Category: Organisational

Siðfræðistofnun HÍ -- The Centre for Ethics that is above the rules

Helmut Neukirchen, 25. January 2023

At University of Iceland, all are equal, but some are more equal. So much more equal that rules do not apply for them. Last week, Siðfræðistofnun HÍ, the Centre for Ethics at the University of Iceland, was using for some event the teaching room GR-321 Ada (named after Ada Lovelace) at the Computer Science department in the Gróska building. The rules for using teaching rooms are common-sense and pretty simple (English translations added by me):

  • 1. gr. Almennt

    Skylt er að ganga vel um húsakynni Háskóla Íslands, umhverfi hans, tæki og búnað á hverjum stað. Enginn má skilja eftir sig rusl, hvorki innan dyra né utan. Notum ruslafötur!

    Deal well with the premises and equipment. No one may leave trash behind. We use trash cans!

  • 2. gr. Tillitssemi

    Hverjum og einum ber að sýna tillitssemi og valda ekki öðrum truflun eða óþægindum.

    Everyone is responsible to show consideration and does not disturb others or cause inconvenience.

  • 5. gr. Neysla matar

    Neysla matar er óheimil í kennslustofum og tölvuverum.

    Consuming food is forbidden in teaching rooms and computer rooms.

  • 8. gr. Brot á húsreglum

    Brot á húsreglum, tjón og hvers konar spjöll geta leitt til bótaskyldu og/eða brottvísunar.

    Breaking rules, damage or any kind of harm can lead to liability and/or expulsion.

How the Centre of Ethics left the teaching room behind: tables re-arranged, nothing cleaned up

Coffee stains left behind by the Centre of Ethics become visible after I started to clean up

I was the first one to teach in Ada on Monday morning and was quite surprised that I cannot use the room for teaching as intended. Instead of reviewing my teaching material to prepare for my class, I had to

  1. put the tables and chairs again in the position needed for teaching -- the Centre for Ethics re-arranged the tables without reverting that.
  2. collect the trash (single-use coffee cups distributed over the room, including where the teacher's computer is) and throw them into the trash can -- the Centre for Ethics had left behind coffee cups that they did not throw away (and single-use coffee cups do not contribute to implement the Sustainability and Environment policies of the university).
  3. collect water glasses from the tables and put them into our dish washer -- the Centre for Ethics had taken water glasses from our kitchen, but did not put them back to the kitchen from where they had taken them.
  4. wipe away huge coffee stains -- the Centre for Ethics never took a course in how to operate a coffee dispenser, so they messed around on the tables of the teaching room.
  5. move all kind of stuff (coffee dispenser, napkins, tea) into a tray and move the tray outside the teaching room -- the Centre for Ethics had ordered this stuff but did not consider it necessary to move them out of the teaching room after the meeting so that teaching would not be disturbed when the stuff is fetched.

I then wrote emails to four persons of the Centre for Ethics: first, no one replied, but then, the head of the board replied that this is not their fault, but that this is fault of the service from where they ordered the coffee. (How can that coffee service re-arrange the tables if they do not know how they were before? How can that coffee service find all the single-use coffee cups that were partly well hidden behind the teacher's computer screen? How can that coffee service put the water glasses back into the kitchen if they do not know how from where they have been taken? How can that coffee service clean all the coffee stains if a coffee service was ordered and not a cleaning service?) This all was then crowned with my teaching was later being disturbed by a coffee service employee trying to get back the coffee dispensers because the Centre of Ethics had told them to fetch it from the teaching room (instead from the kitchen that is just next to the teaching room).

In my email, I asked the four University of Iceland members of the board of the Centre for Ethics to make the teaching room ready for teaching before I start teaching, but they did refuse to do so (arguing that this is not their fault, but the fault of the coffee services). Instead, I had to do that on my own in the time that I had planned for preparation of the class. So, these colleagues from the Centre for Ethics do not care about other teachers like me, nor about students who suffer from a lower quality of teaching due to teachers who do not have enough time to prepare. Also, they do not care about the above rules of the University of Iceland -- how can the Centre for Ethics be an authority on ethics if they think, rules of using teaching rooms do not apply to them?

