Brian J Ford, visiting Professor at the University of Leicester's Beyond Distance Research Alliance

Scientist, Author and Broadcaster to Support University's Developments in E-Learning

Professor Brian J Ford, well-known for his books on computers and science, his television and radio broadcasts worldwide and as one of the country's leading scientists, is to become a visiting Professor at the University of Leicester's Beyond Distance Research Alliance

Professor Brian J Ford has written about IT for more than 30 years and been a presence on the web for more than a decade. Among a number of books he has written to bring readers closer to sources of specialist learning are the popular Compute and the international best-seller, First Encyclopedia of Science.

In 1999 he was appointed as Royal Literary Fellow at the Open University, where he developed on-line resources for writers and where he learned how to use distance learning to best effect. He is a Fellow and Member of Court at Cardiff University, a member of Gonville & Caius College, Cambridge University, and Honorary Member of Keynes College, University of Kent at Canterbury.

He is currently featuring in programmes on Channel 4 Television, Channel 5, Sky One and the History Channel. His BBC series include Computer Challenge (television) and Where Are You Taking Us? (radio). He is also a contributor to regular programmes such as Any Questions? and the Today programme.

Professor Ford launched Science Now for the BBC, covered science for Newsbeat on Radio 1, presented Food For Thought on Channel 4 TV and has been a regular contributor to Start the Week on BBC Radio. Internationally he has appeared in television programmes from Hollywood to Japan, London and Germany and has written for The Times and the Guardian.

He has also contributed to a number of scientific journals, many of which have published his own research, including New Scientist, Scientific American, Nature, The Microscope and the British Medical Journal.

He has been nominated by the BBC for the Italia Prize and in the USA was recently awarded the inaugural Professor August Kohler medal. He has also received a 3-year Fellowship from the National Endowment for Science, Technology and the Arts (NESTA). This year he has been nominated for the Faraday Medal of the Royal Society by Sir Martin Rees, the Astronomer Royal and Sir Sam Edwards, former Chairman of the Science Research Council.

Commenting on the Alliance, Professor Ford said:

"What's so exciting about Beyond Distance is the sense of empowerment it offers students. There are many departments that are utilising distance access to teaching facilities, and Leicester is looking at the broadest picture possible."

"A new era is opening up and we have a chance to be at the forefront of an exciting revolution in learning. Its significance lies in the title. Distance is no longer a barrier to learning. Timing doesn't matter any more. Access to library materials becomes so much easier. The closed world of academia is opening to everyone and Beyond Distance will spearhead the change."

"That's not just my personal opinion. In my inaugural lecture I showed the results of a Google search for 'e-teaching'. Among nearly 4,000 sites listed, Leicester came out top in the world."

"I've been working with computers all my adult life and the Beyond Distance alliance offers a chance to put all this experience together. It's a wonderfully stimulating opportunity."

Professor Ford will help select new and innovative lecturing and research staff and will set up a working party on research and funding initiatives to provide rigorous research to underpin the University's new e-learning strategy. He will also exploit international connections and recently returned from studying internet learning at the National University, Singapore.

Note to editors:

Information on the University of Leicester Beyond Distance Research Alliance follows.

More details on his appointment are available from Professor Brian J Ford, email, website, tel 017 333 50 888.

The University of Leicester Beyond Distance Research Alliance gathers teachers and researchers interested in innovation in teaching and learning, providing a forum for the development of e-learning and harnessing the latest information technologies to take forward research and teaching. It will promote the building of pedagogical innovation, increase the deployment of learning technologies and enable research into e-learning in a way that directly addresses business opportunities and imperatives.

The Alliance provides for equivalent and enhanced learning and support experiences for all Leicester students. It offers a framework that not only develops and extends the range of services and approaches already in place but also looks to deepen understanding and deployment of learning technologies in the University.

The use of e-learning will allow the University to develop distance learning and provide high quality learning and support to distance learners equivalent to that provided to campus attendees. It will increase the flexibility, accessibility and personalisation of provision for campus and distance students and enhance the capacity for integration of study with home, leisure, social and working lives.

The integration of e-learning and teaching with the growing provision of e-business, e-resources and e-support in the university means that each enhances the others. E-learning skills should be considered normal, necessary and desirable in the 21st Century, and their use leads to a 'balanced mixed mode' learning provision with roughly equal numbers of campus and distance students.

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