November 2010 - Volume 9 Issue 2

Editorial by Stephen Hagan and Hazel White
University of Ulster

Welcome to the second issue of Italics 2010. This issues carries a dedicated strand on Education for Sustainable Development (ESD) together with an array of papers examining Inquiry Based Learning, the deployment of a virtual mentor to support students and novel approaches to delivery and assessment.

IT technologies have traditionally been developed and marketed in ways which some would argue did not give significant consideration to the mid- to long term environmental impact of their use and disposal. Governmental, industrial and professional bodies are beginning to put in place policy and legislative initiatives to address some of these issues. Educators continue to face a number of challenges in moving to incorporate sustainability issues into their teaching. The sustainability theme contained within this issue presents reports on the thoughts and activities of colleagues attempting to embed or strengthen ESD within the computing curriculum.

Cayzer, University of Bath, presents a position paper on Sustainable IT and the importance of incorporating it into our teaching. Steve talks about the various sustainability perspectives allowing us to embed the paradigm across the whole computer science curriculum, and to use this work to deepen links with other disciplines.

Gordon, University of Hull, advocates a general and wide spread introduction of Sustainable IT awareness within an umbrella topic of Professional Issues as one possible approach. In a second paper he reports on a survey of student responsiveness and acceptance of incorporating environmental awareness within their teaching.

Payne, Coventry University, explores the success of using a problem based ‘active learning’ approach to sustainability with second year student groups.

Nganji and Brayshaw, University of Hull, ask that the reader consider the social and environmental consequences arising from the planned export of IT equipment for re-cycling to developing nations and also alert us to the potential detrimental contributions made by the end-of service disposal of equipment donated to assist in closing the digital divide and to promote local economic growth.

Griffith, Kutar , University of Salford and Wood, University of Manchester report on a comparative study of Inquiry-Based Learning (IBL) at Undergraduate (UG) and Postgraduate (PG) levels. The main observations from the study were unexpected in that UG level students fully embraced the IBL approach, whereas PG students enjoyed the in-class IBL activities, but actively avoided module preparation and formative assessment work/tasks. The study highlights the potential enablers required to employ IBL techniques successfully.

Warwick, Bush and Jennings, from London South Bank University present a new model of liberal (free-choice) multiple-choice tests. They attempted to analyse and make sense of their students’ responses to a series of liberal tests. They conducted an empirical study and the results from this questioned the benefits of the liberal test format as claimed in previous studies.

Strachan, Pickard, and Laing, Northumbria University present a paper on a more authentic and lively approach to delivering and assessing a module on technical authoring to undergraduate computing students by bringing a sense of realism into the module. Students were asked to present at an external conference aimed at local industry and business. The students benefited greatly from this alternative approach, and among the benefits they appeared to have extra self confidence.

Augusto et al, University of Ulster, present an interesting paper on anytime-anywhere student support. A holistic approach is presented which blends different available technologies in a Virtual Mentor. The new approach is contrasted with currently used technologies to show its advantages.

Oddie et al, Liverpool Hope University, explores the efficacy of using robots to introduce some fundamental concepts within the first year programming curriculum.

Student retention has been an issue facing HE for many years. Numerous studies have focused on predictors and models examining the phenomenon of student attrition. Weng, WuFeng University, with Cheong and Cheong, RMIT University Taiwan, deploy a variation of the Tinto (1982) and Bean (1980, 1983) integration models incorporating a term of ‘self-sufficiency’ and apply this to determine and prioritise those factors contributing to withdrawal among Information Systems students attending private education institutions in Taiwan.

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ISSN: 1473-7507