In fact they did break all of the above rules:

  1. Deal well with the premises and equipment. No one may leave trash behind. We use trash cans!
  2. Everyone is responsible to show consideration and does disturb others or cause inconvenience.
  3. Consuming food is forbidden in teaching rooms and computer rooms.
  4. Breaking rules, damage or any kind of harm can lead to liability and/or expulsion. (They refused to take liability for their mess: après moi, le déluge!)

I do not know why they do not follow my request to make clean up their mess, but I have some a hypotheses:

  • They usual discrimination that probably every foreigner experiences in Iceland. (While I am -- as a professor from Germany -- privileged in comparison to other foreigners, even I experience discrimination.) -- Hopefully not, so far I experienced the university as a foreigne-friendly space.
  • Cultural issues: If you have a look at the names of the members of the board of Centre for Ethics, then these are all patronymic: Elínborg Sturludóttir, Henrý Alexander Henrýsson, Kolbrún Pálsdóttir, Páll Rafnar Þorsteinsson, Sólveig Anna Bóasdóttir, Vilhjálmur Árnason. While the gender diversity is balanced at the board, the university committed to a diversity that is much more. For example, the cultural diversity is non-existing at the board of Centre for Ethics: they all have very likely a socialisation in an Icelandic culture and maybe, it is in Icelandic culture not common to clean up the mess that you made. (In Iceland, it rather is the norm that shopping carts are simply left on parking lots, instead of bringing them back to a safe space.)
  • They are THE Centre of Ethics, so they are used to define what is ethically correct and think, rules do not apply to them.
  • Maybe, this is just personality of the head of the board of the Centre of Ethics -- but I wrote to four members of the board and no one had the desire to clean up their mess. They simply did not answer, except for the head of the board.

I also tried to build the head of the board of the Centre for Ethics a bridge by offering him to apologise, but the head of the board answered that he will not, because leaving the teaching room in that state was not their fault, but rather the fault of the coffee service. So, even saying sorry seems not to be part of the culture of the Centre for Ethics.

While I am not a lawyer, I would be surprised if their arguing would hold the Icelandic law system: they rented the teaching room, so they have to adhere to the rules of using the teaching room. Just the fact that they outsourced some service (and even if they would have ordered a service to clean up the room who then failed to do that), does not mean that they themselves do not need to adhere to the rules anymore and are not liable anymore.

Does the Centre for Ethics think, they are above the law? (And what does it means for ethics in Iceland if such people run the Centre for Ethics?)

O tempora, o mores!

Masters programme in Cybersecurity will get funded with 90 m.kr. by the Ministry of Higher Education, Science and Innovation

Helmut Neukirchen, 12. January 2023

The list of proposals that got funded. We are on place 4.

University of Iceland and Reykjavik University applied together for funding in order to start a joint study Masters's programme in Cybersecurity. Today, the Minister of Higher Education, Science and Innovation announced (including video recording) that the two universities will together get for the project Nytt meistaranám í netöryggi 90 million ISK funding over 2 years from the university collaboration fund (Samstarf háskóla).

The new cybersecurity programme funding is announced (ignore the HA and Bifröst -- that's a typo)

While the schedule is tight, the plan is to offer as a start a Cybersecurity specialisation of the Computer Science Master's programme at each university already this autumn, i.e. 2023. Students can then apply at their preferred university, but take as well courses at the other university. (There is another project that got 35 m.kr. funding to enable technically, i.e. on the IT and learning management system side, but also administratively, i.e. collaboration contracts, taking master's courses at other universities. But I doubt that this is ready when we would need it already in autumn 2023.)

The project to make taking MSc courses everywhere come true

Later, this Computer Science specialisation is supposed to become a study programme on its own.

The funding will be used to hire professors, but also to import distance teaching courses from abroad.

New LaTeX templates for theses at University of Iceland / LaTeX sniðmát ritgerðar/lokaverkefna Háskóla Íslands

Helmut Neukirchen, 25. March 2022

Finally, the new (2021 and later) thesis title page examples are available at the HÍ Corporate Design web page and I just finished creating a LaTeX template based on it.

You should find the most recent templates at https://gitlab.com/uice.

But you can also download it: UniversityOfIcelandMScThesisV2.0.1. (I have submitted it to Overleaf as a template.)

