New centre to promote ‘Active Learning’ in computing
(27 January 2005)
A new national centre for excellence for enhancing the role of computing in teaching and learning is being set up by Durham University to provide students with better skills and knowledge for work and life after university.
The Active Learning in Computing centre – ALiC – is being established in the Department of Computer Science. The Centre will not only improve the Computer Scientist students’ university experience but will also enhance those skills which will be of continuing benefit to them in their careers in a rapidly changing employment sector.
It involves a partnership headed by Durham University together with the universities of Newcastle, Leeds and Leeds Metropolitan, pooling their individual strengths in this field. Their joint proposal has been awarded £4.5 million by the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE) as one of 74 Centres for Excellence in Teaching and Learning (CETLs). It is the only one in the country specialising in Computing in the £315 million five-year national programme announced today.
Active Learning means increasing levels of student participation by various techniques – including the promotion of individual research skills, the use of group-working and team problem-solving – rather than merely passive listening. This prepares students more thoroughly for the wider business and professional environments where the combination of IT and inter-action with people is critical to good communications and effectiveness.
Dr Liz Burd, Senior Lecturer in the Department of Computer Science at Durham, co-ordinated the bid and will be the Centre Director. She said: “ ALiC will provide a new focus for the teaching and learning of Computer Science which can then be disseminated across a wide range of higher education subjects. It will provide a more cohesive curriculum with work-related exercises and assessments. It will also mean replacing traditional computer labs and their rows of closely-packed PCs with a much more flexible range of technology.”
At the heart of the new project will be a new-style IT lab called the Techno-Café providing a state-of-the -art array of open access IT facilities supporting communication for group-work activities as well as linked spaces for teaching sessions. It will house specialist equipment to support Computer Science students and will enable the provision of booths for programming as well as wireless facilities which will enhance the use of mobile technologies.
Durham is also a partner in two other North-east based CETLs for Healthcare Professional Education and Inclusivity in Contemporary Musical Culture
Sir Kenneth Calman, Vice-Chancellor of Durham, said: “This national initiative shows the benefit of universities working together to improve areas of shared interest. I am delighted that Durham is bringing its top-quality expertise in Computer Science, Health and Medical education and Music to these three Centres.”
Notes to editors
- Further information about ALiC can be found on the web at www.dur.ac.uk/alic
- The Hefce funds received by CETLs will be used to recognise and reward excellent teachers and enable institutions to invest in staff, buildings and equipment to support and enhance successful learning in new and challenging ways. The CETLs vary in size and scope. The CETLs will each receive substantial recurrent funding, ranging from £200,000 to £500,000 per annum for five years, and a capital sum ranging from £800,000 to £2 million.
- The Collaborative Centre for Excellence in Healthcare Professional Education - to be known as CETL4HealthNE – involves a partnership of six North East universities headed by the University of Newcastle. Key elements include expanding the use of state-of-the-art communication technologies to network hospitals and universities for the management of student learning in the clinical workplace. New ways of sharing best practice in healthcare education throughout the range of health professions - spanning doctors, dentists, nurses, therapists and pharmacists - will be developed to meet the needs of the modernised NHS and the growing and changing expectations of patients.
- The CETL for Inclusivity in Contemporary Musical Culture is also a collaboration between the six regional universities. Music students will gain an enriched practical and academic learning experience of music as part of a pluralist culture – that is, encompassing world and early musics, classical and folk musics, rock and DJ scenes.
It will build on existing collaboration between the universities and the newly-opened £70 million world-class facilities at The Sage Gateshead. Budding young student composers and performers will take part in workshops alongside some of the world’s leading musicians. One project explores the potential of ensemble and communal music making as a model for student learning, while another prepares students for entering a competitive jobs market as self-employed musicians.
Further information: Keith Seacroft or Tom Fennelly, University of Durham PR Office 0191 334 6074 or 191 334 6078