Inter-University Teaching and its Funding in the UK

Pitt Building, Cambridge. Friday 14th March, 2008

Picture of all those attending the 2008 Inter-University Teaching Workshop at King's College, Cambridge

The Computational Modelling Group and the Cambridge-MIT Institute (CMI) organised a workshop on inter-university teaching activities in the UK on Friday 14th March, 2008. The conference was attended by representatives from 13 universities and seven multi-national companies. Prof. Ian Leslie — Pro-Vice-Chancellor of the University of Cambridge — opened the conference, which then heard contributions from speakers from MIT, Cambridge, Imperial College, UCL and the universities of Birmingham and Leeds. Following the talks there was a working lunch at King's College, which was followed by a panel discussion investigating the future of web-based experiments. These discussions will be written up as a position paper to be circulated to interested parties and funding organisations.

'Weblabs' are internet-accessible experiments which use the latest technologies to make possible the remote operation of a real experiment. Such experiments represent invaluable learning experiences for students and provide them with exposure to the type of control systems they are likely to encounter in their professional lives and, as such, have been included in teaching syllabi at many universities in recent years.

The aim of the conference was to share past experience concerning the initiation and running of such activities as well as providing a forum to discuss the future of the field of inter-university teaching in the UK.

Picture Charles Immanuel from Imperial College, London

The Current State of Web Based Teaching in the UK

Web-based teaching facilities are currently hosted in the Department of Chemical Engineering at the University of Cambridge and the School of Mechanical Engineering at the University of Leeds. The conference heard from representatives of both institutions, who gave their experiences of initiating web-based learning projects. There is active collaboration between these institutions and other UK universities. Dr Charles Immanuel (pictured right) from Imperial College and Dr Phillip Robbins from Birmingham University recounted their experiences developing teaching modules using the Cambridge Weblab and Dr Ben Hanson from UCL told of his work with the Leeds ReLOAD team.

Picture of delegates at the 2008 weblabs conference networking

Future Potential for Internet Accessible Experiments

A key attraction of web based experiments is that they can be used by other bodies outside the hosting institution. Through such sharing, there is great potential for the cost-effective delivery of high quality educational experiences. This could include connections between schools, universities and industries on a local, national and even international basis. As will be illustrated in the case studies, some such collaborations are already bearing fruit, but there is still considerable untapped potential in this area. The workshop provides a forum for people from many universities, companies and other institutions in the UK to make connections and explore possibilities for future collaboration.

Picture of Dawn Leder

Funding Models for Inter-University Teaching Activities

Whilst cross-institutional access to the experiments is fundamental to the weblabs concept, the funding of these activities is still on an institution-by-institution basis; the mechanisms for shared costs and formal provision are not well-established. Higher Education Institutions have good practices for cost sharing around important research facilities but these are, as yet, not in place for relatively inexpensive educational ones. The concluded with a talk by Dawn Leeder (pictured right) from CARET on funding sources for educational projects in the UK. This was followed by a panel session which allowed all the delegates to explore the educational value of web-based experiments, to understand the current funding constraints and to seek models for their future financing.

Presentations

The speakers have kindly given permission for the slides from their talks to be available for download. These can be found below:

Links

View and download some more photos from the day

View the original news item announcing the schedule for the day