All posts by AbdelRahman

PFPS15 Journal

Here I write some notes about higher education inspired by taking Preparing Future Professoriate (PFP) course. I tried to use some readings along with lectures’ notes and discussions. I wrote these notes as topics by the sequence they were given in lectures. I indicated beside each topic the lecture number(s) in which this topic was discussed.

Universities History (1)
I learned about the first universities int the world and I was proud to see that Al-Azhar university, in my country Egypt, was one of these universities. I was glad to see the history of universities in United States, as for myself I like to read about history in all its branches. I learned about the land-grant universities and knew that there is also sun-grant, sea-grant, and sea-grant. I linked between land-grant universities and public universities in Egypt as I think most public universities in Egypt are established in a way similar to land-grant universities.

I learned also about other types of universities like research-universities and realized that we have a new research university in Egypt which is Nile-university. There is also, Master’s colleges, historical black universities, tribal colleges, etc. I knew that some of these universities requires special costumes to be worn in the campus and related this to Al-Azhar university which also requires special costumes in some disciplines.

Mission Statement and Some Statistics (2)

This was my first time to get a look at a university mission statement. I believe that it is important to know the statement of the university you are going to attend but unfortunately I did not have a chance to look before. Beside, the mission statement of Virginia Tech, I wrote a Blog about the mission statements of MIT and UCLA as two top-ranked universities in computer Engineering.

*Update: I’m going to attend a summer school this semester in UCLA which gives me a great honor to be there. I was inspired by following UCLA news after I wrote about their mission statement.

As for statistics, I was surprised by the huge number of universities in the united states. I did not think about this before and the number actually exceeded my expectations. As for universities, I knew about University of Phoenix as the largest university with about a quarter-million of undergraduate students. I also learned useful information on how to know approximately the range of salaries according to the university and discipline from the Chronicle of higher education.

Faculty and Administration (3)

I learned about the tenure-track in US universities and how the assistant-professor tries to do his best in research and the number of publications he is expected to make within the five-years period. Also, his evaluation in teaching and dealing with students and other faculty.

It was my first time to know about other faculty potions (non-tenure track) like research faculty. Actually, this system is completely different from that in my country; Egypt; as the tenure-track is given to high-ranked undergraduate-students once they graduate. They are required to get their Masters and Ph.D’s within some period of time, typically around ten years, to become tenure. This process actually weakens the educational system in Egypt as assistant professors are not required to make any research to keep their positions.

For administration-positions, I learned the hierarchy of these positions and how the candidates go through a search process in order to select best persons who can serve in these positions. Again, this completely different from my Country where these positions usually are given according to political views.

Communicating Science (4)

Although this was not a usual lecture, as we took the lecture in a GLC meeting room. The lecture was not a usual one that we stay and take notes or participate in discussion, the lecture was about using communicating science but in a practical way. We all know how to communicate with people in our disciplines using jargon and the same ways of publications, i.e., journals, conferences, posters, etc., but how to communicate with people from other disciplines that was the topic of the lecture.

The principles of communicating science are how the to make the communication more direct, personal, spontaneous and responsive. The first rule I have learned in this class is how to overcome your fears of speaking to others. We played some carefully chosen games with each game was done with different partners in order for us to communicate with the maximum number of students from different disciplines and origins.

This class inspired me first to take the Communicating Science course next semester and also to try being more social in the future.

Ethics of Higher Education (5,6)

I learned about the code of ethics. Before the lecture, I have knew about the Honor code of Virginia Tech through classes I have taken before. However, this was the first time foe me to know that before applying this system, it was up to the instructor to make decisions of cheating students. For my self, I like the code of ethics to be applied in all universities, However it may look harsh, but I think it is more fair that all students get the same punishment for the same action.

In Egypt we let decisions to be in the hand of instructors or even faculty dean. And in this case, it is totally evaluative and the student could not be punished at all while another student could get kicked out of the university fro two years. We had a discussion in class today about what we shall do if we caught someone cheating during an exam. I actually had this situation number of times when I was a lecturer assistant in Egypt. In these situation I took the cheating student to the instructor or proctor and unfortunately, they did not give the same reaction each time. I wish that they apply the honor code system in Egypt with a transition period until the students get familiar with it and learn to apply the rules.

