The College of Computing Threads curriculum for undergraduate computer science majors was recognized this month as one of the most effective courses of study throughout the entire University System of Georgia, as the Board of Regents honored the College with its 2014 Teaching Excellence Award for Departments and Programs.
“We received several outstanding nomination portfolios this year, and each portfolio was thoroughly reviewed by a panel of faculty and administrators from across the University System,” wrote Houston Davis, executive vice chancellor and chief academic officer, in a letter announcing the award. “When the review committee met to discuss the nominations and finalize their recommendations, they voted unanimously to recommend this department as one of this year’s winners.
The College of Computing adopted the Threads curriculum in Fall 2006. In a traditional course of study, students can be forced into a one-size-fits-all experience with little room for specialization and application of their studies toward real-world situations. Through Threads, students experience a cohesive, coordinated set of contexts for understanding computing skills thereby spending their entire four years of study engrossed in real-world computing.
“Our faculty adopted Threads to more accurately and effectively reflect what our students will experience in the actual world of today,” said Charles Isbell, senior associate dean for the College. “We are humbled by the receipt of this prestigious award from the Board of Regents recognizing the leadership role the College has played and continues to play in computing education. Our students also share in this award, as they have been the ones to validate through their success the value of Threads in preparing them for computing careers.”
Zvi Galil, dean of the College of Computing, discusses the Institute's new master’s degree in computer science, which is offered entirely through massive open online courses (MOOCs).
Having videos available so that she could learn at her own pace — that’s what Theresa Sorrentino enjoyed most about her recent online class experience.
“The video lectures helped me to better understand the course material because I could watch and pause each one whenever I needed to,” added Sorrentino, a third-year Biomedical Engineering student.
Sorrentino was one of 11 Georgia Tech students who made up an on-campus contingent of this summer’s Introductory Physics I massive open online course (MOOC). (There were a total of 17,000 students around the world enrolled in the course.) The on-campus students actually took the course through Tech and earned credit.
“This flipped classroom model allowed the Tech students to watch lectures and complete homework assignments online, which freed up class time to work on problems and do other activities together,” said Mike Schatz, the physics professor who led the MOOC.
For example, as part of the course, students were asked to complete five video labs where they recorded a moving object, analyzed it using software, and created a five-minute lab report to share with the class.
When on campus, students were able to do a dry run of their lab reports during the face-to-face time with Schatz, allowing for them to get feedback before uploading their final videos to YouTube.
“This exercise was valuable, because we were able to catch some wrong turns and help students improve along the way,” Schatz said.
Sorrentino is quick to share that being part of the small cohort of on-campus students was a plus.
“There was good camaraderie among us,” she said. “Also, there was greater accountability. If you didn’t get your work done, it was easily noticed, which was a good incentive to keep up with the class.”
Aside from the flipped model and the video labs, this course experimented with video white board illustrations as another way to teach the material. The illustrations cover everything from the differences between length and time measurements to friction.
“I thought they were great,” Sorrentino said. “I don’t know if it was because they were a novelty or if I am just a visual learner, but the video illustrations made it easier to understand the information being taught.”
The five- to 15-minute videos were primarily created by several undergraduate students, which allowed the students to become engaged in the teaching process, Schatz said.
From writing the script and creating the storyboard to editing the footage, each video took about eight to 10 hours to complete. The team is still producing videos, with the goal being to have a library of about 100.
The MOOC will be offered again beginning Aug. 19, and will run for 16 weeks. Schatz’s approach to teaching the course will be similar but with a few changes.
One change will include more frequent testing. This summer, peer-evaluated lab reports, homework, and a final exam contributed to the students’ final grades. In the fall, there will be more frequent testing (weekly quizzes and a midterm) and less weight placed on the lab reports.
“Testing will be spread out, so students will know where they stand in the course, and we will be able to see if they’re grasping the material,” Schatz said.
Also, the number of on-campus students taking the course will increase to six sections of 30.
“We want to find out what it takes to successfully scale up the course to handle all the Tech students who may want to take the course,” Schatz said.
For more information, email Schatz.
The Campus Community Partnership Foundation (C2P) Mentor Walk raises awareness of the importance of education and encourages students to stay in school. Join students, educators, parents, and the community in a walk on the Georgia Tech campus with trained coaches and mentors. Stay for sessions after the walk for students and parents in partnership with Accenture and Deloitte.
