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Cpas: On The Structure And Usability Of A Course Planning And Audit System

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Conference

2009 Annual Conference & Exposition

Location

Austin, Texas

Publication Date

June 14, 2009

Start Date

June 14, 2009

End Date

June 17, 2009

ISSN

2153-5965

Conference Session

IT-based Instructional Technologies

Tagged Division

Information Systems

Page Count

18

Page Numbers

14.376.1 - 14.376.18

Permanent URL

https://peer.asee.org/5866

Download Count

23

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Paper Authors

biography

Tal Rusak Cornell University

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Tal Rusak is an undergraduate student at the Department of Computer Science at Cornell University, graduating May 2009. Tal's interests lie in understanding the structure of networks and novel computing systems as well as in the theory and practice of engineering and computer science education. Tal was recognized as the 2009 Computing Research Association (CRA) Outstanding Undergraduate Award Winner. Tal's research in modeling the temporal variations of low-power wireless network links has been published internationally and was recognized by the Best Paper Award at ACM MSWiM'08 and two first prizes at ACM Student Research Competitions. In addition, Tal has served as a teaching assistant in varied courses at Cornell, including theoretical computer science and a novel course that introduces the mathematical basis of networks to a diverse body of students.

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Christopher Barnes Cornell University

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Chris Barnes is an undergraduate student in the Department of Information Science at Cornell University. He is expecting to complete his BA in the program in May 2009. Chris is primarily interested in the architecture and interface design of web-based applications.

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G. Scott Russ Cornell University

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Scott Russ is an undergraduate student in the Department of Information Science at Cornell University. He is expecting to complete his BS in Computer Science in May 2010. Scott is primarily interested in the interface design and product strategy of web-based applications.

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Vincent Kam Cornell University

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Vincent Kam is an undergraduate student in the College of Engineering at Cornell University. He is expecting to complete his BS in Computer Science in May 2009. Vincent is one of the founders of the Course Planning and Auditing System, having conceived the idea with two of his friends during his freshman year.

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David Gries Cornell University

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David Gries is a professor of computer science and currently associate dean of Computer Science.
He received his PhD from the Technische Hocschule Munchen in 1966 and then served on the CS faculty at Stanford for three years. He has been at Cornell since 1969, except for two years at UGA, and served as the Department Chair in the 1980s.
Gries is known for his work in compiler construction and programming methodology and his textbooks in compiler writing, programming, and discrete mathematics. He has received several national/international awards for his contributions to education and is a Cornell Weiss Presidential Fellow, awarded for his contributions to undergraduate education.

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Abstract
NOTE: The first page of text has been automatically extracted and included below in lieu of an abstract

CPAS: On the Structure and Usability of a Course Planning and Audit System

Abstract

We present CPAS, a system that allows students and their advisors to track progress in an academic program. Our design is able to perform a semi-automatic audit of degree requirements; the only human-approved components are ones that require discretion.

The underlying mechanism is based on robust propositional logic with extensions that make the entry, interpretation, and audit of complex degree requirements straightforward. The system also includes support for human-approved requirements due to the natural discretion that must be applied when evaluating certain requirements, such as multiple courses with a “cohesive theme”.

Additionally, we demonstrate an implementation, which focuses on providing a clear, straightforward interface for all users while maintaining the appropriate level of security and privacy. To the best of our knowledge, CPAS is the first degree audit system that was designed with a web-based, graphical interface from the start. CPAS indicates in simple terms how a student is progressing in the degree and allows students to explore other academic programs offered at their university.

We also address several key software engineering research questions, such as the storage of complex major requirements and the design of lucid user interfaces for a variety of users. Considering the number of academic institutions and the variety of academic programs offered, quantifying and collecting correct expressions for major requirements in our system is a nontrivial problem. We explore the possibility of using a collaborative social network, with appropriate security and quality controls, for this purpose. We show how CPAS was used to enter the major requirements of complete academic programs and present a visualization functionality that illustrates such programs.

CPAS is a fundamental contribution to education research since it provides a way for academic programs to be mapped out in a generalized ontology. Thus, it allows students to maximally utilize the academic resources of their university, and it allows faculty members and departments to plan and represent programs and to advise students effectively.

1 Introduction

Traditionally, course selection and degree audits at Cornell and many other higher education institutions have been performed with paper and pencil tools or individually designed spreadsheets used by both students and departments. A fully automated solution is impossible, since some requirements need approval of the advisor or involve vague guidelines only, for example, that two courses must be “in related disciplines”. Our Course Planning and Audit System (CPAS) integrates automatically auditable requirements with those that must be manually approved in a straightforward way using a simple, well-designed web-based interface. CPAS allows degree requirements to be easily specified by department staff in a very general way. It was used in a prototype system to define the computer science degree requirements in the Engineering and Arts & Sciences colleges at Cornell and several majors at other universities.

Rusak, T., & Barnes, C., & Russ, G. S., & Kam, V., & Gries, D. (2009, June), Cpas: On The Structure And Usability Of A Course Planning And Audit System Paper presented at 2009 Annual Conference & Exposition, Austin, Texas. https://peer.asee.org/5866

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