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Title: Inter-Class Collaboration Project to Enhance Learning in Computer Science

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2018 ASEE Zone IV Conference


Boulder, Colorado

Publication Date

March 25, 2018

Start Date

March 25, 2018

End Date

March 27, 2018

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Paper Authors


Maria Pantoja California Polytechnic State University San Luis Obispo

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Maria Pantoja
Computer Engineering
Computer Science & Software Engineering
Office: 14-211
Phone Number: 805-756-1330
B.S., Universidad Politecnica de Valencia, Spain
Ph.D., Santa Clara University

Research Interests
High Performance Computing
Parallel Computing

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Zoe Wood Wood Cal Poly - San Luis Obispo

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Engineers in general and computer scientists in particular are required to work in collaborative, interdisciplinary environments. Communication skills and the ability to work in groups within different departments inside a company are often required for jobs in the industry. To expose students to this collaborative experience most engineering programs require a senior design project in the last year of courses, however, these capstone type projects risk creating a feeling of disconnect as opposed to an integrated experience with the prior curriculum. To further improve our students’ collaboration skills and expose students to the pedagogical benefits of collaborative learning, we designed and implemented a collaboration between two different computer science classes (CS). Our collaborative inter-class project has the immediate intention of mutual learning across related but distinct topics, but also to increase student retention of knowledge by providing them with a similar experience to what they will encounter in industry. These kinds of hands-on applied team work exercises have been shown to have benefits for all students and for female students in particular. Our collaboration involves two distinct but related courses in Computer Science, Parallel Programming (PP) and Computer Graphics (CG). While both class contents are essentially different, in reality most computer graphics problems are executed on Graphical Processing Units (GPUs) which are heavily studied and used in PP; and many of the very interesting problems in PP are CG related. To facilitate and enhance the collaboration, the professors teaching the two classes structured the collaboration to enhance the learning for both classes. The Inter-class collaboration consists of two weeks: one week for the course content (theoretical) and a second week for a lab experience (hands-on). For the first week the individual classes come together in the same classroom and on one day they receive a focused introduction to Parallel Programming and the following day they receive a focused introduction to Computer Graphics. In the second week the students work in groups of mixed CG and PP students and work on a lab together that consists in two parts, one with a more graphics related focus while the other with a more parallel focused implementation (but both closely related in terms of general task). The goal is for each group of mixed student teams, CG and PP, to trade-off the leadership role and communicate their expertise to the other group. To evaluate the collaborative experience, we use the student lab reports and the results of an anonymous student survey. The survey shows very positive comments about the experience. Based on our experience using inter-class collaboration for two quarters, we have decided to continue with the practice this year and we will gather more information in a more detailed survey and aim to make this collaboration a permanent feature in both classes. We also plan to explore how to integrate this kind of inter-class collaboration in additional upper division computing classes and senior projects. Pedagogical Theory: pedagogical benefits of collaboration Output: set of labs and combined lectures Evaluation methods: anonymous survey

Pantoja, M., & Wood, Z. (2018, March), Title: Inter-Class Collaboration Project to Enhance Learning in Computer Science Paper presented at 2018 ASEE Zone IV Conference, Boulder, Colorado.

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