The PhD thesis template has also been updated: uiphdthesis_V2.1.0.zip. If you started already your PhD thesis, it is in principle enough to

  1. replace the old ui-phdthesis.cls by the new one and
  2. replace the two files HIlogo.pdf and UIblueribbon.pdf by banner.png
  3. add \thesislicense{All rights reserved} to your .tex file (or update to the license you want to make your thesis available).
  4. Also check the comments at the start of file uiphd_template.tex for possible further additions (\numberwithin and \UrlBreaks).
  5. In contrast to Version 2.0.0. version 2.1.0 moved the bibliography management out of the cls file into the tex file where BibLaTeX is now used

While the old template used the school-specific colors (e.g. VoN had orange), the new color scheme suggests to use these school-specific colors only internally, but work targeting people outside the university (such as a thesis) use always blue independent from the school (this was by the way already always the case with PhD theses).

The PDF version is used by a print shop when printing and binding the thesis: the normal M.Sc. thesis pages are printed using A4, but the cover page (with the blue) will be printed in A3, with the front page on one side and the back page on the other and the spine (bókarkjölur) in the middle (so in fact, that page is even bigger than A3 to accommodate the extra space for the spine). All the A4 pages are then glued into this A3 sheet. The inner side of the A3 remains blank: to simulate this in the PDF, the second page is simply empty (BTW: that empty page is missing in the official Microsoft Word template) and it is then followed by a page that serves as some inner title page, i.e. it repeats all the information from the title page, just with a slightly different layout and without the blue graphical elements. After that follows a page with copyright information, and only after that, your real contents starts.

This means, when you go to a print shop, the title page generated by you gets anyway ignored (and therefore, the LaTeX template does not even bother about generating a back page -- the print shops use the back page to add their name there).

But as the thesis is also electronically archived using the PDF that you submit, your self-generated PDF with the title page matters for that version.

The fact the Word template (to be used by students) looks less professional than the PDF (to be used by print shops), hints at the PDF version is the serious one (and I can only recommend to use not that Word template. If you use it, try match the PDF generated from my LaTeX template).

See my older post for further information.

Computer Science department has moved to Gróska building / HÍ námsbraut í tölvunarfræði flýtt í Grósku

Helmut Neukirchen, 23. August 2021

The Computer Science department has moved to the new Gróska building (between Askja building and the DeCode Genetics building -- probably, most people know it, because there is a gym on the ground floor and CCP is located there). The official visiting address is: Bjargargata 1, 102 Reykjavik. You can find us also on OpenStreetMap.

(I still need to find out which address needs to be used for paper mail to end up in the department's post inbox.)

The Computer Science department is on the 3rd floor -- the same floor where CCP is located, however, we are at the southern-most wing of the building -- see the purple lines in the photo below:

Computer Science location within Gróska

 

The floor plan of the Computer Science department is below. I should mark there where the meeting rooms are. For the time being, the two most popular meeting rooms: the big teaching room Ada is GR-321, Alan Turing is honored by room Alan in GR-310.

Floor plan of the Comuter Science department

I am located in room 306. The phone numbers are now routed via MS Teams that I am not going to install on my Linux system: rather call me on my provided mobile phone number.

We are still lacking furniture for visitors: I had to build our own chairs out of cardbox, e.g.: https://www.wikihow.com/Build-a-Cardboard-Stool or https://www.hometalk.com/diy/decorate/rooms/diy-cardboard-stool-looks-like-wood-31556361?expand_all_questions=1

Update: we just got visitor chairs and some other visitor:

In addition to a bicycle storage room for employees, there are also EV chargers, however an RFID card from Bílahleðslan is needed (if you need the RFID key urgently, rather fetch it from them, because the mail delivery takes two to three weeks) -- they use the IT infrastructure from Everon and some of the involved registration emails are prone to be deleted by spam filters.

HÍ eða HR, tölvunarfræði eða hugbúnaðarverkfræði / University of Iceland vs. Reykjavik University, Computer Science vs. Software Engineering

Helmut Neukirchen, 5. March 2021

HÍ eða HR / University of Iceland vs. Reykjavik University

Often, the question arises whether University of Iceland (Háskóli Ísland (HÍ)) or Reykjavik University (Háskólinn í Reykjavík (HR)) is better for studying Computer Science (tölvunarfræði) or Software Engineering (hugbúnaðarverkfræði).