Register for the walk by visiting www.MentorWalk.org.
All students, college-age and younger, participate for free. C2P will provide breakfast, lunch, and T-shirts to all participants.
Major sponsors: Coca-Cola, Accenture, The Annie E. Casey Foundation, Northside Hospital, SFC Energy, Gigabark Broadcast Solutions.
Georgia Institute of Technology • Saturday, September 14, 2013
7:45–9:00 AM—Registration, Breakfast
10:15–10:45 AM—Group Picture
11:00 AM–1:45 PM—Sessions
1:00–2:00 PM—Party on the Quad & Lunch
Registration/check-in will begin at 7:45 AM. Please check-in at the registration tables when you first arrive. You will need to show your photo ID to receive your walk number. Once you have your number, you will be able to get breakfast and participate in activities that will be underway. There will be a group exercises and speakers to get you warmed up for the walk and the day—so don’t be late! The walk will start at 9:00 AM.
Sessions for participants will begin at 11 AM. There will be separate sessions for high school and younger students and adults.Topics for students will range from college prep, job interview skills, financial literacy, and a day in the life of a college student. There will be sessions designed for parents and adults on a variety of topics in education. Teachers accompanying students will have the option to attend sessions with their students or attend adult sessions.
Check out what we will have going on:
- Enjoy performances and artwork by students
- Student group tables
- Vendor and sponsor tables
- Book distribution to high school and younger students
- MW-Girl Scout Patch distribution
- Healthy living tips
- Sign up to become a mentor or mentee
- T-shirt distribution to those with a walk number
- and more!
In May, Moody’s announced that the Georgia Institute of Technology’s MOOC-like master’s degree in computer science is credit positive for the university. That report cited increased brand recognition and the potential to increase and diversify enrollment and revenue as major factors in the decision.
Ed. note: This story appears in the first issue of Georgia Tech Engineers, the new magazine from the College of Engineering. To request a copy, please email the editor at email@example.com
Story by Lyndsey Lewis
Photos by Zach Porter
There is a problem with the robots.
Professor Magnus Egerstedt eyes them with dismay. His robots, rotund little things that wouldn’t look out of place in a Roomba ad, are misbehaving. They’re crawling toward two silver cases in the middle of the floor, but just before reaching them, they’re supposed to sense the obstacles and skitter away.
The demonstration is the highlight of Egerstedt’s lecture; it is the center ring of this particular circus. A professor in the School of Electrical and Computer Engineering (ECE), Egerstedt is teaching a class on robot control, and the point of the course tends to be lost if the robots in question are going rogue.
Toward the cases they go, but wait! They’re sliding this way and that way. They come to halting stops or turn dizzily, and some of them don’t recognize the cases at all and slam into their shiny edges. HAL 9000 these robots are not, but their predicament is looking dire.
It’s as if they’re drunk — and in a way, they are. The robots, all Khepera IIIs, have infra-red sensors that are sensitive to light, and they’re suffering beneath the harsh glare of studio lamps. This isn’t a typical classroom lecture — these robots are starring in a massive open online course, or MOOC.
Egerstedt is teaching in a familiar way, but the setting is different. There are no students present, and instead of a classroom or lecture hall, the lesson is being given in a studio with a jungle of lamps overhead. Every move Egerstedt makes is recorded for online broadcast, and his robots are not taking kindly to the extra light. Frustrated, Egerstedt calls out to Brian Wilson, the instructional media producer who is filming the lesson.
“Brian, can we do it again?” he asks.
“I’m just going to keep rolling,” Wilson replies.
“Yeah,” Egerstedt says. “Till it works.”
And it does work eventually, and when it does, the effect is sublime. Egerstedt turns triumphantly to his student assistant, Jean-Pierre de la Croix.
“Yeah!” he exclaims. “Robotics is so easy, man.”
A MOOC is a special type of online class. Available to anyone with an Internet connection, most MOOCs offer college-level material via pre-taped lectures, and course enrollments can swell to tens of thousands of students. The premise is simple: Bring higher education to the masses by cutting through academia’s red tape and, most tantalizingly, offering many courses (including Egerstedt’s) at the low, low cost of free.
