University of Manchester
Department of Computer Science

ARCADE History

ARCADE was developed by me in the Department of Computer Science at the Victoria University of Manchester. The work started in October 1993 after I was appointed as First Year Undergraduate Laboratories Manager. This made me responsible for administering and co-ordinating all laboratory work undertaken by first year students in the department -- a total of nearly 30,000 student contact hours of work per year! All in addition to the usual roles of a lecturer, of course.

Surprise, surprise, the system was developed on a `I desperately need that feature now' sort of basis, or more often `I really needed it yesterday, but tomorrow morning first thing will have to do'. It started life without a name (a bit like we all do) and with a limited purpose (a bit like we all do) - simply to print paper sheets with the right student names on them, and some columns, which could be used by laboratory supervisors to collect data in the various labs. Then it grew (a bit like we all do), was eventually christened, and continues to grow.

The motto for ARCADE development started of as this: "Someone has told me I must administer a lot of administery stuff, so I'll make a computer do as much of it as I possibly can". Or "I don't like doing, but I will do, anything boring; but damned if I'll do it more than once!". Nowadays it has a rider "And, I'll make the computer do it better than I ever could". Essentially, if it's about administering lots of bits of work for lots of students spread over lots of modules, and sensibly using that information, then if ARCADE doesn't already do it for you, it soon will.

For many years, and currently, it is used to manage all the laboratories in Computer Science at Manchester University, for both first and second year students. It also has a role in the management of attendance monitoring for tutorials and some lectures.

Additionally, it has been used successfully for a number of years to manage all first and second year labs, and all lecture attendance, at the University of Durham, Department of Computer Science. Proof that (allegedly) good ideas are (at least a bit) portable!