In my experience both universities do not differ that much -- on the surface things might look different, but when you look closer, they are not that different. As an example: HR advertises 3 week intense courses to apply the theoretical foundations learned in earlier courses, whereas at HÍ, the application of the learned theory is built into the courses themselves: either as a project at the end of each course or a project running even throughout the whole course semester.

However, there is one difference (in addition to paying high tuition fees at HR): the diversity choice of courses from other disciplines. At HÍ, you can take non-CS or non-SE courses as part of your studies -- and these can not only be other STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) courses, but also, e.g., foreign languages. As HR is quite limited in the number of course due to their limited number of study programmes, HÍ has a big advantage there.

Tölvunarfræði eða Hugbúnaðarverkfræði / Computer Science (CS) vs. Software Engineering (SE)

Another question is about the difference between Computer Science (Tölvunarfræði) and Software Engineering (Hugbúnaðarverkfræði): while both are in essence about programming, Software Engineering goes beyond as it has the "big picture" in mind -- not only, e.g., the big picture of a software architecture, but also related to management, e.g. project management and quality management. For example, SE students take courses from Industrial Engineering on project management and quality management (in addition to software quality management offered by me). When it comes to stakeholder relations (one of the biggest problems in software project are unclear requirements where the developed software does not meet the needs of users) and to user experience, SE requires many soft skills -- including psychology (e.g. work psychology and human-computer interaction and usability).

One might be tempted to say that CS is maybe for the nerds and SE for those who can talk to people and lead projects. But in fact, SE is not solely about soft skills, but you need both: soft and hard skills. Being an Engineer is an officially licensed professional title and as such, the regulations that apply to the contents of any Engineering programme in Iceland apply as well to Software Engineering, e.g. taking a certain amount of Math and Science courses which is the exact opposite of soft skills. So, to be a good Software Engineer you need to have both talents: people and tech.

Note that even if you enroll in our Computer Science programme, it allows so much freedom in selection of courses that you could take the same courses that a Software Engineering student has to take. (However, in this case, you will not be entitled to apply for a license as professional Engineer as you did not study any Engineering, but a Science, namely Computer Science.)

Further information

If you want more information on our programmes:

Bachelor (B.Sc.)

Computer Science (Tölvunarfræði) -- we added recently the specialisation in Data Science

Software Engineering (Hugbúnaðarverkfræði)

Master (M.Sc.)

Computer Science (Tölvunarfræði)

Software Engineering (Hugbúnaðarverkfræði)

Computational Engineering (Reikniverkfræði)

Ph.D.

And of course, you can also do a PhD in any of these programmes. Before you apply, contact a professor: either by a personal visit or -- if you are located abroad -- by writing an old school paper letter (professors get hundreds of email with PhD applications where it is obvious that the same email was written to many professors and thus, these email are considered as spam -- but a paper mail makes an impress)!

Erasmus+ Exchange Computer Science University of Iceland / skiptinám tölvunarfræði Háskóli Íslands

Helmut Neukirchen, 10. February 2021

The Computer Science department of the University of Iceland is part of Erasmus+ and as such it is possible to have exchange of students (and also teachers) with other universities abroad (incoming and outgoing).

For an exchange, a bilateral contract between the two universities needs to be set up. Currently, we have the following contracts, but new contracts can be set up on demand:

Johannes Kepler University Linz
University of Antwerp
ETH Zürich
Universität Duisburg Essen
Georg August Universität Göttingen
Technical University of Munich
Universidad Complutense de Madrid
Université du Luxembourg
University of Groningen
Lodz University of Technology
Glasgow Caledonian University

In particular for German speaking universities, I can serve as a contact point.

Protected: Connection from home to Heilsugæslan

Helmut Neukirchen, 23. March 2020

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Other means of remote communication with students

Helmut Neukirchen, 15. March 2020

Discussion forum: Piazza

Most Computer Science teachers uses since years the discussion forum Piazza.com that is tailored for university courses. Students can ask there, e.g. anonymously to lower the bar, questions concerning lectures, assignments, organisational issues, etc..

Instant messenger: Riot

For your PhD students, you may want to have a means of remote communication between email and phone: a chat/instant messenger.