- Tesca Fitzgerald began to play with computers at before the age of two
- She skipped middle and high schools and went straight to college
- Now a graduate, she is about to start her PhD later this year
- Her two sisters appear to be just as clever
Udacity recently said it will offer master’s degrees from Georgia Tech. Source: Wall Street Journal
Bonnie Ferri is searching for an answer. The question? What is the best way to structure MOOCs for dual use — for the off-campus audience and also as a platform to enhance on-campus learning?
Ferri, a professor in Georgia Tech’s School of Electrical and Computer Engineering, is the “champion” of one of seven mini-innovation hubs studying questions regarding MOOCs.
One method of structuring MOOCs for dual use that is proving to have merit is the “flipped classroom” model that takes a regular class, such as ECE 3710: Circuits and Electronics, and removes all of the lecture material and puts it on the MOOC, then use the classroom time for recitation, active learning, problem solving, and hands-on experiences.
“With in-class hands-on experiences, the students have their laptops and measurement devices, and they’re doing mini-experiments at their desks,” Ferri said. “They’re active. They’re engaged with each other, and they’re engaged with the instructor.”
As part of her group’s research, Ferri recently attended a conference on online education and talked with a number of instructors who are using MOOCs in their classrooms.
“They were using MOOCs as extra resources for the class; it was not replacing the lecture because it was all optional,” she said.
Another method is to remove all of the lecture material and put it on the MOOC, then use the classroom time for recitation, active learning, problem solving and hands-on experiences.
“The consensus, from talking to a number of people, is if you’re going to do this — especially the second method — take all of the higher level learning and do that in class,” she said. “Make the most of the time with the professor. [Consider] what do you want the students to be able to do? Have them do the high-level work — synthesis work, evaluation, problem solving — in class. And have them do lower level things, like studying facts they need to memorize, online.”
Ferri and her colleagues had some case studies on campus where instructors are replacing lectures in class with the MOOC. One case study was ECE 4555: Embedded and Hybrid Control, taught last spring by Professor Magnus Egerstedt in the School of Electrical and Computer Engineering. The MOOC was on “Control of Mobile Robots,” and Egerstedt worked with a 4000-level class.
“This is unusual because it’s a mathematical class taken by graduate students as well as seniors,” Ferri said. “It’s very high level and not your typical MOOC because of the level of depth, and it was rigorous.”
In this case, all of the lecture material was online, allowing students to review the material in advance.
“It is a lot more efficient to get through the material in the online format,” Ferri said. “It takes less time to cover the material in this format than in class. Students can go at their own pace; some will watch the videos at 1.5 times the speed while others will pause often and also re-watch videos.”
Egerstedt replaced the in-classroom time with quizzes on the lecture material (to make sure the students actually listened to the lectures) and with project time, a new element he added to the class. During project time he brought mobile robots into the class and did experiments with them.
Grading was one of the greatest challenges because of the difficulty in accounting for the student’s successful completion of the Coursera course. Another challenge is, now that the instructor has wiped the slate clean of lectures, how should the in-class time be used? What are the activities that make sense?
Egerstedt questioned the student workload because he believes with this approach he required more from the students than he normally does because of the projects and hands-on experiments.
Ferri also spoke with Professor Mike Schatz in the School of Physics, who did the same thing with Physics 2211: Introduction to Physics. Schatz agrees there is “perceived increase in student workload” because students think the MOOC format is more work than they normally would have for the class. Schatz added a communications component to the class in which students present a lab report.
One of the biggest challenges is assessment. Is this method working better than the traditional approach? How effective is this as an educational model?
Ferri and her mini innovation hub colleagues are working with the Center for 21st Century Universities (C21U) to come up with a plan for assessing MOOCs, so that instructors will not have to create an assessment plan on their own from the ground up.
“By using a pilot study, we can take this information and feed it back to improve the class,” Ferri said.
In May, Moody’s announced that the Georgia Institute of Technology’s MOOC-like master’s degree in computer science is credit positive for the university. That report cited increased brand recognition and the potential to increase and diversify enrollment and revenue as major factors in the decision. Source: The Chronicle of Higher Education
Figuring out how to offer the lab component of a course has been a challenge for faculty members as they develop massive open online courses (MOOCs) — until now.