*update: I wrote a Blog about IEEE code of ethics and I was fascinated by how it is organized in ten points and covers the responsibility of its members against many parties and said that I wish to be a member in it. Now, I’m a student member in IEEE, I found that they make huge discounts for students and that’s how I joined.

Plagiarism, Misconduct and ORI (5,6)

I learned today about plagiarism, and how someone could make self-plagiarism without intention. I knew about plagiarism cases such as in articles, teaching philosophy and dissertations. I think the most unnoticed plagiarism comes in dissertations or thesis because the researcher is required to fill a large number of pages which he sometimes tend to copy from or at least doest not rephrase which he have read in other articles or books.

I was sad to know that most plagiarism cases happen in Engineering, where researchers could falsify the results and give biased results to help their ideas. For me, I see no problem in making a research that does not give ideal (or at least good) result, by publishing these results as they are, you are saving others time from trying this research procedure. However, I think this happens as most of the research is funded by industry and people in industry want to see good results!.

I knew today also about the great pretender who falsified all his research results for a long period of time and he actually had a large number of publications which turned into to be fake at last. I wrote a Blog also about one case from Office of Research Integrity (ORI) in which the researcher falsified the input data by assuming that she have a larger sample of inputs that she actually had and provided results based on these falsified data. This was my first time to hear about ORI, but I actually was happy that something like this exists to prevent researchers from fabricating their results.

Global Higher Education(7,8)

I talked today along with my friend about higher education in Egypt. We took much of the lecture talking about higher education in Egypt and how the system actually differs from that in US and other countries. From our discussion and compared to the experience we get from listening to higher education in other countries, we get to know that our educational system in Egypt needs to be developed in a large way.

From my colleagues talking, I liked the education system in Puerto Rico which is similar in many ways to that in US however most of classes are taken at night as the faculty members have jobs in industry at the morning. Also, they do not have the concept of students living in campus as student commute to campus daily like in Egypt. Also the official language in their universities is Spanish not English.

Education system in Columbia is also interesting, they have their GPA from 5 not 4 as the rest of countries. Also the case that all university buildings are monitored by cadets which in someway not comfortable to all students. We have in Egypt police officers and cadets on the campus gates as campuses are fenced in Egypt, but not in every single building.

Unfortunately, I’ll not be able to attend the second lecture on global higher education as I’m in Washington D.C. to finish some papers in my embassy. I wish if I were there to make useful of other countries experience in higher education.

Meet the Dean

Today, I met Dr. Karen DePauw as planned by the “meet the dean” task. I really enjoyed the meeting minutes we have talked together and I felt a great honor to speaking to her. We talked about VT-MENA program and what I plan to do after graduation. I told her that I likes Blacksburg as a small and quite town and knew from her that most land-grant universities have the same experience. I told her that I’ll make my essay about the comparison of higher education between Egypt and US or I may choose another topic after last Monday discussion in the lecture, and she agreed for both. I think I should begin early in writing the essay as there is not much time remaining in the semester.

Everything Is a Remix (9)

We had a discussion today about is everything actually a remix or not. I watched a TED talk before the class k by Kirby Ferguson claiming that everything is actually a remix and nothing more is original. The talk was mainly about Bob Dylan a famous singer and composer who take the most of his songs from previous songs as of lyrics or melody. I read about this topic and found a quote saying “Good Artists Copy; Great Artists Steal”, that’s why these artists became great.

In my opinion, I do not stand in the same side as Kirby Ferguson. I can believe that every small idea in any aspect is an innovation. The person who creates a joke, the writer of good novel or song, the composer of a good melody, the researches which add a small idea to the research, the author of a brilliant tv ad, etc. All these made their minds and got new and creative ideas this could not be a remix. These people may not get to be famous but they really know how to use their minds. If we to believe that everything is a remix, we will get to stop using our minds. I’m sure that we need to see what others made and make use of it adding our ideas to improve it.

