively upon a particular topic, and building up considerable momentum as the week goes by. To get the most out of one of these weeks, some preparation is advised.

A pre-study exercise will be sent to participants with confirmed registrations about a month in advance of the teaching week. Depending upon the subject, it may comprise a piece of recommended reading, some questions to answer, or a task to attempt. This part of the module represents a notional 10 hours of study time.

The preferred mode of distribution is via the web site. However, as the material for the pre-study may include a course textbook, distribution by mail is often essential. First class post will be used within the UK; outside the UK, a courier service will be used. To avoid delays, participants are advised to ensure that the Programme has the right contact address.

With the pre-study will come a set of joining instructions, explaining: the location of the course; the times at which teaching is expected to start and finish on each day; the arrangements for lunch and refreshments during the day.

Teaching week

Students are asked to arrive at the teaching centre before the start of the first teaching session: usually 9 a.m. on a Monday morning. Late arrivals should contact the Programme Office to gain admission, to be given a brief introduction to the facilities, and to be informed of any change in the module arrangements.

The schedule for the week includes 27 classroom hours, most if not all of which will be spent in the same, dedicated teaching suite. Teaching is normally from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday to Thursday, and from 9.00 to 12.30 on Friday. There are short breaks in the morning and afternoon, and a longer break over lunchtime—lunch is provided.

At the beginning of the week, each student will receive a copy of the course material. If there is a textbook for the module, and this has not been distributed with the pre-study, then copies will normally be given out at the start of the course. If a textbook has already been distributed, then students should bring it with them so that they can make reference to it during the week.

With the exception of textbooks, all material will be made available on the Programme web site. Students who attend will be able to download material at any time after the week begins. If a module makes use of electronic resources, such as additional reading materials, reference documents, or software tools, these will also be available from the web site.

For most subjects, the activities during the teaching week are directed by academic staff of the Programme. For the others, the Programme employs an external, subject specialist: an authority on the specific topic. Attendance is limited to a maximum of 12 to 20 students (depending on the subject), and assistants are employed to provide help with workshops and practicals.

Lecture or seminar sessions are used to structure the week, breaking the subject into a number of topics, and to introduce material for the first time. The small class size means that discussions can be conducted during lectures, and that each member of the class can be invited to participate.

The material introduced can then be explored through class exercises, workshops, and practical sessions. As well as promoting learning through application, these sessions provide feedback on individual progress; lecturers can then adapt their teaching to the needs of the current group of students.

Assignment

An assignment will be distributed to all attendees on the last day of the teaching week. This has a dual purpose: it continues the learning process of the week, allowing the student to test and extend their own understanding through application outside the classroom, in completing a personal "mini-project"; it also provides, through the subsequent submission, the basis for a formal assessment of ability and understanding.

Assignments are treated as examinations of the University of Oxford, even if the individual undertaking it is not currently a registered student. Participants are asked to sign an assignment acceptance form to confirm that they will comply with the relevant parts of the University's examination regulations: in particular,

  • 3. My intention in submitting my work will be to claim that it represents my own individual attempt answer the question(s) set. I understand that if I wish to include text written by another author, the scope and source must be clearly identified.
  • 4. I will abide by the Proctors' rules, and will not cheat or act dishonestly, nor attempt to do so.

Specific guidance on the acknowledgement of sources is provided here. The full text of the University regulations is available at:

Submissions

Submissions may be handwritten, although students are asked to take care to ensure that their text is legible and that any diagrams or illustrations are clear. The same considerations apply to typeset submissions: a font size of at least 10pt is essential, as are adequate margins.

The length of a submission should normally be no more than 25 pages, at A4 size, or 6000 words. The assignment itself will include a clear specification of the allowed extent, and will detail any additional material to be submitted.

The normal means of submission is via the Programme website—

http://www.softeng.ox.ac.uk

—during the assignment period. Any material uploaded may be viewed, replaced, or deleted by the participant concerned at any time before the deadline given.

The main part of the submission should be in a robust presentation format. The preferred format is Portable Document Format (.pdf); there are many free conversion utilities from other formats to PDF, locatable via Google. For submissions consisting entirely of source code, plain ASCII text (.txt) is fine. For handwritten submissions, clearly legible photos or scans may be best, perhaps as high-quality but not too large JPEG images. Note that word processor formats such as Microsoft Word (.doc or .docx) are generally not suitable; in our experience, they do not render consistently on all platforms, especially when it comes to more sophisticated features such as tables.

If part of a submission is found to be unreadable, and there is a reasonable explanation, then the examiners may contact the student and ask for replacement data. This data will be checked for consistency with the original data supplied. Students should keep a copy of any material that they upload to the system. If a document—as uploaded—is found to be unreadable, and the student is unable to supply a fresh version, then no credit will be awarded for the submission.

The use of the Programme website for this (and for any other) purpose is subject to the University's standard regulations on the use of information systems. In particular, users must protect their passwords, and take care that only appropriate documents are uploaded to the system.

Assignment-only

Sometimes work pressures mean that a student cannot complete and submit a solution to the assignment before the deadline. No extensions are offered; instead, the student may request to take a fresh assignment for a later iteration of the same module.

In order to have that option, the student must formally withdraw from the original assignment, before the submission deadline.

Similarly, having completed an assignment and obtained a grade for it, a student may feel that they could improve their performance. No retakes of an assignment are offered; but again, the student may request to take a fresh assignment associated with a later iteration.

In either case, the request should be made through the Programme Office. The request will be considered by the Programme Director; normally, a maximum of three such requests will be approved.