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 137 articles so far, you can find them below.


Mobile, Social and Cloud

Over the past months, I’ve attended events and workshops run by three of the best-known (and biggest) IT vendors – Oracle, Microsoft and IBM.

And, three common themes have been emerging about where the IT industry is heading, and what skills students need to have by the end of a degree within a Computing discipline.

First Mobile. A substantial amount of Computing now goes on within mobile devices, whether these are phones or tablets. Students need to be able to develop apps and mobile websites for different purposes and to present a seamless experience, whether a site is being accessed on a mobile or desktop device.

Second, Social. Integrating social media technology into applications and web sites is essential, both to ensure that content can go viral and to increase the uptake of that content.

Thirdly, Cloud. Developing software and data that is only available on one device is of limited use. Even for something as a game to be successful, it would want to have the opportunity for people to compete against one another and have scores appear in a single high score table. This is something which requires remote storage of the data.

All three of these themes clearly link together. For instance, a mobile web site could be developed to store all of its data in the cloud so that it can be accessed from any device. It could use “Login With Facebook” to speed up access to the site and to promote activity on the site automatically on Facebook.

The challenge will be to what extent universities respond to these changes and integrate these skills within the technical remit of their courses. Certainly, an interesting area to explore further, particularly in my case, the more technical social media opportunities.

Developing Your Digital Presence For Academics

Here’s a slideshow for material presented by Alex Spiers at a seminar at Liverpool John Moores University recently.

It’s all about how academics and researchers can develop their own digital presence.

The area is of particular interest to me as I’m running a workshop on Professional Presences For Academics at Birmingham City University in May.

Alex’s take is very different to how I would present this and the focus is on different areas, but the talk definitely covers one of the main challenges for academics, which is to be visible, and to think about research as being something more than dry papers and conference talks.

How To Get Your CV In The Bin

Here’s an interesting article provided by the HEA and based on the experiences of a real (but anonymous) recruiter.

Unlucky 13 – 13 Reasons Why I Binned Your CV

It goes through the problem of taking 114 applications and having to get down to a shortlist of 20 as quickly as possible.

I’ve certainly spotted many of these problems with CVs, so this could be usefully used as a “checklist” to ensure that the CV passes the “bin test” used by many recruiters.

Why The Computing Discipline Cares About Sandwich Year Placements

Over the past year, I’ve been involved with the biggest research project I’ve participating in since completing my PhD.

I say “involved”, as this for research I’ve been in charge of a small team of two Research Associates looking into the issues surround Sandwich Year Placements within the Computing discipline. This has been a 15 month study funded by the Higher Education Academy Teaching Development Grant scheme.

We’re now approaching the time when the research results can be officially released for the first time. Again, I say “officially” as we’ve factored in several types of dissemination into this project to ensure that as many people are as aware of the findings as possible. And, we’ve delivered talks presenting some of the results from the early parts of the research.

We will shortly be holding workshop at BCU presenting the results (you can view details of the workshop here and you can also access a News item provided by Birmingham City University here). The research will also be available in the form of a Final Report and several papers have already been produced relating to this.

The Computing Discipline is starting to care about Sandwich Year Placements.

These are valuable for students as they provide a year of work experience, they mean exposure to a real company working on real-life problems and they allow students to develop the type of skills that would be impossible within the classroom.

There are outstanding problems.

Not every student wants to take a placement, even when they know about the benefits. And, there are not always enough suitable placement positions available for students.

These are all issues that the Computing sector needs to address.

As part of the research sector, we’ve identified several solutions and pockets of good practice into placements and employability that are being used across the country. We’ve also been able to quantify how well we are doing as an academic discipline. All those results will be discussed at the workshop.

The main take home idea is that we can do more to get students into placements. That way, they get to take advantage of all the many benefits and they become a more employable student by the end of what would now be a full four year degree.

Social Media Branding For Computing Professionals

Here’s a copy of a talk that I delivered for the Cheltenham and Gloucester branch of the British Computer Society.

The talk is designed to show some of the methods that I’ve identified for Computing Professionals to build a professional brand online, primarily by using social media and their own professional websites.

To keep this presentation light, I’ve included plenty of examples. These are based on my experience, from work I’ve done with students and from other professionals I know who use social media in their business.

The slides are hosted in my SlideShare account (Thomas Lancaster on SlideShare).

The correct use of social media by students is a particularly hot issue within teaching right now.

I do believe that helping students to build their own personal brand whilst they are studying will help them with their long-term career.

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