Open Access (9)

We also talked today about open access. I was surprised that many other disciplines have open access journals that they can get free access to articles. This is not the case in my discipline as most of the articles are owned by IEEE and ACM which require a subscription to access articles.

*Update: I wrote a Blog about open access in my discipline. I was not able to find an open access journal, so I talked about arXiv.org which is pronounced as archive (the letter X in Spanish in pronounced ch).

Using Technology and The Future of Higher Education (10)

We had a nice talk about the use of Massive Open On-line Courses (MOOCs) in higher education. I actually can see that MOOCs help students to learn on-line without being tied to specific class time and location. I wrote a Blog yesterday about the future of higher education and how universities should balance between on-line courses and traditional courses. I learned also types of MOOCs which are xMOOCs and cMOOCs.

As for the future of higher education, most people in the class see that it will develop but in the similar way it is going now. This means that there will not be a great difference in the near future about the current system. This because higher education usually absorbs new technology and make use of it and so it is always evolving. My opinion about the change was that universities should create new multi-disciplinary programs to make use of many disciplines. I liked dr. DePauw view of I, T, and Pi about the depth and width of how the student should be immersed in some discipline and specific topic during his research.

Social media in higher education

I found this interesting infographic about the usage of social media in higher education. It’s not a surprise that the adoption of social media has increased in higher education in the past few years. The infographic was made based on interviews conducted in the fifty states and ranged between public and private institutes.

We can notice form the infographic that, by 2011 all the schools reported that they are using social media in higher education. The most used social media sites were Facebook, Twitter, Youtube, and blogging. However, when asked about the future usage, institutes reported that they plan to use blogging and Twitter by a higher percentage than other social media sites.

For blogging, as we are using blogging in this course, students reported that they are m likely to subscribe to blogs using RSS over emails. Also, when compared to other sectors, higher education showed a great increase in blogging usage over Fortune 500 and charities.

For students, around fifty percent of them reported that they don’t know about their schools policy of using social media, some if them said that they don’t know if the school has such a policy or not. Finally, students were more comfortable using Facebook, Youtube, blogging, Twitter rather than other types of social media.

Open Access

Open access in computer engineering/science is not that common. Most of the publications in this field belong to IEEE or ACM which both require a subscription to access the papers/articles. However,  we can find articles with open access at arXiv.org.

The arXiv has around million articles of electronic scientific papers in the fields of mathematics, physics, astronomy, computer science, quantitative biology,statistics, and quantitative finance, which can be accessed online.  The idea behind arXiv started around 1990, it began as a physics archive but soon expanded to include other fields. It began by other names and was given its current name at 1999 when it was moved to Cornell University. It is now hosted principally by Cornell, with 8 mirrors around the world. arXiv is maintained and operated by the Cornell University Library with guidance from the arXiv Scientific Advisory Board and the arXiv Member Advisory Board, and with the help of numerous subject moderators.

The idea behind the arXiv is to publish articles before they got peer reviewed. By doing so, authors do have the copyrights of their articles and so they can safely publish them. However, publishing papers that not yet reviewed could be someway danger or misleading, hence, arXiv has a collection of moderators for each area that review the submissions. They may re-categorize any that are deemed off-topic or reject submissions that are not scientific papers. The lists of moderators for many sections of the arXiv are publicly available, but moderators for most of the physics sections remain unlisted.

arXiv’s experience was one of the main factors that led to the current movement in scientific publishing and open access. Researches regularly upload their papers to arXiv for worldwide access and sometimes for reviews before they are published in peer-reviewed journals.

arXiv was the leader in open-access with the philosophy of making scientific articles available for everyone with a computer and internet access. The papers are called e-prints and are of small electronic size that could be easily downloaded. It is no doubt that arXiv led the open-access in the past decades and influenced other journals or sites to adopt this concept and made their contents publicly available which in total enriches the scientific research.