Georgia Tech’s Introductory Physics MOOC, which launched on May 20, is using video labs to simulate the experience students would typically have in the classroom. This topic has become the focus of one of seven mini innovation hubs that are researching questions related to MOOCs and online learning.
“In some ways, the video labs provide students and instructors with a better experience than being in a traditional lab,” said Ed Greco, an instructor in the School of Physics and “champion” of the innovation hub that is examining the question of labs in MOOCs. “The videos single students out in a way that forces them to demonstrate their knowledge in a brief period of time, and it’s easier for instructors to hone in on who is getting the material and who isn’t.”
There are 17,000 students enrolled in the MOOC, 11 of which are a part of a for-credit Georgia Tech version of the course where students have both online and on-campus experiences. (More details on the structure of this MOOC will be featured in a future Whistle article.)
All students are asked to complete five labs as part of the course, which will wrap up the last week of July. Each lab requires students to do the following:
- Record a moving object (using any device that will take video).
- Analyze the video using the free video analysis package, Tracker.
- Create models of motion using computer programs written in Python/VPython.
- Compare the observations to the models.
- Create a five-minute video lab report.
- Upload the video to YouTube.
Videos are then graded by fellow classmates based on a six-item rubric that includes questions such as “Does the author state the problem and show a result?” and “Is the video easy to follow?”
But, there have been a few challenges when it comes to the labs. For example, many of the students enrolled in the course live in countries that ban YouTube.
“Students living in places like Pakistan and China where they don’t have access to YouTube have been pretty frustrated with the lack of an alternative,” said Mike Schatz, the professor leading the MOOC. “So we’re going to have to think of a way to work around this with future versions of the course.”
Then there’s the issue of engagement. Schatz estimates that of the thousands of students enrolled, about 1,000 are actually regularly participating in some aspect of the course, whether it’s watching lectures, completing homework or quizzes, or participating in the online forum. But he estimates that only 300 to 400 are doing the labs.
Both Schatz and Greco agree that this is an issue that this hub will be considering as they tweak the course, which they hope to offer again in the fall.
“We’re still trying to figure out what we should expect of MOOC students when it comes to things like time spent on assignments and the money we should expect them to pay for a textbook,” Greco said. “Once we get a better handle on this, it will help us address the poor retention numbers that MOOCs typically have.”
After months of preparation, we finally started our MOOC, “First-Year Composition 2.0,” at Georgia Tech. We are now through the first few weeks of the eight-week course, supported by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Veteran MOOC instructors warned me that the early weeks would be bumpy. The actual experience has often left me panicked—and worried that the course would not be successful. This is not like a traditional course, in which you have a day or two to deal with issues that come up in class. MOOC students expect immediate responses, and that means nearly 24/7 monitoring of the course.
"When you teach a MOOC, you have to be a deliberate teacher," said Richard DeMillo, director of the Center for 21st Century Universities at the Georgia Institute of Technology, at the U.S. News 2013 Stem Solutions Conference.
Are my students engaged? This is the burning question that can be challenging to answer when you’re teaching students face to face — let alone when they are squirreled away behind a computer screen halfway across the world.
That’s why a group of faculty members from Georgia Tech is looking into the issues related to keeping students engaged and involved in massive open online courses (MOOC).
“We’re trying to figure out what can and cannot be replicated when you transition a course from an on-campus to an online learning environment,” said Al Ferri, associate chair for
Undergraduate Studies in the Woodruff School of Mechanical Engineering and the project “champion.” “And we also want to know about subtle things that can help students successfully complete MOOCs.”
This project is one of seven being explored by a group of mini innovation hubs that are researching questions related to MOOCs and online learning. The hubs are part of an initiative led by the Center for the Enhancement of Teaching and Learning and the Center for 21st Century Universities.
“As luck would have it, when our hub was forming, ME was getting ready to run a special course called ‘The Buzz on Open Online Courses,’” Ferri said. “The students who signed up for the course each took two MOOCs of their choice and were the perfect subjects to help us learn more about our research topic.”
During spring of 2013, 13 students enrolled in a number of MOOCs — ranging from Aboriginal Worldviews and Education offered by the University of Toronto to Introduction to Finance offered by University of Michigan — and completed all assignments.
