INST 734
Information Retrieval Systems
Fall 2014
Module 1: Tuesday September 2 to Sunday September 7

This module provides an introduction to the course, first focusing on the content, then on the way the course is organized. Most modules are designed to be completed in 12 hours over 7 days, but this first module is designed to be completed in 10 hours over 6 days. As with every module, you must complete all components of this module by midnight on the evening of the indicated end date (in this case, Sunday, September 7). In general, you should complete the readings in the first part of each week, view the other videos and read the additional reading summaries that your classmates will prepare after that, and then plan to spend some time over the weekend on working on an assigned exercise or term project. One key to success in an online course is to establish a rhythm that allows you to spread the time you spend learning throughout the week rather than trying to cram everything in one long day. This is important because your mind can continue to structure your understanding of new ideas for some time after you have first been exposed to them, and it can therefore be helpful to arrange your schedule to encounter different ideas at different times.

Module Checklist

The recommended order for completing the activities in this module is:
  1. Read the Technology Skills and Tools page.
  2. View the introductory video for this module.
  3. Read the Ingwersen and Järvelin chapter.
  4. Read the Reading Summary that I created for the Ingwersen and Järvelin chapter. In future modules, you will create reading summaries like this one (note the guidance for how to do that on page 2 of this file).
  5. View the first reading commentary video.
  6. Read Chapter 1 of our "MRS" (Manning, Raghavan and Schütze) textbook.
  7. View the second reading commentary video.
  8. View the Nature of Information Retrieval lecture video.
  9. View the What IR Systems Do lecture video.
  10. View the Structure of Interactive IR Systems lecture video.
  11. View the Guest Cameo video by Hussein Suleman.
  12. Read the Course Description Web page.
  13. Skim the Course Schedule Web page.
  14. View the Course Logistics video.
  15. Read Exercise 1.
  16. Watch the exercise explanation video for Exercise E1.
  17. Complete Exercise E1 and submit your results using ELMS.
  18. Send me an email at to let me know you have completed the module (this is only required for the first module, mostly so that I will know I have a good email address for you).
  19. If you want to hear some of the topics in this module presented differently, consider viewing parts of the optional supplementary videos.


I suggest that you usually complete the reading assignments by Wednesday of each week, doing one reading each day. Most weeks we will have three reading assignments, but this week we have two reading assignments. Immediately after you do each reading, watch the associated commentary video, which will give you my reaction to the video. Many of our readings include considerable detail, and some of those details are more important than others. For this reason, you may want to skip over some of the more difficult details initially, instead reading to get the key ideas to know what kind of information the reading contains. After watching the commentary video, you can go back to re-read specific sections that you might have skipped over once you know which of the details are most important to master. If at that point you sill have questions, or if you have comments on a reading that you would like to discuss with me and with your classmates, you can post your questions and comments to the post them to the discussion forum on ELMS. Doing this by Wednesday night will ensure that there is plenty of time for discussion before the end of the module.

Summaries of Additional Readings

Each week, five students will be assigned to write a one-page summary of a reading that their classmates will not have read. This process has two goals. First, it will help me to assess what you are learning from the readings. For this reason, it is a graded assignment. Second, the summaries will provide your classmates with a broader view of a topic than they would have time to learn about on their own. Summaries of additional readings are therefore due at midnight on Thursday so that your classmates will be able to read them on Friday.


Each week, there are at least five kinds of videos: Most weeks, there will also be a video introducing an exercise (or a project "deliverable," a component of your term project that is due by end of a specific module). This week, there's also a video on course logistics -- the usual sorts of thing that we would discuss during the first "meeting" of any course. None of the videos are very long, and in aggregate in a typical week they would take perhaps an hour and a half to view if you were to watch them all back-to-back. But that's not the best way to view them -- with they exception of the lecture videos, these are designed to be watched on different days. Here are the videos for this module:

Exercise E1

Finally, complete Exercise E1. Like all assignments that you are asked to turn in, this is due at midnight on the last day of the module (which is always a Sunday night). As with the videos, questions about the assignments can be posted to ELMS, but questions should be posted by Saturday night to make sure that I have time to answer them before the assignment is due. Note that you are allowed to work with other students on exercises, but you must type in the results yourself (no cut and paste -- see the course description for details).

Don't forget to send me an email when you complete the module. This may seem like a lot to do in the first week of the course, but it is fairly typical of what a weekly module will be like. I think you'll find that if you work at a steady pace, spreading your effort throughout the week, this can be a truly exceptional learning experience. Nothing is more conducive to learning than engagement with the material, and our goal is to provide you with an unmatched opportunity for that kind of engagement.

Doug Oard
Last modified: Fri Sep 26 13:58:27 2014