About Thomas Lancaster

I am an experienced Computer Science academic, best known for research work into academic integrity, plagiarism and contract cheating. I have held leadership positions in several universities, with specialty in student recruitment and keen interest in working in partnership with students. Please browse around the blog and the links, and feel free to leave your thoughts.
Website: http://thomaslancaster.co.uk
Thomas Lancaster has written 159 articles so far, you can find them below.


MicroHack 2015 Review – Student Programming Competition Using Microsoft Azure

One of the initiatives we’ve taken at Birmingham City University this year to introduce new student opportunities and improve student employability on the BSc Computer Science course has been to encourage students to participate in Hackathons.

These Hackathons are typically time-constrained programming contests, where students work in small teams to create prototype software that meets designated requirements. Students then need to pitch or present their software to a panel.

We have been supporting sending students to Hackathon events held around the UK, with the aid of the new Hackathon and Computing Society. Students participating have been benefiting from improving their programming knowledge, exploring new technologies, meeting industrial contacts and developing interpersonal skills.

We have also recently held MicroHack, our first internal Hackathon. This was designed to improve student confidence and encourage them to participate in the external Hackathon events.

BCUMicroHackProgrammers

MicroHack was held on the afternoon and early evening of Wednesday 16 December 2015, with teams required to develop prototype software on the open theme of personal or professional development for students, with submissions using the Microsoft Azure cloud hosting platform. Oliver Vlaytchev worked with me on the organisation of the event and Liam Biddle arranged funding through Microsoft.

There was a real social buzz for the event. The student participation and results are well captured in the Storify.

The Hackathon succeeded on multiple levels, including raising the profile of the technology of our sponsor, engaging students with innovations and external practice and generating good publicity for Birmingham City University. The teams that participated presented some excellent ideas, worthy of being released products with more development time. We did run into a few minor administrative issues regarding the smooth running of the day, which are useful to know about for future larger scale events, but none which impacted on student enjoyment. We did discovered how important it is to have a large team of staff running things, all of whom have designated roles and duties.

This event was a precursor to a Hackathon with 24 hours of programming, which will be running on 29 February to 1 March 2016. We are open to ideas of technologies to use and encourage students to engage with – interested companies can feel free to contact me for more details. Importantly, we have a full university marketing push behind this BCU Hack event, which will be of benefit to everyone involved.

Following MicroHack, I’m even more confident that Hackathons are of value for students looking to enhance their programming skills. They match up well with the Birmingham City University course on BSc Computer Science and its aim to produce graduates who are work-ready for the real world. I fully intend to continue to push Hackathons and their benefits and to find ways to get more students involved with these.

Enhancing Student Employability Through The Peer Review Of Professional Online Presences Video

Here is a video version of my talk from the Birmingham City University RESCON Conference 2015. You can see the slides from the original talk and a short discussion here.

The RESCON talk was given a short time slot and hence delivered at a hectic pace. I tend to provide rather more material of interest than is strictly necessary. As is usual with these things, recording the video allowed me to explore and discuss the findings from this small research study.

I do have plenty more material available relating to Professional Online Presences, including plenty of motivational examples and details of good practice. I’m always happy to share these as part of research seminars and training suitable for both students and staff looking to improve how well they are perceived online.

Enhancing Student Employability Through The Peer Review Of Professional Online Presences

I’ve previously shared my work on integrating student Professional Online Presences into teaching at various conferences and invited talks, but it’s a couple of years since I’ve provided a research update.

The ideas are now much more accepted and mainstream when they were when I first started working in the field. Many students realise that their digital information is now available to the public and to employers – although that does not mean that they are taking responsibility for the information that is posted about them.

I’ve recently started adding an element of peer review to assess and improve the Professional Online Presences that students are producing. I used Birmingham City University RESCON 2015 to showcase a few of my favourite initial findings (although many more are available and there is further analysis that I would like to undertake before forming this into a formal academic paper).

The slides for the talk are available for access online. These can be viewed on my SlideShare account, or you can also see the slides below.

In the brief time we had for questions, I did receive an interesting idea for further analysis of LinkedIn, to see how closely student profiles match the requirements of industry.

That idea is available as an undergraduate student project if anyone would like to take on creating an automated method of analysis?

An Exploration of Contract Cheating and Academic Misconduct Within Health Education Video

Here is a video version of my talk from the Birmingham City University Pedagogies, Practitioners and Identities in Education Conference. You can see the slides and discussion from the health essays talk here.

I’m currently working on an academic paper relating to these ideas. In the meantime, I’m more than happy to present this work further as research seminar and training sessions.

An Exploration of Contract Cheating and Academic Misconduct Within Health Education

One of the more interesting inter-disciplinary topics I’ve been involved with is that of cheating in healthcare. This covers examples that we’ve found in our research, ranging across nursing, pharmacy, medicine and other health disciplines.

I got the chance to present some of the findings from that research at a talk that formed part of the Pedagogies, Practitioners and Identities in Education Conference 2015. This conference was held at Birmingham City University, with a particular focus in both the health and education disciplines.

The slides for the talk are available for access. These can be viewed on my SlideShare account, or viewed below.

In the talk, I shared several examples of what cheating in health and nursing looks like. This includes examples from essay mills, term paper mills and other contract cheating sites. Generally, original work produced by an external writer is hard to tell apart from original work produced by a student.

The talk closed with a lively and interesting discussion, mainly from the nurses in attendance. I got the impression that cheating in nursing education was not considered at all unusual by them, with examples given of both students committing plagiarism and contract cheating. It was an issue that they considered serious, particularly due to the implications of fitness for practice required for nursing careers.

During the research process for this talk, I found several new examples relating to the wider essay industry, the types of ghostwriters that are being employed and how they are trained to mass produce assessed academic work. I look forward to sharing this research when the right opportunity arises.

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