Technological University Dublin (TU Dublin) has launched a new virtual learning environment designed to provide second-level students from socio-economically disadvantaged areas equal access to Computer Science education. Computing lecturers and students based on the University’s Tallaght Campus developed Computer Science Inclusive Learning Environment (CSLINC) with academic and industry collaborators in Microsoft, CodeClub Ireland, Maynooth University, ESERO European Space Education Research Office (ESERO), UCD ML Labs and Huawei.
Following on from the University’s hugely successful mobile Computer Science camp programme for primary and secondary schools, CSINC, Dr Barry Feeney, Head of the Department of Computing at TU Dublin, reveals the impetus to develop CSLINC. “As part of the Leaving Certificate Computer Science (LCCS) framework, the Department of Education and Skills identified that building of capacity for Computer Science amongst teachers and students was a significant barrier to the future success of the subject. Using a suite of free targeted supports, CSLINC is building student and teacher capacity for progression into LCCS and for Youth Reach into PLC.”
The CSLINC project provides second-level schools with formal Computer Science curricula in an effort to widen the participation in the pursuit of Computer Science at Leaving Certificate Level for students from areas of educational disadvantage. The online learning environment consists of modules designed using international best practices and tailored to the needs of second-level students in Ireland.
Dr Keith Quille, a lecturer in Computing at TU Dublin, explains that the platform was developed using Universal Design principles. “CSLINC is free to use and mobile-friendly, so schools don’t need a fully equipped computer lab to use the platform. Each module consists of lesson plans, PowerPoint presentations, videos, homework and solutions for teachers, providing a full suite of online tools to deliver successful introductory Transition Year, Junior Cycle and Youth Reach Computer Science courses. There is also an automated assessment where students take a pre-created quiz that is graded automatically, and successful students will receive a certificate of completion from TU Dublin for each module they pass.”
Continuing, Dr Quille said, “From March to June of 2021, TU Dublin conducted a pilot of three modules with 50 schools and 3000 students participating. The feedback was hugely positive, and uptake for the first full year of the programme exceeded expectations, with 9,100 students registered for modules and 230 teachers teaching our content in 101 schools across the country. In addition, 22% of the schools signed up so far are DEIS schools”.