Workshop: Teaching & Learning with the Web
Edinburgh Parallel Computing Centre
Edinburgh Parallel Computing
Centre was established during 1990 as a focus for the University
of Edinburgh's work in high performance parallel computing during the
The Centre's task is to accelerate the effective exploitation of high
performance parallel computing systems throughout academia, industry
and commerce. It houses an exceptional range of parallel computers,
with some 50 full-time staff committed to the solution
of real-world problems. The Centre's goal is achieved
through a range of activities spanning undergraduate and advanced
training programmes, service provision, industrial affiliation and
contract work, and participation in European and UK government funded
Education and Training at EPCC
At present EPCC supports four full time staff in education and
training. We are engaged in producing and presenting course material
on parallel computing, covering a range of languages and
techniques on a variety of platforms for a number of different
EPCC offers local and national services on a range of parallel
computing platforms, and training is provided to users of these
services. Training also plays a part in the Centre's technology
transfer activities, offering potential users of parallel computing in
both academia and industry the opportunity to familiarise themselves
with the technology. The education and training group also have a
role in internal training for the Centre's staff. As a Large Scale
Facility under the European Human Capital and Mobility programme, EPCC
hosts researchers from around Europe for periods ranging from a few
weeks to several months. EPCC's Summer Scholarship Programme,
established in 1987, brings around 20 students from around the world
to the Centre to work on research projects for ten weeks during the
Recently, EPCC's educational activities have become focused on
``training the trainers'': teaching lecturing staff in UK universities
about high performance computing, and providing course materials which
they can integrate with their existing curricula. In order to tailor
our material to the needs of the users we intend to work in
collaboration with lecturers in a field to produce course material
which customised for a particular group.
In addition to the courses we
currently have available, we are currently working to produce
courses for users of the new Cray T3D which
is currently being installed at EPCC,
and will be the fastest supercomputer in Europe.
Why are interested in the Web?
At present most of the courses
that we run are tutorial/lecture based. However we are very interested
in the possibilities that the Web can offer us. We see at least these
advantages in Web based course material:
The possibilities are very exciting and we are investing significant
time and effort into building up experience with the Web and its
facilities. These include:
- Flexible timetabling - User learns when they want
- User driven - User learns at his/her own speed
- Distance learning - User can learn without the need to come to
- Interactive - the challenge is to build more than just a passive
electronic book. Web technology could be used to involve the user
more directly by the use of interactive learning tools.
- Widespread access - Material becomes available to a much wider
audience. What is access is available to UK students alone?
- Less staff time - Once the course is set up it stands alone
(potentially) freing up staff time from tutorial lecture activities
so that more effort can be put into improving and expanding on
the course material itself.
- Setting up of the EPCC server
- Use of forms and maps
- Installation and evaluation of Web tools: fm2html, latex2html,
- Evaluation of WWW courseware
Areas of interest
Though we have a great deal of experience in production of
tutorial/lecture based course material, we are very interested in
methodologies for approaching the problem of composing hypertext based
courses. It would appear that whilst hypertext provides an enormously
powerful, and user friendly information service it also holds the
potential for serious disaster, particularly in a self-help course.
Modifying an existing tutorial based course is not enough a different
approach is needed. We are in the first stages of considering
hypertext courses and are interested in the following questions:
We hope that participating in this workshop will allow us to discuss
these, and other relevant issues with other groups with similar
- Are there any principled methodologies for the construction of
hypertext? Most of the Web pages seem to be strung together in a
rather haphazard way, and it can become difficult to tell if you have
read all the relevant information linked to a first page. Obviously
there is no point in using hypertext if all you are going to show is a
serial presentation of pages, but on the other hand, before I start a
programming exercise on a new message passing system I want to know
that I have read all the information I need to tackle it.
- What problems have others encountered in trying to organise
course material into hypertext? And how did they solve them?
- Do MOO tutorials and consultancies really work? I have not had a
great deal of experience of MUDs but the idea of a tutorial or
supervision session conducted over UNIX talk sounds frustrating
(though perhaps better than nothing).
- What sort of problems will users encounter with a stand alone
course? How can these be addressed? It seems likely that users will
encounter different problems when there is no live tutorial support
- What sort of interactive learning aids are being developed?
To what extent can WWW courseware become more than just a passive book?
- What tools exist (or are under development) to help the
construction and maintenance of large bodies of hypertext,
particularly automatic indexing mechanisms? This is perhaps a more
general question but it does have implications for the way in which
we are to go about constructing our own hypertext courses.