This project will develop a virtual department across four partner campuses to provide computer science education to students at campuses that are individually too small to support this kind of department. The new department will focus on the analysis of "big data" - large sets of computational and observational data - that are becoming increasingly prevalent in STEM. Cyber-learning techniques such as recorded lectures, archived materials, blog participation, and active learning approaches will be combined to offer a set of classes in big data science spanning meteorology, environmental science, biology and chemistry. By combining students from different campuses into the same courses, problems with minimal resources and limited potential enrollments on the individual campuses can be overcome. In particular, the project will focus on developing courses in biology and earth science, areas where students are not attracted by traditional computer science classes.
The project will develop a flexible, blended learning model and effective learning assessment tools that can be implemented across multiple disciplines and institutions. The major goals and corresponding objectives of the project are to: 1) Develop and implement high quality and relevant Computational and Data-Enabled Science and Engineering (CDSE) courses in mathematical modeling, data mining, genomics and bioinformatics, and problems in atmospheric and hydrospheric science using active learning and research-based teaching methodologies that promote inter-institutional and interdisciplinary collaboration. 2) Use innovative web-based technologies, to develop and implement learning assessment tools to gauge achievement of students from diverse backgrounds and contexts. 3) Develop, implement, and test an expanded CDSE pedagogical network in which resource sharing allows institutions of all sizes and types to consistently and sustainably offer CDSE coursework. Instructors from different campuses will be paired in a peer teaching/peer review model for course design and implementation. Including pairs of instructors from different institutions ensures that (1) each instructor will gain the knowledge and experience to teach a new course that is originally developed by the other instructor; and (2) the courses are thoroughly reviewed and revised by peers. The coalition will share its discoveries in building inter-institutional teaching efficiency, undergraduate research opportunities, and learning assessment via online networks, new coalition partners, conferences, and publications.