Teaching practical courses tend to become tedious, boring, repetitive. Each summer term I teach a practical course on knowledge management. The overall task is to build an information retrieval web application using some Java framework. The last exercise was to explain the retrieval results to the user. Practical courses rank quite low on a student’s priority list, which in turn is quite visible in the extent of their implementation results. The implementations are not generally of low quality, but the results are often just enough and not inspired one bit. Most of the time the applications are plain and dull. So taking the oral exams after each of the three main exercises usually is just that: plain and dull.
Yesterday, I finished this term’s practical course together with my colleague (Thanks, Christopher!). Two students, who already stood out in other courses, delivered a very interesting and beautiful GUI for their search engine. They especially took care of providing explanations in a visually entertaining and informative way by using, e.g., different font sizes that show the degree of matching terms in query and found document. They borrowed the visual metaphor from tag cloud representations and cleverly altered it for their needs. I immediately sent them to another colleague in order to let them inspire him 🙂
They really made my day and got me motivated again for future practical courses!
[composed and posted with ecto]