Professor Conor Ryan, University of Limerick, applied for, and was successful in receiving, the Excellence in Teaching Award for his work with Loss of Generality (LoG) during 2018
Professor Ryan, working with the LoG (and CCN) teams designed and deployed CS4221: Foundations of Computer Science at UL.
For the LoG team it was very special to see our Nigerian Intern, Muhammad Abubakar, mentioned in the award application.
Professor Ryan is supportive of the Mission and Vision of LoG. He is actively involved with our work currently and, as the initiatives of LoG expands, he plans to continue his involvement in the future.
As I review Professor Ryan’s submission, it reaffirms the mission, vision and overall ethos of both LoG and CCN –
‘students first, always’
Below is a short extract of Professor Ryan’s application for the Excellence in Teaching Award:
Supporting Statement for Excellence in Teaching Award Nomination
I would like to apply for this award on behalf of the team delivering my module CS4221: Foundations of Computer Science. A highly theoretical module delivered to first year students taking LM121 Computer Science (CS) Common Entry, CS4221 runs at an accelerated rate, from Weeks 7-12 in Semester 1, to accommodate scheduling constraints for another module.
Highly theoretical and students’ first exposure to extremely abstract topics, such as Lambda Calculus and Recursion, CS4221 is a demanding experience and we developed a creative new multi-faceted approach, including several activities never used in CS in UL before, to help the students navigate the material.
The teaching team consists of eight people, five in UL and three external. In UL are myself and four of my postgrads: Aidan and Sheraz, both of whom have previously helped deliver this module as TAs, and Sarmad and Atif, both new to UL, but with previous teaching experience in Pakistan. Having four TAs for a class this size (76) helped make it possible to teach the necessary material to students in a shorter period of time. The students were introduced to the TAs and their research in the first lecture, giving them exposure to the sort of exciting research being conducted in our department.
The external team is from Loss of Generality (LoG), a charity providing technical, scientific and medical training to disadvantaged students in Third World countries. I do pro bono work with LoG and, together we wrote an interactive “computational” course notes book (CBook) specifically designed for CS4221 that uses Mathematica to generate infinitely variable examples and practice quizzes.
The framework for the CBook was developed by LoG; their goal is to train the students to support professors writing these books. In exchange for providing training to students in their own villages, when access to the book is sold, the student trained by LoG receives payment. The LoG team consists of Dara, head coder, Muhammad Abubakar, a trainee based in Nigeria, who will administer the book in future years, and Wayne, who provides cloud support.
The challenge we faced was to ensure that not only did the students genuinely understand the material in this short time span, but also to excite them about CS in general and this material in particular. We made the material fun and exciting by showing our own enthusiasm for the subject, by providing a highly engaging experience for the students, both with each other and with the TAs, and by using highly advanced technological teaching aids.
We wanted the whole experience to be team-based and for the students to feel that we, the teaching team, are genuinely invested in their success, and for them to support and help each other. We did this by devising strategies to increase the amount of contact the students had with each other and the teaching team. My included Peer Statement, from the CD for LM121, notes:
“The feedback I have received from students is that the CS4221 lectures are excellent…”
“.. the students are extremely engaged and excited by it, as is evidenced by the fact that each week there are hundreds of posts… it is often clear to the rest of