Apologies to my students for limited feedback!

Last week I finished marking 60 reports from my undergraduate and MSc students.  The undergraduates had been asked to design, execute, analyse, and write up an experiment which tested a hypothesis of their choice; the MSc students had been asked to choose an IJCAI paper and carefully analyse and critique the evaluation component of this paper.  Both sets of students worked really hard, and indeed I suspect some of my students worked for 50-100 hours on their report.

The reports then came to me for marking, and this was frustrating.   Many of the reports were excellent, and they addressed a diverse set of really interesting topics.  The topics my undergrads looked at ranged from measuring performance loss caused by security patches to user studies comparing collaboration tools; the IJCAI papers my MScs looked at ranged from AI-Powered Posture Training to Image Captioning with Compositional Neural Module Networks.   I would have loved to write in-depth critiques and analyses of the reports, and indeed would have enjoyed spending time to learn more about these topics (I am not an expert in either performance impact of security patches or AI-powered posture training!).

But unfortunately this was not possible.  I needed to mark 60 reports in a week and a half, and of course during this period I had lots of other commitments, I wasnt able to mark reports full-time.  So I basically ended up spending 15-20 mins on each report, which meant 10-15 mins on understanding what the student had done, and 5 mins on writing some feedback (and giving a mark).

As a result, students who had put a huge amount of effort into writing a report got back a set of comments which were inevitably pretty short.

So I want to apologise to my students, especially those who worked incredibly hard to do a good job on their report.  The briefness of my comments is not a reflection on the quality of your work, its a reflection of the (unfortunately) limited amount of time I have to mark and give feedback on your reports!

Keep up the good work!   And I know this sounds may sound trite, but the real benefit of spending so much time on a report is not getting a good mark, but rather learning how to do experiments and critically read research papers.   So although I’ve not been able to give you the amount of feedback that your report deserves, I hope that you have learnt something from spending so much time sweating over your experiments and paper critiques!

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