SICSA Workshop on Learning Analytics in Education

The Higher Education Research Group is happy to announce the SICSA-sponsored workshop on learning analytics on Aug 6th 2018.


The purpose of this SICSA-sponsored workshop is to encourage an evidence-based approach to teaching by leveraging quantitative and qualitative data available to CS schools. Most importantly, we plan to organise a multi-institution study on using machine learning and AI-based techniques on existing data to improve learning outcomes across multiple universities. The workshop will serve to formulate the goals of such a study and forge the necessary collaborations to make this happen.


We are very happy to announce that the chief regulatory adviser at Jisc Technologies Andrew Cormack will give an invited talk about the legal and ethical framework for learning analytics. In addition to the invited talk, the workshop will consist of a set of breakout sessions and a final discussion dedicated to preparing a follow-up study. The breakout sessions will involve discussions about existing quantitative and qualitative data available to educators, how these data influence teaching, what (statistical and other) data procesisng is useful for driving decisions, and which algorithmic approaches could be applied across institutions.


Evidence-based teaching is of particular importance in fast-moving fields like Computer Science, and is therefore of interest to many higher education institutions. We have more data on students and courses than ever before including grades, entry requirements, qualitative and quantitative feedback, and career paths after leaving the university, and as computer scientists we are well equipped to process such data. It is important to measure the positive and negative impact of changes to the delivery (e.g. lecture capture, different lecturers) and content (slides, supporting material, organisation) in order to maintain and hopefully improve learning outcomes over time.

However, measuring how teaching approaches affect learning outcomes can be challenging because of issues such as data protection, small numbers of students, changes in the curriculum, or changes in admission procedures. Measuring differences between institutions is even harder because of differences in course structure, class sizes and marking scales. We believe that computer science techniques such as data mining, machine learning and artificial intelligence will become increasingly important in this field, and would like to set up an ambitious study across several universities based on the findings of this workshop. Such a study is only possible if coordinated well across institutions and this workshop aims to provide the basis for such collaboration.

Target Audience

The workshop will involve 24 academics, mainly from SICSA-affiliated institutions, aiming to foster an exchange of ideas and best practice. While the central topic is CS education, we hope to also appeal to CS academics engaged in data ethics, machine learning, and artificial intelligence (e.g. for processing data in natural text form) because the topic provides an important application of CS, and has great potential for impact.

To register, contact Kasim at, or go to the Eventbrite page:

Event details

  • When: 6th August 2018 09:30 - 15:30
  • Where: Gateway Bldg
  • Format: Workshop

Lost in Translation: Academia to Industry

The School of Computer Science welcomed back three alumni to give keynote talks at our lost in translation event earlier this week. The well-attended and informative event organised by Professor Aaron Quigley, afforded current PhD students and early researchers in computer science an exclusive opportunity to hear from previous students about their transition from academia to industry.

Talks chaired by Dr Ognjen Arandelovic, highlighted the challenges and opportunities faced during their PhD journey but without doubt strengthened the concept of transferable skills provided by postgraduate study and research activities. Presentations incorporated research skills, internships, analytical ability, teamwork, the value of teaching and tutoring responsibilities, designing the CS merchandise, communication skills, the flexibility of research areas and the importance of social activities.


Breakout sessions permitted small group discussions with each of our alumni, where they conveyed different experiences of research activities in the school, and their on-going experience of working within industry and within a recent start up. We are extremely proud of our alumni and thank them for their continued contribution to scheduled events, and for being fantastic ambassadors for Computer Science at St Andrews. You can read Neil’s “moving from academia to industry” blog post for his personal journey and reflection.

Alumni Keynote Speakers:
James Smith, Google, London.
Angus Macdonald, Aetherworks, New York.
Neil Moore, Adobe, Edinburgh.

Invited Guest:
Polly Purvis, CEO of ScotlandIS.

The event was funded by SICSA, The Scottish Informatics and Computer Science Alliance.

Services to the Cloud

On June 27th Gordon Baxter and Derek Wang gave a presentation about their work on the SFC funded project “Creating High Value Cloud Services” at the Edinburgh Chamber of Commerce’s Business Growth Club.

Gordon talked about the lessons that have been learned so far from working closely with several Scottish SMEs who are adopting the cloud. Derek then gave a short demonstration of the web-based toolkit he has developed to analyse the potential costs and revenues associated with delivering a product or service through the cloud.

Find out more about the project on Services to the Cloud and The Cloudscape blog

CANCELLED Unikernels: Functional Library Operating Systems for the Cloud by Anil Madhavapeddy, University of Cambridge

(followed by tea/coffee and then informal gatherings at local venues)


Public compute clouds provide a flexible platform to host applications
as a set of appliances, e.g., web servers or databases. Each appliance
usually contains an OS kernel and userspace processes, within which
applications access resources via APIs such as POSIX.  The flexible
architecture of the cloud comes at a cost: the addition of another
layer in the already complex software stack. This reduces performance and
increases the size of the trusted computing base. Continue reading

Event details

  • When: 19th February 2013 14:30 - 15:30
  • Format: Seminar

Forthcoming talk by SICSA Distinguished Visitor

Room 1.33a at 2:00 pm on Friday 7th September 2012

  • Introduction to Grammatical Formalisms for Natural Language Parsing
  • Giorgio Satta, Department of Information Engineering, University of Padua, Italy

In the field of natural language parsing, the syntax of natural languages is

modeled by means of formal grammars and automata. Sometimes these formalisms

are borrowed from the field of formal language theory and are adapted to the
task at hand, as in the case of context-free grammars and their lexicalized
versions, where each individual rule is specialized for one or more lexical
items. Sometimes these formalisms are newly developed, as in the case of
dependency grammars and tree adjoining grammars. In this talk, I will
briefly overview several of these models, discussing their mathematical
properties and their use in parsing of natural language.

Event details

  • When: 7th September 2012 14:00 - 15:00
  • Where: Cole 1.33a
  • Format: Seminar, Talk