As part of their participation, the students gave final presentations about their experiences with the MOOCs. There were a number of common themes that students shared:
- Students enjoyed the convenience and ability to “go at your own pace” that MOOCs provide.
- They found technical glitches were particularly frustrating when coupled with the lack of access to a professor.
- Students who had peer-evaluation activities associated with their MOOCs mentioned that they did not like it.
- Many students mentioned the importance of having a good instructor in their MOOCs. They commented on instructors’ “enthusiasm,” “expertise,” and “care for their students’ learning.”
- Many commented that they wanted/needed to see the professors’ heads in the inset box on the computer screen.
- The students said forums are an important part of the success of MOOCs, but they must be managed to maintain a high signal-to-noise ratio. Assigning expert personnel to monitor the message boards is crucial in making effective use of this medium.
- Students indicated variety is important, even in a world of six-minute modules. They reacted very positively to mixing lectures with demos, interviews, outside videos, etc.
- The consensus among the students was that they liked the MOOCs as a way to gain exposure to a new subject area or to review a topic they had already studied, but they acknowledged that the rigor and depth of most of the courses were not up to the level found in their Tech face-to-face classes.
The hub is taking the information gained from the students and will continue their research in the months to come.
“The study that we did in the spring semester showed what sorts of things a MOOC developer could do to encourage students to stay engaged, and what mistakes can discourage or frustrate students,” Ferri said. “But we need to know much more about what drives a student to complete a MOOC, why the attrition rate is so high in MOOCs, and why completion and pass rates in face-to-face classes are so much higher in
Georgia Tech’s dean of computing Zvi Galil expressed similar glee when he said in an interview, “You know there is a revolution going on, right?” Source: Forbes
The fast-developing world of massive open online courses (MOOC’s) has a new framework today with the announcement of a partnership among ten state university systems and public universities – including the University System of Georgia – and one of the leading platforms for MOOC’s, Coursera. MORE »
When Georgia Tech launched its first massive open online course (MOOC) last summer, the campus community had plenty of questions about the ramifications for teaching and learning at the Institute.
The response? Seven groups of faculty, staff, and students, called “mini innovation hubs,” were formed. These groups have been busy defining their research questions and exploring how to address them. Members of six of the seven hubs presented their progress during a showcase a few weeks ago.
“The requirements for the mini innovation hubs were simple,” said Donna Llewellyn, director of the Center for the Enhancement of Teaching and Learning (CETL) and associate vice provost for Learning Excellence. “Each group exploring a research question needed a faculty champion and a group of people interested in exploring the topic. The organizers did not tell the groups what questions to ask.”
Llewellyn is leading the initiative with Mike McCracken, director of Online Course Development and Innovation for the Center for 21st Century Universities; Wendy Newstetter, senior academic professional in the College of Engineering; and Lauren Margulieux, graduate student assistant in the School of Psychology.
The seven hubs are considering the following topics and questions:
- Dual Use: What are the special issues of using a MOOC to flip or blend a course? Champion — Bonnie Ferri, Electrical and Computer Engineering
- Delivery Mechanisms: How can mixed- reality technologies be used to enhance MOOC learning and on-campus courses? Champion — Racel Williams, Architecture
- Physics Labs: How can a physical science lab experience be designed for students in a MOOC or other online learning environment? Champion — Ed Greco, Physics
- Library Support: How can the Library provide resources in a MOOC? Champions — Lori Critz, Library; and Cari Lovins, Information Technology
- Motivation: What are the issues associated with keeping students engaged and involved in a MOOC? Champion — Al Ferri, Mechanical Engineering
- Math Bridge: Can a MOOC environment help Tech to efficiently and effectively serve incoming students who need a bridge course to ensure success in their first math course? Champion — Shannon Dobranski, Center for Academic Success
- Multidisciplinary: How can an online environment be harnessed to offer a truly multi-disciplinary course addressing the challenging issues of today? Champion — Katja Weber, International Affairs
The May showcase was the first update from the hubs, and the research is continuing.
“This is not a closed process,” Llewellyn said. “These mini hubs don’t have fences around them. They are open to other people becoming involved.”
Anyone interested in working with a hub should contact the group’s champion.
The videotaped presentations from the showcase are available here.