Virginia Tech among four institutions to receive NSF grant focused on improving computing education
The Living In the KnowlEdge Society Community Building project has received a National Science Foundation (NSF)-Pathways to Revitalized Undergraduate Computing Education (CPATH) award of $498,957. More than half of the grant, $289,999 is assigned to Virginia Tech, one of the four participating universities.
The other three universities are: Villanova University, North Carolina A&T University, and Santa Clara University.
“The hope of the Living In the KnowlEdge Society Community Building Project developers is that the transforming of education in computing-related disciplines will yield a next generation of contributors to the knowledge-based society” said Edward Fox, LIKES principal investigator and professor of computer science in the College of Engineering at Virginia Tech.
This is an interdisciplinary initiative. Co-principal investigators at Virginia Tech include faculty from the College of Engineering and the Pamplin College of Business: Carlos Evia, assistant professor of professional writing; Weiguo (Patrick) Fan, associate professor of accounting and information systems/computer science; Steven Sheetz, associate professor of accounting and information systems; and Christopher Zobel, associate professor of business information technology. Co-principal investigators at Villanova, North Carolina A&T, and Santa Clara are Robert Beck, Ed Carr, and Wingyan Chung, respectively.
The LIKES project seeks to deliver new pedagogies in computing education; integration of computing concepts into non-computing disciplines, such as psychology and marketing; principles, guidelines, and techniques for integrating computing and non-computing curricula; and formation of new communities for enhancing that integration.
Through a series of four workshops, related online discussions, and research, the LIKES community is discovering key computing-related issues in core disciplines and engaging leaders nationwide in brainstorming about their computing education needs, as well as facilitating the helpful application of computing for individuals, groups and organizations, globally and in the United States.
The primary mission is to bring together faculty members in computing-related education programs, such as computer science and information systems/technology, with faculty in core/liberal education courses such as psychology and sociology, to enhance students’ computing competencies as well as facility with key computing-related paradigms and concepts.
The project will achieve this mission by placing computing concepts within context. For example, user-interface design principles could be used as a tool to understand the costs and benefits of electronic voting in a political science course, or hierarchical data management techniques could be used to illustrate the taxonomy of species in a biology class.
Similarly, tackling such problems in computing classes enhances learning by emphasizing the role of computing throughout society. The message conveyed to all educators is that computing is embedded in modern life, and that managing personal and organizational information is inherent in the jobs of the future, regardless of discipline. The result will be students’ full engagement with computing concepts, in a more direct and meaningful way.
“We embrace an open, welcoming approach towards students from liberal education backgrounds (in addition to those focused on science, engineering, or other concentrations), with the ambition to connect to a more diverse audience who should not miss the opportunity to enjoy the quality of life that computing education has to offer,” Fox said.
The CPATH vision, according to NSF, is of a U.S. workforce with the computing competencies and skills imperative to the Nation’s health, security, and prosperity in the 21st century. Of key importance to this objective is the radical transformation of undergraduate education on a national scale. Colleges and universities, industry and professional societies, collaborate in this long-term plan to refresh undergraduate computing education in the United States.