Homepage ADFOCS 2004 5th Max-Planck Advanced Course on the Foundations of Computer Science
September 6 - 10, 2004, Saarbrücken, Germany
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Feedback from the participants, comments by the organizers, and pictures

On the feedback form, the participants were asked for their opinion on four items: 1) Lectures/Lecturers, 2) Exercises, 3) Excursion, 4) Organisation/Other. It was explicitely asked for "specific, and, in the case of criticism, constructive" feedback. Comments by the organizers are set in italics. A summary of these comments is given in the end, followed [soon] by a few pictures.

There were 25 participants from outside MPI (not counting the lecturers), and about 50 of people from MPI were attending (some more, some less regularly) the lectures and exercises.

26 feedback forms were returned.

Feedback on specific lecture(r)s was omitted, or, where possible, made anonymous, as we stated on the form that this would not be made public.



Lectures/Lecturers

In general, I liked the lectures. [part of comment omitted]

Nice.

The topics of all the lectures were very interesting and urgent. [part of comment omitted]

Good.

All topics were interesting and they fit together well. XX+XX: Very good presenters. [part of comment omitted]

+ very high level of speakers, hot topic.
- please try to keep slides distributed same as the ones presented.

Overall very good (though that's not specific :-)

Good selection of lectures and lecturers. Not much to improve here.

[part of comment omitted] It's a pitty that the time poses a constraint over the lectures ...

Sehr gute Wahl an Dozenten. Es wurde ein sehr guter Einblick in den aktuellen Stand der Technik gegeben. [part of comment omitted]

Excellent lecturers, topics covered were very interesting (very good points were commented, not going too deep in the topics, so everybody could follow).

[part of comment omitted] Except for theses two problems, the lecture gave me useful incentives for further study.

[part of comment omitted] Sometimes I needed a better overview to link the details presented by the lectures. It would be interesting if there were both short and long lectures.

+: general structure (120 min intro; 2 x 90 min extention); print slides.
-: some lectures were too long and the break between them too short in order to recover / look at the slides again.

Lecturers are quite well known and organized for the lectures. Instead of focusing on information retrieval, different topics or application areas of data mining (machine learning) could be explained.

Good: having a printed version of the slides [part of comment omitted]

Lectures were particulary good but there is always room for improvement so some suggestions:
- it's better to make them slower, sometimes I just hadn't enough time to read the slides;
- sometimes speakers were quite original in their language and it was hard to understand them.

Good choice of topics (current research); maybe Prabhakar Raghvan's lecture should have come first (it was the most basic one). [part of comment omitted]
HB: that was indeed our original plan, but due to constraints on the lecturers availability we deviated slightly from this, without significant loss in my opinion.

A very interesting scope of lectures, but sometimes it was difficult to follow XX because [part of comment omitted]

The only suggestion: try to prepare some plan for all lecturers. Unfortunately, content of three lectures was not synchronyzed and consequent. So, one lecturer or strict division in topics could be a solution. [part of comment omitted]

Exercises

The exercises were helpful in further understanding and to eliminate semi-knowledge. [part of comment omitted]

Solutions must be provided, and exercises too. Then it is better to study them again.

It would be better if more precise information regarding the lectures was announced prior to the lectures. This is because some lectures (XX mainly) and exercises required much familiarity with the subject. (Maybe slides could be published in website 2 weeks before Adfocs.)

For me the exercise sessions with XX were most useful. My background knowledge was not enough to be able to solve the exercises from XX/XX.

Exercise was very nice and helped us in understanding the concepts tought in the class.

There was sometimes a bit too little time for the exercises, especially XX.

I find it difficult to do exercises directly after the lecture. Maybe a larger break would help (e.g. lectures in the morning, exercises in the afternoon). Perhaps larger projects instead of small exercises (one project per group).
HB: There is a tradeoff here: some people tend to skip the exercise sessions, although they are very useful. My guess is that having an exercise-only block in the afternoon would seduce a very substantial of people to take the whole afternoon off.

I enjoyed most of the exercises of Prof. Raghavan. Nice style and valuable add-ons to the stuff presented in the lecture.

Generally OK; made you think about the material. It seemed that the lecturers didn't put too much effort into these[HB: we pushed them hard to do so though]: some were too hard, some too easy. Would be nice to get solutions/pointers after the school is over.

Were helpful bringing out the main points in all lectures. Even the approach of XX was good. He used most of the time to lecture which gave away more interesting things over one could think.

I think that the interleaving of lectures with exercise sessions was a good idea, and also the proportion if two of them was good. [part of comment omitted]

Am besten waren die Übungen von XX. Die Organisation seiner Übung hat mir sehr geholfen den Stoff zu vertiefen.

Not enough time to go thru the material for solving the proposed exercises.

More guidance would help. Hardly anyone shows ??trat??e.

Again the exercises I liked most were Mr X's, because they were not so much theoretical, Mr. X's exercises helped me realise some things he talked about in the lecture, but I believe that some proofs were not useful/necessary. I couldn't solve Mr. X's exercises, because I hadn't grasped rather enough things from the lecture. All in all I strongly believe that exercises were an integral part of the summer school and that the time spent for them should probably increase.
HB: As for the increase in time for exercises, I agree in principle, but see the trade-off I mentioned above.

It was a good idea because you realize what you didn't understand from the lecture. [part of comment omitted]

+: small, random groups; final discussion.
Maybe an open discussion of a small example could further deepen the understanding or could give a better intuition which extension to use in a "real application".

Exercises are definitely helpful to support the material covered in the class but some of them are quite hard if you aren't familiar with the subject.

