The OU centre for STEM pedagogy
A Parallel and distributed computing (PDC) is now considered a threshold concept for computing, and is embedded in computing curricula across the globe. While the costs of traditional computing clusters have made developing practical activities challenging, the rise of low-cost computers, particularly the Raspberry Pi, has led to an exploration of how PDC can be taught to students using Raspberry Pi clusters.
Building on this work, we report our experiences from developing a series of low-cost Raspberry Pi clusters for use with open distance university students. Based on survey results from 484 students, we argue that our work demonstrates the benefits that remote practical activities can have for teaching PDC concepts, as well as engaging students.
We conclude with a discussion of two key challenges: supporting active learning through student-led programming on the clusters, and supporting lower-performing students at a distance.