Master’s Programme Committee for Mathematics and Operations Research meeting 6/2022

Hello all,

The sixth meeting of the year was held on Tuesday 18th Oct in the Undergraduate Center. It was a rather lengthy meeting as it lasted almost two hours.

Elective studies in the master’s degree

The role of elective studies sparked a long discussion in the meeting. Nowadays universities are offering an increasing amount of MOOCs. Learning services have expressed their concern about MOOCs that are offered by Aalto and intended for a mass audience. Since the level of these kinds of courses varies a lot, some of them may not be considered applicable for elective studies. As students could try to include several of them in their electives, a clear guideline is needed.

At the moment the description about the suitability of those courses is a bit vague. Into states: “Elective studies must be university level studies that fulfill the degree requirements and, in general, studies that are offered as degree studies at the university in question. Universities also offer courses that are targeted for a larger audience. The suitability of these studies is evaluated taking into consideration the learning outcomes of the degree that the courses are planned to be included in.”

It was agreed in the meeting that the description should be improved. However, there wasn’t a clear consensus about how much the programme should have control over which courses are applicable in the degree. Some thought that anything should be fine as long as they are university level courses. Others feared that this might be too much freedom, as a large proportion of the courses in the degree could then consist of courses that have nothing to do with relevant fields of science.

Nobody thought that being highly restrictive (for example, accepting only master’s level courses) would be a good idea, either. Such an approach would make it more difficult for students to explore topics and fields outside their own, which was something all agreed is an important possibility to preserve.

The topic is difficult and no conclusions were reached. The discussion will continue in the next committee meeting.

Master’s thesis template

This was a continuation from a previous meeting; for background I’d suggest reading Joel’s Fiirumi post from that meeting. In brief: at the moment there is no official LaTeX template for Math&OR master’s theses. Before the meeting some of the faculty members had evaluated the possibility of using existing SCI or Aalto templates. The master’s thesis template from the aaltotheses-repository was found to be decent, although some members of the committee thought that it could use a few improvements. These were assigned to one of the faculty members.

Other discussion items

  • Approving master’s thesis topics, languages and grades. As always, this was the first item on the list. The committee was fairly unanimous and all proposals were accepted. Once again, the duration of writing the thesis and its effect on grading was discussed. A concern arose if we are putting all responsibility on the student by default if the thesis process takes longer than what was originally planned. It was pointed out that a delay might sometimes also be due to the student not receiving enough guidance from the supervisor. This should at least be communicated better in the textual description of the assessment as it would make it easier to judge how much of the delay was due to the student themselves. It would also make it possible to take action to get supervisors to be more active in the thesis process.

  • Master’s theses supervised for other master’s programmes. In the previous meeting a need for statistics on this came up. Currently there’s 1 such thesis ongoing, and in 2020-2021 there were 4 such theses.

  • Increasing the number of supervisors in Systems & Operations research theses and balancing their workload. Currently the people supervising OR theses are overworked, and this is a problem for students and faculty alike. Some possible solutions were proposed. Firstly, there may be some potential supervisors that have not listed OR as their research areas in MyCourses. Secondly, while master’s theses are primarily supervised by professors, university lecturers may also act as supervisors and have done so in the past. Some lecturers have expressed their willingness in this regard.

  • The 2-year term for the degree programme committee members ends at the end of December. New members are elected on 12th of December. Note that this means the staff members - terms of the student representatives are only 1 year long. If you are interested in becoming a student representative for 2023, don’t hesitate to contact Into (our Master of Academic Affairs) for details. All current student representatives will also gladly answer any questions :slight_smile:

That was all for now. Next Math&OR committee meeting is on Tuesday 13th December - until then!