Good. What about solution examples, just in addition to slides.

The purpose of the exercises was not totally clear; I liked XX's best because they focused on interesting problems raised in the lecture and solutions were given. XX's exercises soon turned into lectures.

The most important is of course to try to something ourselves, to ensure a good understanding of a subject. Probably we could have had more of that at the exercises of XX.

Exercises could be more interactive. XX and XX didn't interact a lot with people. I think, exercises must be decreased in number and presented to audience in detail one by one.

Excursion (hike to Schwarzenbergturm or guided city-tour)

Nice and simple. Great view.

Due to time reasons I didn't participate in the excursion.

Very nice and refreshing - both thanks to the people from MPI and Adfocs participants. Although I wouldn't call a view from a tower "an unforgettable" in any terms :) Maybe it should've been seen in autumn?

Didn't attend.

Didn't attend.

Didn't attend.

Did the city tour and was very happy with it.

It was great fun. It helped in interacting with other people.

Nice, though not spectacular.

Ok.

Unfortunately I couldn't take part in the excursion.

I didn't attend the excursion.

The excursion was not too exciting (at least the hiking; I do not know how was the guided tour).

Gute Auswahl an alternativen Ausflügen.

I did not participate in the excursion.

What I enjoyed most about the excursion was the friendly atmosphere. I went to Schwarzenberg and I liked also our hike in the woods, namely the landscape.

(I went for hiking) It was nice. A bicycle ride by the river would be though much more interesting.

City tour was quite informativ, at some sights maybe a little bit too touristic.

Hiking was quite pleasant. A tour de France (Metz), for example, shall be quite interesting especially for students who didn't see France before.

Good: having the choice between 2 alternatives.

Good choice of destinations, was a lot of fun. :)

A good idea to have a choice between hiking and a guided tour. Hiking was really enjoyable.

Not attended :-)

Organisation/Other

Saarbrücken is a nice city. I could come again next year. Food and snacks were excellent (the dinner at Tomate 2 was the low point though [HB: apparently, the vegetarian dish was not so great, but people who had one of the other dishes seemed to be very satisfied (including myself)]). Nice weather, how'd you manage that? :-)

The lunch was very fine and there was enough to drink at any time.

Organization was very good - at least I didn't notice any partiular difficulties. Vegetarian dishes (especially spinach lasagne) wasn't always that good, but one does not attend such courses primarily for a food. So, overall, I'm quite satisfied with the organization of Adfocs.

V. nice.

Very smooth, but sharp. I like it.

Food could be better.

Perfectly organized event! Thanks for all the work!

There was no problem with organisation. Food was excellent and every one was very helpful and supportive.

Very good and generous overall.

Very good.

Ok.

Very nice organization, nice food and drinks.

Very good. (Although the instructions above say that comments of this sort should be avoided.)

It was good. Only problem was that the drinks were not warm enough, they were get out from fr???ns too early (HB: ???). I suggest to put on the website of ADFOCS soon all the updated versions of the lectures. And also some pics made by participants is a good idea.

Perfekte Organisation! Für 100 EUR wurde viel geboten, was ich nicht erwartet hätte. Es wäre toll, wenn den Teilnehmern noch eine elektronische Version der Folien zur Verfügung gestellt wird.

Very well organized. Iwould suggest only that the material of the summer school should be made available online before the school starts.

Organization was quite fine all in all. Mr.Bast was nearby all the time for every question. The didactic material was quite good and times of lectures/exercises/lunches were kept. The buffet was very nice but I didn't like the lunches and believe the food could be better.

Very very good.

Great job!

I'm really satisfied from the organization. Food alternatives especially for vegetarians was a great idea. Computer lab was useful. Danke schön für alles! :)

Good: having lunch at the MPI. Good organization => Thank you!

Just perfect.

Well organized!

Organization was just very good. A good idea to have a lunch at the same place; working in small groups at the exercises was very productive.

Organization was perfect. What I would suggest: to organise lunch a little bit earlier, at 12 - 12:30. Also, it would be nice to oblige every lecturer to prepare exercises in some predefined form: 2-3 exerc. + discussion and present. of solutions, not 10, and not w.o. discussion.
HB: Good point. We indeed tried hard to convince the lecturers of the significance of the exercises sessions, but maybe we should really give explicit instructions next time. (It has become quite evident over the years, that most lectures are not used to having exercise sessions after lectures; though everybody agrees that it is very useful.)



General comments by the organisers

If we were to organise another event of this kind ...

... we would do again:

Blocks: lecture/exercises/discussion. Have the heavier parts of the program early in the week and in the morning sessions.

Exercises in randomly mixed groups in a common room.

Invite only lecturers we know personally, in particular concerning their teaching quality.

Three lecturers instead of four: each lecturer had more than enough material, and nobody complained about too much idle time.

Have lunch at the MPI.

... we would do differently:

Give even more explicit instructions to the lecturers as far as the exercise sessions are concerned: over the years, the exercise sessions have been consistenly appreciated by the majority of the participants as an important, even intergral part of the school, but most (but not all!) lecturers are not used to this concept. Concrete points: few and relatively basic exercises, let people work on them for some time (in small randomly mixed groups), not too long and not too short, then come together again and discuss, iterate two or three times, pay attention to what points were actually not well understood in the lectures (often very basic, in which case sophisticated exercises do not make much sense).


And finally the pictures

[Still waiting for some of the participants to sent some!]


ADFOCS 2004 organized by Holger Bast & Matthias Bender, WWW page last updated on Thursday, 16 September 2004.