I work at the interface between computer science and education having held personal chairs in both disciplines. I have played a leading role in furthering Computing pedagogy in wide range of ways. In December 2004 I was the author of Durham’s only successfully funded CETL (ALiC: Active Learning in Computing) for which I then acted as its director. As part of this role I have made over 50 presentations and keynotes at national or international levels to disseminate outcomes of our pedagogic research. More recently, I gained funding from the EPSRC/ESRC’s Teaching and Learning Research Programme (TLRP) to that value of £1.5 million to continue aspects of the CETL’s work on learning spaces. I have used my degrees in education and computing to build a significant reputation in the field of Technology Enhanced Learning. In the last four years, I have built a research group of around 15 staff and research students and in recognition of this achievement have been awarded a personal chair in Computer Science and more recently a chair in Education.
I have a significant international reputation in the field of education. I chair a number of high profile international committees including that of Vice President of Educational Activities for the IEEE Computer Society. This role has given me the opportunity to expand my interdisciplinary knowledge, and influence the development of international education within the Science, Technology and Engineering disciplines. During my 18 years at Durham I have received 5 university awards for enhancing the learning and teaching experience, 2 awards from the Higher Education Academy Information and Computer Sciences Subject Network, a National Teaching Fellowship and an international teaching award from the Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers (The 2008 IEEE Computer Science and Engineering Undergraduate Teaching Award). I have also received three nominations for THE Awards and one from the Durham Students’ Union.
I have excellent diplomacy and communication skills. Respect for negotiation and compromise have been an inherent value that has driven my work in Higher Education. I work well with and enjoy interacting with individuals from all areas of the University. I am well respected and have an excellent working relationship with students. For instance, in June 2000 the College of St. Hild and St. Bede student body made me an Honorary Life Member of their Representative Council. I have considerable experience of communicating with the media. Within the last year I have conducted over twenty media interviews (including BBC, Guardian and Times as well as local TV and radio) on varying topics relating to education.
As Dean of Undergraduate Education I have made very significant contributions to many areas of the University’s Education portfolio. For instance, I have led the creation of a number of University strategies including the eLearning Strategy and the Employability and Enterprsie Strategy, I have acted as chair for a number of Task and Finish Groups including within this academic year Graduate Qualities, College Learning Resources and Module Questionnaires . I have authored a number of policy documents including, over the last couple of academic years, those dealing with discretion, scaling and student mitigation.
The natural evolution of research in computing is towards interdisciplinary activity. My recent research uses, as a foundation, my prior research on programme comprehension to capitalize on an up-and-coming interdisciplinary research area of technology enhanced learning. The interdisciplinary nature of the work requires a broad skill set to marry the needs of educational research and the challenges of the computing research field. Therefore, success in an interdisciplinary area necessitates that the respective challenges of both disciplines be met.
The novelty of my work has attracted worldwide interest and my group has received recognition from, and played host to, many international researchers. For instance, my SynergyNet research (RES-139-25-0400) is funded by the TLRP whose funding is the most prestigious available within education. Furthermore, the financial value of the award represents the largest award they have ever made. My work on SynergyNet has the potential to radically change the nature of computer user interfaces and the scope and reach of our research objectives and achievements are well beyond any other.
My research outputs have obvious relevance to governmental educational strategies throughout the world and this has placed my group in a unique position to receive doctoral candidates that are eligible for funding from their home governments. The group which I lead currently includes more than 15 staff and students and has significantly dominated the research income and research student registrations in my home Department for the last three years.
However, my research strengths lie not only in my ability to enthusiastically straddle two research disciplines but also to innovate and inspire. My research that has resulted from many of the CETL activities and its funding is focusing on the creation of the technology enhanced campus. This includes the work of the Technocafe. This work has a track record of agenda setting for universities, schools and colleges. The innovative nature of my work, and my ability to create a strategically identified research area, is well recognised within the UK and beyond. But my motivation stems from being able to positively impact the experiences of learners and to be able use my research to ensure that they receive the best possible education.
I have consistently embraced an innovative approach to my teaching and through the support of the HE Academy, IEEE, JISC and the CETL community I have been able to demonstrate and disseminate these innovations widely. My leadership roles have not precluded me from teaching. I have up until recently maintained a full teaching load as well as supporting the staff development programme of the University. When I was appointed Director of Learning and Teaching in Computer Science I set about re-designing the department’s curriculum based around research-led problem-based learning and the innovated nature of this resulted in my University putting forward this work for a CETL. The success of this bid enabled further innovation through the significant capital allocation to shape the way Durham now designs learning spaces. The CETL activities have also afforded opportunity for calculated higher degrees of risk-taking, a good example of which is the initiative of cross-site development with Newcastle University (where student from the two institutions are grouped to form a single team to develop a software system). Such activities had a major impact on the employability of our students. This resulted in Computer Science, at that time, being ranked 5/105 for employability; the highest scoring Department in Durham at that time.
My work has often led the way for wider adoption of initiatives across the University. When Durham moved to anonymous classification I devised a scheme to enable medical evidence to be classified based on its impact on student’s performance over time or the assessment period. This approach has become Durham’s standard classification scheme. Another significant contribution made whilst I was Director of Leaning and Teaching was the creation of the ‘Advanced Research-led’ series of modules at Level 3. The scheme was designed to enhance student choice while reducing the departmental teaching commitment thereby maximising research opportunities. This innovation paved the way for Durham’s new 10 credit module structure. In addition, with the support of a summer student, I have also developed an electronic documentation delivery system that enables course documentation templates to be better managed and automatically display student-facing documents on the web. An extension of this software is now used across the University for maintaining all Durham’s module documentation and to automatically generate the web-based faculty handbooks.
Through publishing and presenting many of my teaching and learning innovations I have enjoyed a fruitful relationship with many external bodies. I have worked industriously with the HE Academy and many of its subject networks to support the enhancement of teaching activity. More recently I have worked with the IEEE (Computer Society) through chairing their Educational Activities Board. This committee is responsible for overseeing their Curriculum Development Committee, Certification Training Committee, Continuing Education Committee, Accreditation Committee and their Competition Committee. I have especially enjoyed these roles and find it a pleasurable experience working with others to enhance the quality of learning and teaching.