Higher education future (Improving higher education)

Thinking about the future of higher education is not that easy. For decades, higher education witnessed development in many ways. Usually, higher education institutes tend to apply new technologies in education. We can see that it is easy nowadays to attend lectures hundred of miles away using V.Tel. or by even Skype. technologies also helped in the interaction between instructors and students using web-pages and forums. Therefore, what I expect is that the higher education will remain evolving to include newer technologies. However, I want to talk about two points that I think higher education institutes should take care of.

The first point is that we can see the direction towards E-learning is increasing. E-learning is the name given to learning electronically, usually using a computer and an internet connection to access the courses online. E-learning helps students to study everywhere and anytime and not to be restricted to certain time and location of regular classes.   Institutes should balance E-learning and traditional learning, this  should happen by allowing some courses to be throw the internet while keeping the communication between students and instructors in regular periods of time.

The other point for the institutes is introducing multidisciplinary curricula. We can see that the accumulation between disciplines especially science, engineering, and technology can benefit for introducing new solutions to human life problems. Students, from themselves, tend to work in cross-discipline  areas as they can benefit from the advancement in both disciplines.  Therefore, institutes should go for facilitating this type of education by offering new programs in these cross-disciplinary topics.

In a nutshell, higher education future will keep evolving by applying new technologies as what happens in usual. However, universities should take care of somethings that need quick response such as offering new multidisciplinary programs and balancing E-learning with the traditional learning.

Misconduct case study (Scholarly Integrity)

I visited the ORI scholarly integrity website and saw many cases that were accused of research misconduct. I didn’t know before that such a thing exists. However, I totally agree with listing cases of people who made research misconduct as this will help future researchers to not think in falsification of any results or they will get exposed in the same way.

After looking at some cases, I found out that most cases were from medicine and health disciplines.  I can’t imagine misconducting in these critical disciplines as this may harm people or endanger their lives. The case I selected was for Cokonis, Melanie.

Two things made me interested in this case, first what she forge was not the final results but only the assay date. She took a small matrix of input data and copied it in a spreadsheet and created many unreal numbers to make her research looks valuable. With such a small mistake, she was accused by research misconduct as any researcher could have used her results, came from fabricated inputs, and considered it as real results. This may cause sever results especially in treatment or virus control.

The second thing that attracted me to this case, is that Melanie confessed with her mistake and  voluntarily agreed, for a period of three years, that she will exclude herself from any contracting or subcontracting with any agency of the United States Government and also to exclude herself voluntarily from serving in any advisory capacity. I think this is a good step from her to rebuild the research community’s confidence in her.

Finally, we can conclude that, even small mistakes or fabrications in scientific research could lead you to fall under research misconduct. Therefore, you should avoid any falsification and show you results as they are even if they are not that promising. It is enough that your research will save another researcher time as he will know that the method you used will not be helpful. The other thing is to confess your mistakes and to show regret that you will not return to them again.

IEEE code of ethics (scholarly integrity)

As an electrical engineer before being a graduate student, I was eager to look at the IEEE code of ethics. IEEE stands for the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers.  IEEE is the world’s largest professional association dedicated to advancing technological innovation and excellence for the benefit of humanity. After I became a graduate student, I’m still highly connected to IEEE as most of the scientific conferences and journals, where I can get my references or able to publish my work, are held or organized by IEEE. All these reasons pushed me to look at the IEEE code of Ethics.

We can see that the members of IEEE when they made this code were focusing on the importance of their technologies in affecting the quality of life throughout the world. They felt that as they accepted a personal obligation to their profession, and they should commit their-selves to the highest ethical and professional conduct.

The code of Ethics includes their agreement to accept responsibility in making decisions consistent with the safety, health, and welfare of the public. Also, to avoid real or perceived conflicts of interest whenever possible, and to disclose them to affected parties. These are the first two items in the conduct which reveal how the members wanted the good of human life and to wanted to have a respectful and comfort working environment away from conflicts of interest.

