About this semester (probably still in Corona times)

Once again, it’s not clear what the semester brings. Right now, end of December 2021, it’s decided there won’t be campus lectures until 28th January. It’s difficult to predict what will happen afterwards and when we will learn about that. With omicron rolling in fast and furiously, it looks to me like there will be some amount of zooming again…

Lessons from last corona semester(s).

In the previous round, spring 2021, the semester was under corona-regime, indeed, it was virtual from beginning till end. Let’s take a short look back how how the lecture went and see if one can do better. See also the corresponding post for 2021 that described the plans before that previous semester (some of the text is taken over from there)

The course content was not really affected, and won’t be this time. It was the ``same’’ as in the years before. Aside from the usual adaptations, polishing, slide restructurings or milder variations, but that happens in every round, pandemic or not. And this year will not be much different either.

2021, (and to some extent 2020, the first semester affected by corona), the mode of delivery of the material, the set-up etc. was quite different from pre-2020 semesters.

Basically, for the compiler lectures, spring 2021 (and in the second part of spring 2020) was:

  1. I gave the lectures via Zoom
  2. I made a voice-over version of the lectures, which I uploaded.
  3. I worked on the handout or script version of the material and slide, adding more explanations etc.

How did that all work out? That’s not so much a question of the production and delivery of material, but about the reception of the material by the audience, the course participants.

Actually, I don’t really know, I basically got no feedback.

The number of people following the zoom-lectures was not very high. And during the lectures, there were basically no questions or remarks from the audience, i.e., seen from my side, the live zoom lectures felt not much different from the voice overs I produced off-line, just me talking to a microphone.

That not too many people logged into the live zoomings may be understandable (and also in physical lectures, not all show up, of course). With screen-casts available, one may as well listen to those at a convenient time. And the screen-casts are also not 90 minutes monologues: I parcelled them up thematically, covering some section or other, some longer, some shorter. I could imagine that it makes the portions easier to consume.

But without feedback, I don’t know what was the preferred mode people used to familiarize themselves with the material. It could also be that it was reading up on the material, like reading the handout version and/or consulting a book. Or a combination of all of it.

Actually, for the more technical content, if I had to learn it myself, I would prefer to consult written stuff, or at least also written stuff. Not just audio over slides. Slides are of course also written, but they are typically highlighting stuff, which is put into context by the presenter or the voice.

If one judges the success of that form of teaching looking at the exam result, it was fine, I’d say, I saw no obvious deterioration in knowledge at exam time. A reason may be that the outcome mostly depends, I think, on the preparation by the candidates, and the preparation is not the act of sitting in a class or zooming in to someone speaking.

Anyway, the zooming lessions felt as if I did two time the same one-way communication, speaking into a mike, hoping at least some listen or later downloading it.

This year, let’s try something else.


For the screen-casts, I will simply re-use the ones from last year; the material won’t really change, apart from polishing the slides and rearranging this and that. And it frees some times to focus on other aspects.

As long as there are no physical lectures, I will try something that is or resembles what is called flipped classroom; some other lectures at UiO are using similar concepts.

I will load-up the sceen-casts before each lecture (reusing the ones from last year). We will use the scheduled time slots not like last time, or like in times when physical lectures were the norm. I.e., I will probably not do a 90 minutes live video stream covering the material.

Instead, it’s intended to be more interactive, i.e., I still will present a short summary and bird’s eye view of the scheduled material, highlighting important points, say how it fits in to the overall picture, or say in which form the concepts are used in the obligs.

Why is it called ``flipped’’? It’s not cast in stone what exactly means to be a flipped lecture room or class room. But the intention is: the lecture time is not consumed by me talking though the slides or reading loud from the script, enlightening the audience by lecturing in this form. Instead, I upload the slides in advance, freeing time to discuss it.

To get most out of it, it’s expected that you familiarize yourself with the scheduled part of the lecture before the lecture time slot. For instance, by listening to the recorded screen casts, and/or read a relevant part script etc. The zoom-session, as said, will do a short recap, but otherwise the time is intended to be interactive. Like for discussions about the material and questions that remained unclear when reading, etc.