  • If you are fine with awkward to use software and have money (or your institution used tax money to pay), you can use Microsoft teams,
    • Caveat: Microsoft, one of the biggest cloud computing providers on Earth, cannot deal with increased load due to COVID: check status
    • If you just need the chat and all your team members have anyway access, it is fastest to use Microsoft Team for this.
  • if you sold your soul (and data) to, e.g. Facebook, you can of course use their messengers.
  • if you like easy to use software and have money, you can use Slack,
  • if you like easy to use software and are convinced that free and open-source software is better, you use Riot: https://riot.im. Riot runs in the browser and has mobile apps.

As with all instant messengers: disable instant notifications -- they distract too much. Instead look only after messages when you do a break/switch between tasks. If your PhD students have something really urgent (the lab is on fire), they can still call you.

Using video conferencing tools for remote teaching

Helmut Neukirchen, 15. March 2020

Note: re-visit this page from time to time as experience from teaching in the Computer Science department is added.

Students seem to be satisfied with our Zoom approach (feedback, paraphrased for legal reasons):

The teachers in the department of Computer Science handled the shift
to remote teaching very well. Every teacher did her/his best and the
Zoom lectures are going well. Teachers have a positive attitude concerning
the new teaching style which is very encouraging that we will be able to tackle the coming weeks.

I attended different classes: both Teams and Zoom were tried and Zoom is
better. In some classes it is even better than showing up.

Note concerning Microsoft Teams

It is irresponsible that university teachers are told (by people who never delivered remote lectures for university courses in practise) to use Microsoft Teams for remote lecturing: Teams was never intended for remote lecturing (Microsoft Word is called Word, because it is a word processor -- does Microsoft Teams sound like a synonym for remote teaching?) and is therefore simply the wrong tool (and in addition awkward to use: you need a 3 h course to learn it) -- rather use Zoom! Teams is as well also the wrong tool for ad-hoc meetings with people who are not part of your team! There are better tools for small, but easy to use ad-hoc video meetings.

Whatever tool you choose, remember to make it accessible to everyone. If it does not use standards such as HTML (=runs in browser on whatever system which typically even makes it usable by visually impared), take care that your tool can be used via Linux, Mac OS X, Microsoft Windows and also mobile platforms, i.e. Android and iOS. (The advantage of the mobile platform is that audio always works there, whereas Linux, Mac OS X, or Microsoft Windows sometimes cause trouble with audio devices, e.g. students do not have a microphone for their desktop computer to ask questions, but their mobile phone has for sure a microphone.)

Zoom

Our premier tool for giving whole interactive remote lectures is via Zoom. Request a full license from our UTS IT department to get rid of the 40 minute limit of the free version (and e.g. be able to record to automatically upload to Panopto).

  • Highly recommended reading: detailed slides on using Zoom for lecturing (check for updated from time to time) by my colleague Matthias Book.
    • The setup is as follows: you do screen sharing to share your computer screen that shows, e.g. slides, and you use your webcam to record you, e.g. in front of a whiteboard (use a good, thick black pen). If you have a separate webcam you can also let it point to a sheet of paper on which you write. Instead of a separate webcam, there is also software to connect your mobile phone to your computer and is it as webcam.
      If you record to the Zoom cloud (non-free license only), you get these as two separate videos that you can then combine via Panopto (Create, then Build a session).
    • If you record only one stream (e.g. recording not the cloud but via the Zoom client itself), then take care to disable screen sharing while you want to show something with the camera, e.g. the whiteboard. (Otherwise, the single created video will contain only the screensharing.)
    • An example, where only one stream is recorded can be found here. Note that this has been recorded as a single stream only -- while watching life via Zoom, studentw can choose whether to see the webcam or the screenshare in full form. But in the recording, when recording localy, the webcam view will only be a small thumbnail in the recorded video while screen sharing is active. So deactive screensharing for those parts where you want to have the webcam view recorded in full size.
    • Matthias is currently working on a tutorial video (check this page later again).
  • Some practises of using Zoom for lecturing (time will tell whether these are best practises)

Jitsi Meet and Whereby running completely in the browser for easy-to-use smaller meetings

While Zoom is great for many attendants, you need to download, install, and start a client (Linux, Mac OS X, Microsoft Windows) or app (Android, iOS). While you can enable to run in the browser (e.g. set a checkmark when scheduling), it crashed in my browser after a view minutes.

For smaller meetings, e.g. meet ad-hoc with a single student, consultation times, or a teaching assistant meeting with only a handful of student, you may want to avoid the hassle of Zoom to create/schedule a videoconference session and downloading a client or app.

