Team Members

Abdulhussain-E-MahdiAbdulhussain E. Mahdi is a senior lecturer at the Department of Electronic & Computer Engineering, University of Limerick (UL), Ireland. He is Director of the Regional Peer-Supported Learning Centre – UL and Joint Director of the ICT Learning Centre – UL. He is a Chartered Engineer (CEng), Member of the Institution of Engineering and Technology – UK (IET), and Member of the Engineering Council – UK. Dr. Mahdi is a graduate in Electrical Engineering from University of Basrah (BSc 1st Class Hon. 1978) and earned his PhD in Electronic Engineering at University of Wales – Bangor, UK in 1990. He is also a SEDA Accredited Teacher of Higher Education (University of Plymouth, UK 1998). His current research focuses on signal, speech and natural language processing, data mining, machine learning & their applications in text analytics, information retrieval, management and processing.  His research interests also include peer-supported and collaborative learning, student-centred active learning, inquiry-based learning, and teaching & learning innovation and practices in ICT education.  In 2010, Dr Mahdi initiated the ‘Teaching & learning Day’ event for the Faculty of Science & Engineering (S&E) at UL, which is a series of annual one-day symposium designed to disseminate and showcase innovative T&L initiatives and practices of the S&E Faculty’s teaching, and provide a forum for timely discussion and debate of T&L issues of local, national and international interest.  He has authored and co-authored more than 128 peer-reviewed journal articles, book chapters and conference papers, and has edited one book. His published work has been cited more than 393 (Source: Google /Scholar, Feb 2015) or 128 (Source: ISI–WoK, Feb 2015) times.

MichaelEnglishMichael English is a Lecturer in the Computer Science and Information Systems Department, University of Limerick. He is also Joint Director of the ICT Learning Centre in UL. He completed his PhD in 2007 in the University of Limerick and prior to this he graduated with a BSc in Mathematics and Statistics from University College Cork (1st Class Honours in1996) and an MSc in Computer Science from the University of Limerick (1999). He lectures at undergraduate and postgraduate level in computer science, object-oriented programming, software evolution, software quality and software engineering. He has been involved in the design of undergraduate and postgraduate courses and is currently the course leader for the MSc in Software Engineering at the University of Limerick. His research interests span software engineering and computer science education. Within software engineering his interests are in the areas of software metrics, software quality, software evolution, software refactoring and the analysis of source-code. In particular he is interested in analysing existing software systems with the aim of understanding how software systems are actually developed in practice and why certain design decisions are made. He is also particularly interested in computer science education with a particular emphasis on the teaching and learning of computer programming to novices. He has published his research in various peer-reviewed international journals and conferences.

NUI Galway

  • Dr. Michael Madden, Head of Information Technology & Academic Coordinator of Computer Programming Drop-In Support Centre
  • Christopher Loughnane, Manager, Computer Programming Drop-In Support Centre
  • Dr Sharon Flynn, Assistant Director, Centre for Excellence in Learning & Teaching

Trinity College Dublin

  • Dr. Meriel Huggard, Assistant Professor

University of Limerick

  • Dr. Fiona Farr, Dean of Teaching and Learning
  • Dr. Olivia Fitzmaurice, Director, Mathematics Learning Centre
  • Professor Paul Conway, Dept. Education and Professional Studies
  • John O’Donoghue, Associate Director

• To examine and review the literature on ICT-specific learner support retention interventions at third level institutions both nationally and internationally, with a view of identifying best practices in this field. • To examine how the various learner-support interventions, implemented by the ICT learning support units at third level institutions in Ireland, align with the best practice identified above. • To assess and evaluate the impact of ICT learner support interventions on the progression and hence retention of students on ICT programmes in Irish third level institutions.

Research Questions

1. What constitutes good practice on retention of ICT students?

2. How do learner supports impact student progression?

Methodology & Scope

This research will consider the overall progression of students through their ICT programme of study, a specific focus will be on early stage student retention (i.e. progression from the first to the second year) and will be carried out as follows: • A detailed literature review will be undertaken and documented on the state of the research internationally on academic learner support interventions used to improve retention at third level in ICT related courses, with a specific focus on retention of students from 1st to 2nd year. The review will allow us to identify best practice academic interventions that have been shown to enhance student engagement and performance levels, keys elements in improving retention rates. • An assessment of the state of practice of ICT retention interventions in third-level institutions in Ireland including data from the ICT Learning Centre, The Peer Supported Learning Centre and The Mathematics Learning Centre at UL, the Computer Programming Drop-In Support Centre (ComputerDisc) at NUI Galway and from the Programming Support Centre at TCD. This research will evaluate how our interventions align with best practice. This will include analysing data on student uptake of interventions and subsequent performance outcomes. • A survey will be designed, its responses combined with existing survey responses and focus groups will be conducted to gather data on current student perceptions of the retention interventions currently available, students’ perceived satisfaction with these interventions and their perceptions of the utility of these interventions towards their progression within their course and tie impact on the student experience.


• A literature review outlining best international practice in ICT retention with a specific focus on 1st to 2nd year retention. • An investigation of the impact of ICT learner supports on student progression in ICT. • An outline on student perspectives of ICT learner supports.

Impact Goals

• Adoption/Continuation of the best practices outlined in the report in both policy and practice by third level institutions in Ireland. • An improvement in ICT retention rates over the coming years. • Publication in a high impact educational international journal.