Dr. Mark Humphrys

School of Computing. Dublin City University.

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Some notes on the Irish university experience

Mainly aimed at non-Irish students.


Lectures may be 70-90 percent monologue, but they are not meant to be 100 percent monologue.

You are entitled to ask questions during lectures.

Some questions may be appropriate to leave to the end of lectures. Use your judgement.

Lectures v. Notes

Some lecturers follow a book. Some largely construct their own courses.

Lecturers may provide "notes" to accompany the lectures. These:

  1. Define the course exactly. Whereas a book may not have an exact match to the course.
  2. Give a clear idea of the level of detail required in answers. Whereas a book may have too much or too little detail in each area.
  3. Avoid delays in lectures by people taking down every word that is said.
  1. Notes often cover say 80-90 percent (but not 100 percent) of what is done in lectures.
  2. That is, you should still be taking down some notes in class.

  3. Notes may be short, cryptic, and even incomprehensible without lectures.
  4. Notes are meant to complement the lectures, not substitute for them.
  5. Lecturers may give out some information in lectures alone (i.e. not in notes).

  6. Trying to pass an exam by reading the notes without having been to any of the lectures is normally a very difficult task.
  7. Is it a disaster if you miss one or two lectures? No. But be careful. See below.

Freedom - Attendance at lectures

  1. You have the freedom to skip attendance at some lectures, but you have to use this freedom wisely.
  2. Under our system, if you don't go to lectures, no one may seem to notice or care.
  3. But you will find it very hard in the exams and practicals.

  4. It may be tempting to skip lectures and catch up with the notes / the book later.
  5. But if education was that easy, you could just buy the books and educate yourself in any subject. University not needed.
  6. The fact is, going to lectures provides the discipline and structure to move you through the course. And you can ask questions.

  7. If you miss a lecture, ask a classmate what happened and how you can catch what you missed.

  1. Likewise, we will not force you to go the library after lectures to look up books and digest what you have heard.
  2. Nor will we force you to go to the computer labs to try coding what you have heard.
  3. But if you never do such things, you will find it very hard in the exams and practicals.

Individuality - Originality

  1. The aim of the course is not to get you to just memorise and repeat what the lecturer said.
  2. Some of that is good, but all modules will look for some original thought as well.
  3. All exams, and all practicals, should display some elements of original thought.
  4. Read around the course, follow references in the books and papers, and follow links online.

  5. The lecturer does not know everything. He or she will be delighted if you tell them something new and relevant.
  6. This is what postgrad-level students should do. They should go well beyond the lecturer in some area. If all you end up knowing is a subset of what the lecturer knows then we have not done very well.
  7. No one knows everything.


A few summary points:
  1. You are allowed and encouraged to discuss coding projects among yourselves. But each practical must be done by you alone.
  2. You may get some ideas and tricks from friends, but your implementation of these in code must be your own effort.

  3. Never send a friend a copy of your code. He or she may just submit it as their own (no matter what they promise you). We may then think you have copied from them. You may have no way to prove your innocence.
  4. You may discuss algorithms with them, even show them a printout. But don't let them copy the code itself.

Read these in detail:

ancientbrain.com      w2mind.org      humphrysfamilytree.com

On the Internet since 1987.

Wikipedia: Sometimes I link to Wikipedia. I have written something In defence of Wikipedia. It is often a useful starting point but you cannot trust it. Linking to it is like linking to a Google search. A starting point, not a destination. I automatically highlight in red all links to Wikipedia and Google search and other possibly-unreliable user-generated content.