Finding Out About
Instructors' Resources

Richard K. Belew

1 Sept 2001

As instructors adopt FOA I will provide additional resources to help with their teaching of classes. Inspection copies of FOA should be requested directly from Cambridge University Press. If you decide to use FOA, please contact me directly, at, and let me know the details of your class (institution, department, class number, projected enrollment, etc.).

The key elements of the FOA support I can provide registered instructors includes:

  1. Instructors are encouraged to use Readings in Information Retrieval (Morgan Kaufmann, 1997) by Karen Sparck Jones and Peter Willett as a supplemental reading. I have put together a listing of FOA references to readings in this collection to help connect these resources.

  2. Use of the RAVE relevance feedback collection facility (cf. FOA Section 4.4). Classes typically begin by having their students do this simple assignment (taking about two hours/student). This helps them get motivated about what the problem is, and provides data that they then use later in the class to evaluate the search engines they build in MP4 (see below).

    The first step of this process is for students to register their copies of FOA and identify themselves as part of a class. This step requires that their instructor has contacted me so that their class is part of the selection menu! Once registered, the instructor of the class should contact me with the due dates on this assignment, and after this date I run a script that digests the students' data and send it back to the instructor in time for use in MP4 (see below).

  3. "Machine problems" are what I call the series of programming assignments that form the core homework for students in the CS courses I have taught using FOA. The basic idea is that the series of assignments breaks the task of building a basic search engine into stages that can be evaluated independently.

    I provide an example of the writeup for MP2, "Creating an Inverted Index" (so-numbered because the RAVE assignment is used for MP1). Subsequent assignments then proceed to focus on the tasks of:

    In my class, these assignments form the basis for final projects where the same technology is applied to some corpus of the student's choosing, a basic technique is extended, etc.

    I am happy to share these assignments with instructors, but have found that they require considerable tailoring to the particulars of your schedule (UCSD is on the quarter system), the background of your students, changes in available technology (computing labs, code bases), etc. I hope that instructors' various experiences with these assignments might be an active topic of conversation on ...

  4. Discussion boards, for use by FOA "users," students and instructors. Registered FOA users are given posting priveledges to all areas, except the Instructors' Corner which is designed for instructor-to-instructor sharing of best practices.

  5. Test generation software, for producing quizzes. A sample page of such questions, and its corresponding answer key, are provided as examples (as PDF files). I use these pages as an element of midterm and final exams, testing that students have read enough of FOA to be able to identify important keywords in context. They can be brain-numbing if over-used, but have the virtue of allowing very quick grading.

    The scripts I use to generate such pages work on a per-chapter basis, and select randomly from the "Terms Introduced" lists at the end of each chapter. I can also generate multiple versions of the same exam, for those situations where students are sitting cheek-to-jowl and you'd like to miminize the utility of wandering eyes.

    Because these scripts still need a bit of hand-holding, and because I worry that simply releasing the test-generation code might lead to its abuse, I am currently generating these pages only on request for registered instrutors. You tell me what chapter(s) you want to cover, how many pages, how many versions, and I send you exam pages and answer keys as PDF files.

  6. Overhead transparencies, for use during classroom lectures. I provide the slides corresponding to Chapter 1 as an example (40 slides, PDF, 4.3M).

I welcome your reactions to these resources and would like to do what I can to help with your adoption. Please realize, however, that I can only provide this assistance as time allows.

Last modified by: 1 Sept 01