Reengineering an Introductory Computer Education Course for Undergraduate Students

Reengineering an Introductory Computer Education Course for Undergraduate Students

Farhat (Meena) J. Lakhavani (Carnegie Mellon University, USA) and April Rupp (Carnegie Mellon University, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-2214-2.ch004

Abstract

Computing@Carnegie Mellon (C@CM), a required 3-unit course for all incoming Carnegie Mellon undergraduate students, went through total reengineering during 2010. The content, the delivery method, and the support model for this course were all changed simultaneously. The objective of this case study is to share experiences in reengineering this introductory computer education course, including experiences with reengineering the content, the delivery method, and the support model in a rapid rollout mode. Specifically, this case study will discuss lessons learned and speculate on the next step for future academic years based on the successes and challenges in teaching this reengineered course to 1,683 students during the 2010-2011 academic year.
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Organization Background

Carnegie Mellon has been teaching all undergraduate students essential computing skills for more than 22 years. Along with the content, the name of the course evolved from “Computing Skill Workshop” to Computing@Carnegie Mellon (C@CM). C@CM is a required 3-unit course for all incoming undergraduate students. C@CM teaches essential skills for making efficient, responsible, and safe use of electronic resources and effectively finding and evaluating information at CMU. Previously, trained undergraduate student instructors delivered C@CM in the computer labs on both Window and Macintosh computers. Over the last year, C@CM has transitioned to a hybrid course utilizing the Open Learning Initiative (OLI) online environment along with recitation sessions in the computer labs. This course is developed and supported in collaboration with our campus partners across campus (see Figure 1).

Figure 1.

Support partners

Students take this course from all colleges and disciplines, including the School of Computer Science, the College of Fine Arts, the Tepper School of Business, the Dietrich College of Humanities and Social Sciences, and the Mellon College of Sciences.

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Case Description

Course Overview

C@CM is a 3-unit, seven-week long course required for all incoming undergraduate students at Carnegie Mellon. A requirement since 1989, C@CM teaches essential skills for making efficient, responsible and safe use of electronic resources, and for effectively finding and evaluating information at Carnegie Mellon. Until 2009, trained undergraduate student instructors in a computing lab delivered C@CM. During 2009, we piloted one of the course modules in the OLI environment while keeping rest of the course in traditional teaching mode. Following a successful 2009 pilot of one module in the OLI environment, the C@CM Advisory Committee approved the proposal to transition all of the C@CM content to OLI for the academic year 2010-2011. The reengineered C@CM was implemented using the OLI’s methodology for course design and delivery, in addition to principles derived from empirical research for successful hybrid course delivery.

The new C@CM course includes an updated structure that provides a self-directed, online instruction scaffolded with human support services. The delivery model offers opportunities for students to work ahead and attempt the final exam early, offering a venue for students with pre-existing knowledge and schedule constraints, while defining a minimum schedule and required milestones, which provides structure to ensure that students didn’t fall behind. Success in the course is evaluated with graded, proctored final assessment. We work vigilantly throughout the duration of the course to increase student’s engagement with the content.

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