The Project

As the number of distance learning courses at LSHTM has been increasing, with it has been an increase in the modules that include some level of quantitative skills. Within the face-to-face modules taught at the School practicals are an essential element of teaching these quantitative skills, for dialogue and support between students and lecturers. To help create an effective learning environment several options of collaborative learning are available within the DL courses;

  • Worked examples
  • Online discussion forums
  • Collaborate Live sessions

To provide an evidence base for effective learning of DL students and to refine developments of DL courses, we have developed a project “Supporting Distance Learning Students’ Needs when Learning Quantitative Skills; Application to Modelling the Dynamics of Infectious Diseases.

The field of mathematical modelling of infectious diseases is a growing area of research that has an increasing importance in public health. Examples of where mathematical modelling have been used include vaccination policies and projections of the future trajectory of epidemics. It is a multi-disciplinary field, consisting of medics, biologists, mathematicians and statisticians. Learning mathematical modelling can be challenging as it is a quantitative field. To master the learning outcomes some elementary mathematics are required alongside skills in computer programming. Students enrolled onto the course have a varied background and for some it may have been some years since they have enrolled into formal education. Consequently, it is important that we understand the students’ learning needs and cater towards them.

This research aims to

  1. To assess the approaches used in teaching mathematical modelling of infectious diseases (including computer programming) at a distance
  2. To reach out to current and former distance learning students to understand their experiences on the course, especially with learning mathematical modelling and computer programming at a distance
  3. To scope out alternative teaching tools that could be more suitable for enrolled students, through a review of alternative software and development using a Hackathon.

The funding for this research has been provided by the University of London Centre for Distance Education. They have a blog too!

The research is being led by Dr Kathleen O’Reilly (Faculty of Infectious and Tropical Disease). The Steering Committee for this project includes Anne Tholen (DL Epidemiology Programme Director), Jenny Fogarty (Teaching and Educational Development), Professor Graham Medley (Director of the Centre for Mathematical Modelling of Infectious Diseases), Dr Anna Foss (Director of LEARN – the Learning and Educational Advances Research Network).


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