If physical lectures will be allowed later in the semester, I will probably switch back to campus lectures, but perhaps continuing with the flipped-classroom idea to some extent. Zoom is never an adequate replacement for real interaction.

However, it depends on the audience. If a majority chooses to stay away in home office, I might continue zooming. Additionally, I will make a personal risk evaluation. Unlike during autumn semesters, where bicicling was possible, I will have to use public transport for work in the winter months. If I have the impression that public transport remains too risky, I might also choose the virtual-only solution (if the University allows that).

We will see how that works out. Experience shows that is hard to elicit an active participation, especially via zoom.


Last years’ experience showed, that Zooming exercises did not work so well. Especially for exercises, the old saying applies

Learning is not the product of teaching. Learning is the product of the activity of learners. (John Holt)

Last time it was more like that I was zooming my reflections on how the exercises are solved plus repeating partly required background from the lecture to a more or less silent arrangement of black zoom panels, same as in lectures. For the lecturing, as described, I do some form of flipped-classroom style to encourage interaction. For the exercises it’s even more important, especially helpful is to come to the exercise prepared, and for that I will publish the remarks on how to approach the problems before the lecture. I called them ``battle plan’’ lectures, because to solve then one needs to have a mental picture which steps one has to do, one needs to have a (battle) plan. Since the screen-casts will be reused, that will free some time for the exercises and obligs and interactions there (zoom or otherwise it that will be allowed again).


I plan for an oral exam, as we did the last 2 years.


The obligs will be done as before, Corona won’t have much influence there. It will be a programming project, namely programming a ``compiler’’. Not a full one for a fully developed programming language, but still. That’s done best in groups of 2 students (sharing the work), and typically thus done from home anyway. You can browse the compila repository, which contains the stating point for the project, at least the starting point for the spring semester 2021. For each round of the lecture, I massage the code specification and the code base slightly, so that it doesn’t get boring.

About this (and other) channels

There is a number of channels for ``information exchange’’ for the lecture. If there will be physical lectures, which is unclear, of course one can just ask during the lectures; the direct way is the best. Indeed, the set-up this year very much encourages questions and discussions more than usually. The situation, however, is still fragile.

The university has bought some digital communication ``solutions’’, like mattermost (not to forget canvas). There has been seen some platform called padlet that was introduced 2019 I think. In the meantime padlet has falled out of favor (like piazza before) and we are not supposed to use it.

Those platforms are intended to facilitate discussions and exchange between the lecturer and students, or also among participants. That’s a good idea. How useful those platforms are depends largely on the course’s participants. Last semesters, the usefulness (I think) was low to moderate, at best. I don’t even know if people did read things I posted there. There was very few feedback, and no discussion, so I did not have the impression, the participants was using those platform as information source, let alone communication solution. Let’s see how it works this semester. Ay any rate, I won’t use those channels for official announcements. I can encourage to look at those things, if one finds it useful it good, but it’s not mandatory.

Also posts like this welcome message is not official (administrative) course information. I plan to use this channel mostly for writing additional remarks concerning the content of the lecture, for instance background, perhaps clarifying questions that came during the lecture. I won’t mattermost for longer texts, since I don’t want to type lengthy things into their web forms, and who knows, if next semester, there will be a new tools, and the information is gone, or needs to be ``ported’’.

For discussions and information exchange we will also try

  • github issues

We will use git and github for the obligs (and the lecturers use it for the course material etc), and therefore it seems natural to also use the same platform also for discussions and perhaps issue tracking. It’s the first time we will github issues, (git and github we used for quite some time), and we will see how that works out.

For official announcements (like ``change of date for the exam’’ or ``lecture cancelled’’, whatever) from my side about things that you should be aware of, I will use the official course page, in particular the

and direct emails. Not all announcements at the bekjeder-place might be important, but important ones (if there will be need for it), will be there.

Actually, probably the REALLY official announcements and pieces of information are inside the studentweb or sent via email by the student administration. Note: I have no access to the studentweb, I can neither send messages there nor can I check what information is in there, for instance whether someone is registered officially for the exam.