In this case, you can use video conferencing tools that simply run in a browser and do not need any pre-scheduling of videoconference sessions. There are mainly two alternatives that each have there strengths and weaknesses: Whereby and Jitsi Meet.

Please recommend these tools also to students in order to still talk to each other daily in learning groups or just to have fun.

Jitsi Meet for easiest and somewhat bigger meetings that run in Chrome browser or special mobile apps

  • Pro: no account needed, no artifical limit to 4 users, open-source (=possible to install your own server), has some extra features (recording, blurring background, etc.)
  • Con: other browsers than Chrome not well supported (they work, but sometimes video freezes), mobile browsers not supported at all, but apps are available, open-source (=if you use the free server provided by the open-source project, it may not handle a lot of load and might be limited to 1.5 h sessions)

Jitsi Meet meet runs in the desktop browser (apps on mobile platforms) and you need no account, i.e. you can immediately start by just agreeing on a URL and typing it in!

To give it a try, the base URL is https://meet.jit.si/
just agree on a room name, append the room name to the base URL and enter it into your browser, e.g https://meet.jit.si/MySuperDuperMeetingRoom

There is no easier way to do a videoconference then with Jitsi Meet! (At least if all use Chrome as browser/have the mobile app installed.)

ensemble.scaleway.com French Jitsi meet installation

Should the above Jitsi meet server be overloaded (and you are OK with a French as default for the changeable language user interface), you can use https://ensemble.scaleway.com/.

There, click on Lancer une réunion to get a random server and room name. If you like, you can change that room name and even use always the same randomly assigned server name to end up with a fixed URL, e.g.: https://v-4110.ensemble.scaleway.com/MySuperDuperMeetingRoom

Once running, you can switch the language: click on the three vertical dots (bottom right corner), then on the gear wheel for the settings, then on the Plus tab, at Langue, choose Anglais.

Whereby for easy small meetings that run in any browser

  • Pro: works with almost all browsers, possible to lock a room and require students to knock to make you let them enter the room or put them on hold if you are still busy with other students (e.g. consultation time queue)
  • no account needed, no artifical limit to 4 users, open-source (=possible to install your own server)

  • Con: account needed for host, free version artificially limited to 4 users.

If you do not have more than 4 participants (including you), whereby.com runs completely in the browser (all common desktop browsers, on mobile platforms the standard browsers)

The one who hosts the conference room needs an account, everyone who joins using the URL does not need an account.

Panopto / Recording for Panopto with a (Linux) screen recorder

  • HÍ has info on Panopto
  • While Panopto allows a live webcast, it has a delay which prevents interaction with students. So we do not use this feature, but use Zoom for live interaction and record that with Zoom and upload the Zoom video to Panopto.
  • Linux users can use a screen recorder and upload the created file to Panopto (Note: Panopto even does optical character recognition of every pixel that is recorded, so you video becomes searchable). If you anyway use Zoom (the client works nicely on Linux), you can also let Zoom record to a file and upload that to Panopto.
  • Research has shown that screen recordings where you still see a video of the presenter are viewed more than without presenter. One way to achieve this is to record via Zoom which then embeds the presenter video into the recorded shared screen (or enable in settings on the Zoom web page "Record active speaker, gallery view and shared screen separately" to get separate files). Another would be to use https://studio.opencast.org/ that is a purely web-based recording software and allows to record camera and screen into separate videos that you can then upload to Panopto by creating a single session that combined the two videos.
  • If you recorded already in the past and want to re-use recordings now:
    • be aware that Panapto orders by default by recording date. But you can re-order them and asks students not to order by recording date, but by "order". (Unfortunately, UGLA shows videos always ordered by recordings date -- so make students aware of that.)
    • Note that Panopto sometimes forgets the encoding of old videos (black screen, only audio), but by re-processing it you can get it back: see this video for problem and solution description (audio is distorted: audio recording level was set too high).

Some Best Practises

We have a daily short videoconference to exchange experience in remote teaching (these videoconferences are via Zoom, so at the same time it is a practise in using Zoom; furthermore, instead of being home alone with family, it is good to see colleagues) and after one week of remote teaching we had a separate videoconference with students to get feedback from them and to let them know that our department is with them.

