Constructing the Course

The content and style of the course will be dynamic, meaning that it will change as we progress through the various stages. This is very uncommon IRL because of the constraints of exams, timetables, implied contracts, etc. VSNS gives us an almost unique opportuniy to do something radically different, that will be creative, rewarding and very much in the spirit of the underlying subjects.


We will set limits to the course material in both the breadth of the coverage and the depth. At present I don't think we have the time to get involved (to any depth) in subjects like: (This doesn't mean we shan't mention or discuss them - just that we have no present commitment to provide resources to investigate them). If there is a demand, we'll set up a listserv so that those who want to pursue them can explore in an uinstructured manner. If this is successful, we could consider future VSNS courses (but don't get too eager yet!)

There is, of course, no single textbook IRL that covers what we want to do, in the way that we want. But the excellent book by Carl Branden and John Tooze maps well onto much of our content and will be of similar depth. It will certainly be referred to by course partcipants.

"Simulated Annealing of Course Material "

(If you don't understand this, don't worry! )
In computing properties of proteins an algorithm called simulated annealing is often used. We probably shan't deal with it on this course, but the way in which we develop the course material will look something like it! At the start of SA optimisation process, the relevant components are assembled and constraints about the final outcome are applied. (That's the stage where we are now (Oct)). Then everything is 'heated up' - things fly around at great speed and it looks nothing like the final outcome. (That probably takes us to the start of December. If things look chaotic then, it's a good thing). Then a steady process of 'cooling' is applied, and large parts attain their final (near-optimal) state. Smaller bits continue to change (and we expect small changes throughout the course). The solution is not guaranteed to be the 'best' but it should be 'near-optimal'. Needless to say, it's a lot of work and there are countless interactions between the components.

Dynamic nature of the rest of the world

We can guarantee that during the course many things will happen which change our view on how we see things now. Here are a few: Also consultants will come (and possibly go as their careers IRL change).

Styles of learning

This is dealt with elsewhere, but the first thing that we shall be doing as consultants is throwing ideas into the annealing pot. Many consultants have already been involved in courses IRL and know what works and what doesn't. Some hypothetical (perhaps extreme) ones might be: I'm expecting that many ideas like this will come up and we'll gradually anneal to which are most practical and valuable.

Students can also have an impact on how the course is taught. You may have valuable experience in teaching related disciplines or have helpful material (e.g. 'How to use xv').

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pmr for pps
Sept 18 1994