Moreover, the members agreed to be honest and realistic in stating claims or estimates based on available data and to reject bribery in all its forms. These items are actually a must for any scientific research as without these principles no one can trust any scientific results.

From their duty towards electrical engineers, the members agreed to improve the understanding of technology, to improve technical competence, and to undertake technological tasks for others.

For the scientific research, they agreed to seek, accept, and offer honest criticism of technical work, to acknowledge and correct errors, and to credit properly the contributions of others.  Also to treat fairly all persons and to not engage in acts of discrimination based on race, religion, gender, disability, age, national origin, sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender expression. Again these items must exist in any code of ethics in all disciplines.

Finally, they agreed to avoid injuring others, their property, reputation, or employment by false or malicious action and to assist colleagues and co-workers in their professional development.

I can see that this Code of Ethics is written very well which is suitable for a large organization like IEEE. I’m not actually a member of IEEE but I should be soon as I’ll be proud to join such a reputable organization which value the importance of ethics.

Communicating science

We had a workshop today on communicating science. The workshop aimed at teaching us some basic communication skills especially communication with people out of our fields. The instructor did so by letting us play some games that are carefully designed to give lessons. These games aim at encouraging you to melt the ice in your communication with new people that are out of your discipline.

I passed very good time with many partners in this workshop. I talked with someone about my hometown. Usually, I can say only two or three sentences about my hometown but today, as we were asked to speak for a specific period of time, I found many things to say about the history of my town and cultures there. In the same time, I learned some habits and customs from my partner’s hometown.

In another game, with more partners, I gave some information about myself. I chose to be the last one to speak about myself. I actually learned from them some new ideas in introducing yourself. I think this will help me in the future when I’m trying to introduce myself or get to know new persons. Again, I made use of the way everyone talks about himself and found out new points to speak in that I haven’t thought in before.

I also shared some story with another partner. She had a sad story but she was able to overcome it with the help of her students and friends. I actually was sad for her, but I felt that this story is inspiring in the way she was able to overcome a very sad event she had passed.

Other games were also there and were all useful. I’m sure that this active communication we had today will help a lot in preparing us as future professors. Being a professor requires you to have good communication skills.

I usually classify myself as a shy person, but today I found out that I can be some way social and interact with other people without having problems. I hope that the incentive I had today, continues with me and helps me to be able to participate in future lectures or talks. Finally, I had a very good day and I need to thank the instructor and my partners.

Mission statements!!

This article is not about a mission that I plan to go on, I hope it was but let’s postpone this story to another time. This article is actually about my view for the mission statements of two universities. When I decided to choose two universities to talk about their mission statements, I got the idea to look for two high ranked universities.  I think as these are high ranked universities, then they have made good missions and were able to follow them. Although this is may not reveal the complete picture as we may find fabulous mission statements in other universities especially fast developing ones, but I’ll go for two high ranked universities this time which are MIT (Massachusetts Information Technology) and UCLA (University of California, Los Angeles).

Both MIT and UCLA are located in the united States of America and both are high ranked universities. They differ in that the former is a private research university while the later is a public research university. At a quick glance, we can see that both mission statements are well written and are focused on actual goals. They are not that lengthy and are concentrated.

By a deep looking at the statements, we can figure out that both universities are interested in developing their people. Both universities look at a diverse nation where they need to deal with many different cultures and visions. MIT took this from the perspective of serving the whole world while UCLA took this from being located in one of the world’s most diverse and vibrant cities. Both universities seek to provide students with a fundamental understanding of a broad range of disciplines beside being able to be creative and innovative for the betterment of humankind.

What actually differs UCLA from MIT, is that UCLA in its mission statement seeks to serve society. This is of course because of its nature of being a public university rather than a private one. UCLA does so by aiming to educate successive generations of leaders, and to pass on to students a renewable set of skills and commitment to social engagement.

In a nutshell, both MIT and UCLA made very good mission statements that focus on developing students through knowledge and experiments to be creative and innovative in order to benefit the world. However, UCLA increased the goal of serving the society to its missions.