Using Gradescope for transforming easily your paper-based homework into online assignments

Helmut Neukirchen, 15. March 2020

Update: now that everyone has Canvas, you can easily sync Canvas and Gradescope with respect to student roster and assignments:
when creating an assignment in Canvas, select as assignment type/tegund skill the type external/ytra and then type in "Gradescope" and let Canvas search for Gradescope and select then "Gradescope" from the results list.

See how to sync Canvas and Gradescope.
(And ignore those parts below that only apply when you do not sync with Canvas...)

The Computer Science department of the Iðnaðarverkfræði-, vélaverkfræði- og tölvunarfræðideild (IVT) of Verkfræði- og náttúruvísindasvið (VON) uses already since 2015 Gradescope for an easy online assignment submission by students and for extremely convenient and time-saving online grading and feedback by teachers.

Both students and teachers love it (e.g. in the 2019 IVT self-evaluation, the students explicitly requested more usage of Gradescope and independent from that the teachers requested IVT deild to spend money to get a full license). IVT deild has paid for a full-feature institutional license that everyone who registers with hi.is email can use for free in 2020. (Update: due to COVID-2019, Gradescape just made all features anyway available for free.)

The approach of Gradescope is that you can keep your traditional approach (so changing to Gradescope is really easy):

  • For assignments/homework during the semester, students upload on their own their solutions: either taking a photo of their paper solution or (as anyway most students typeset their solution electronically) upload a PDF of their solution, and mark on their own where on the uploaded pages the solution can be found.
  • Final exams are done as usual on paper, but the teacher defines boxes where to fill in the answers so that Gradescope knows where to look for the answers and the teacher scans later in and uploads the exam solutions to be able to use the convenient online grading features.
  • In addition, pure online assignments/exams are supported, i.e. instead of uploading a solution, students answer some web form.

Image copied from https://www.gradescope.com/

If you have any questions, you are welcome to contact Helmut Neukirchen. But first have a look at the info below:

Demo videos (each 2-3 minutes):

Teacher creating assignment

Student submitting assignment

Teacher grading submission

Artificial Intelligence (AI)-based image recognition to group solutions that look similar and should thus all get the same grading

E.g, in a course with 40 students, grade the 20 completely correct assignments with one click, the 10 assignments that make all the same mistake with one click, and the 5 empty assignments with one click, so that only the remaining 5 assignments need your attention.

Gradescope is easy

As you see, this is all very easy and a natural (but faster) extension of your paper-based assignment workflow.

(Note that my experience is based on Computer Science assignments and exams, where answers typically fit on one page, but grading is even fun for programming assignments where source code submissions are long. But if you scroll one page down on https://www.gradescope.com, you see also Gradescope being applied to other disciplines than Computer Science.)

As long as not every course uses Canvas, students need to be manually added to their Gradescope course.

  • Either let students enroll themselves, by letting the students know about an entry code (Gradescope generates it: everyone can register with this code for your course)
  • or you as teacher manually upload the list of students as comma-separated values (CSV) format: just export in UGLA your student list in Microsoft Excel format, open in a spreadshet, export there as CSV and upload to Gradescope (double check that names containing special Icelandic characters are correct, i.e. try different CSV exports such as Unicode characterset).

Teacher adds students to course roster

Entry code for students to self-enroll (no video, screenshot only)

You can also add dæmakennarar/teaching assistants (TAs) to a course to let them grade using Gradescope: you just need to clarify who grades what or create separate courses for each TA. (While Gradescope supports the notion of sections=dæmatími groups, sections can currently only be set when populating the roster via CSV, but not web-based using entry code or a teacher later adding single students.)

Getting started

If you want give Gradescope a try, just go to https://www.gradescope.com, sign up (select University of Iceland and use your hi.is email address), create a dummy course and assignment. If you like, you can also add a dummy student using your private email address and play around.

The above features are only the most basic features of Gradescope, for more check:

For your info: IVT deild has paid for the Institution license, i.e. you have all features. (Except for the integration with Canvas that we can only do next semester when all course use Canvas.)

While we paid for 1500 students only, we are allowed to have as many students as we need in 2020 (in 2021, we might then have to pay for the number of students of 2020, so either HÍ as a whole adopts Gradescope or IVT deild convinces Gradescope that 2020 was exceptional -- they anyway started to give out free licenses because of COVID-19).