Archive for April 25, 2012
Over the weekend, I read a post by GasStationsWithoutPumps on speeding through college. The Washington Post has a great article about Virginia Tech’s Math Emporium that provides a mechanism to do that: Self-paced mathematics instruction, with human instructors available for one-on-one help. It’s efficient, and it provides student learning at their pace. I would love to see a computer science version of this. In particular, it would be great if students could explore problems in a variety of contexts (from media to games to robotics to interactive fiction), and get the time in that they need to develop some skill and proficiency. Like the distance education efforts, this is about improving the efficiency of higher education. Unlike distance education, the Emporium includes 1:1 human interaction and the potential for individualized approaches and curriculum. And there’s potential synergy: the content needed to make a CS Emporium work could also be used in a distance education. Here’s my prediction: Without the 1:1 help, I’d expect the distance folks to still have a higher WFD rate.
No academic initiative has delivered more handsomely on the oft-stated promise of efficiency-via-technology in higher education, said Carol Twigg, president of the National Center for Academic Transformation, a nonprofit that studies technological innovations to improve learning and reduce cost. She calls the Emporium “a solution to the math problem” in colleges.
It may be an idea whose time has come. Since its creation in 1997, the Emporium model has spread to the universities of Alabama and Idaho (in 2000) and to Louisiana State University (in 2004). Interest has swelled as of late; Twigg says the Emporium has been adopted by about 100 schools. This academic year, Emporium-style math arrived at Montgomery College in Maryland and Northern Virginia Community College.
“How could computers not change mathematics?” said Peter Haskell, math department chairman at Virginia Tech. “How could they not change higher education? They’ve changed everything else.”
Emporium courses include pre-calculus, calculus, trigonometry and geometry, subjects taken mostly by freshmen to satisfy math requirements. The format seems to work best in subjects that stress skill development — such as solving problems over and over. Computer-led lessons show promise for remedial English instruction and perhaps foreign language, Twigg said. Machines will never replace humans in poetry seminars.
The REESE solicitation was re-written and just released. Proposals are due 17 July 2012.Reads to me like this could be a source of funding for computing education research.
The Research and Evaluation on Education in Science and Engineering (REESE) program seeks to advance research at the frontiers of STEM learning and education, and to provide the foundational knowledge necessary to improve STEM learning and education in current and emerging learning contexts, both formal and informal, from childhood through adulthood, for all groups, and from before school through to graduate school and beyond into the workforce. The goals of the REESE program are: (1) to catalyze discovery and innovation at the frontiers of STEM learning and education; (2) to stimulate the field to produce high quality and robust research results through the progress of theory, method, and human resources; and (3) to coordinate and transform advances in education and learning research. In coordination with the Research on Gender in Science and Engineering (GSE) and Research on Disabilities Education (RDE) programs, REESE supports research on broadening participation in STEM education. REESE pursues its mission by developing an interdisciplinary research portfolio focusing on core scientific questions about STEM learning; it welcomes Fostering Interdisciplinary Research on Education (FIRE) projects, previously called for in a separate solicitation. REESE places particular importance upon the involvement of young investigators in the projects, at doctoral, postdoctoral, and early career stages, as well as the involvement of STEM disciplinary experts. Research questions related to educational research methodology and measurement are also central to REESE activities.