What changes should be made in this Fall semesters (Additional blog post 5)

Since we are at the end of the Spring semester, the weirdest and shocking semester in my life, we are starting to look at the future semesters. As we know that the Summer 1 semester will be the same as the Spring semester where courses will be totally virtual, which is a good decision. What about the Fall semester?

In the fall semester, there may be a decision that the semester will be an optional face to face instruction. Optional here means that students can choose between attending lectures at the campus or attend them at home using online teaching. Of course, this will add more efforts to instructors to prepare both instructions but if they recorded their videos correctly, they can use these videos to be the virtual part. This way, instructors will be able to offer both types without any extra efforts.

We also need to have COVID19 tests available to students, this will help all people in the university to be safe and away from the infection. I know that this will cost the university a lot, but spending money to save your people’s health will be less expensive than spending money to treat them.

What about the fees? We all pay a lot of money in what is called, comprehensive fees, these fees are related to activities and benefits that happen only on campus. Honestly, I only use the bus and the Gym. So, I pay money for things that I will never use or never used before. Since the Fall may be optional to come to the campus, the fees should be reduced because it will be insane to pay for the Gym or the bus and you are in another state or country.

At the end, I hope that the Fall semester is a normal semester where I teach in a face to face mode. I missed talking to my students and telling jokes and taking images with them. I am really sad that this Spring semester’s students will not see each other again and we will not have the class image as what I used to do in previous semesters.

Miss all of my students

 

Posted in Preparing Future Professoriate

Future of the Education

At the beginning of this year, I was thinking about what are possible changes will happen to higher education. Students are increasing in numbers and universities are keep increasing their departments to have enough space for more students. Also, universities started to offer online and virtual courses. In addition, there are a lot of Massive open online courses (MOOCs) courses that allow students to take courses and exams from their houses.  These MOOCs help many students in poor countries to have good quality education in big universities without enrolling in these expensive universities. So, what is next? We already have many changes that are happened in education.

However, if you look at higher education in third countries we will see that there are so few changes made on higher education and normal education. Most universities are using traditional ways of teaching. But, students are more aware of the new changes that happen in the global systems. They know about the existence of MOOCs and they use them to learn the topics instead of attending the lectures. Also, there are some online universities that started recently in those countries that allow students to study without going to university.

So, if we looked at what happened in the recent few years we will see that there are good changes that happened to higher education and the majority of these changes are happening in the universities themselves. So, what next? Here are some things need to change

  • As years go, students are more diverse and there must be more rules to guarantee the inclusion to all students.
  • Students’ numbers are increasing tremendously. Universities must go toward online teaching. This will save space for all students.
  • Better future professoriate preparation. COVID19 shows that we are not ready for the future. Instructors are struggling to teach online courses and work with new tools that are made to facilitate online teaching.
  • Do more research on open source tools to support online teaching. Most of the good Softwares like Zoom, Kultura and Canvas are expensive. Yes, there are open source versions from them but with limited capabilities. We need more funds to build better tools that are openly available.
  • Attract more diverse students. Diversity allows universities to have more ideas and solutions. What I see know is that there are two or three countries that are dominating all universities, because of their large population, but there are other countries that have good students with better ideas and will add more value to any university.

No one can predict the changes that will happen to education in the future. As we see, COVID19 changed everything in education in one day. Thus there are some ideas and plans we need to have for the future but we must also prepare emergency plans because anything can happen suddenly and we must be prepared.

Posted in Preparing Future Professoriate

Preparing Future Online Professoriate (Additional Blog 4)

Since the start of the COVID Pandemic, all professors had to move their life

  1. From face to face teaching to online teaching
  2. From meeting with students in the lab to Zoom meeting with students
  3. From attending conferences in person and give paper presentations to virtual presentations.
  4. From going to the campus to working from home

In general, people moved toward using technology more extensively to make their work and life continue similar to the usual life. As a computer science student, I do not find that to be a problem at all. We are used to working with technology or invent some new technology, during our ordinary working life. Of course, I faced some troubles to move to online teaching and meeting with my advisor. But in general, I am facing less trouble than people in other departments that are not related to Engineering, I am talking in general.

I keep having many questions from friends who are teaching or preparing virtual presentations. most of these questions are related to the lack of technology usage. As a university, we have to prepare all of our professors to be ready for similar circumstances in the future. A course like Preparing Future Professoriate should focus on preparing all attendees to be working online. My opinion is to create a new course to teach our graduate students who are interested in working in academia to be ready, technologically, to work under similar situations in the future. The current Pandemic showed us that we have a great shortage incorrectly preparing professors to work under similar situations. Situations like a war, or even increasing the number of students with a lack of space on campus will force universities to work online. We need all professors to be ready for any possible future Pandemic or situation that requires a virtual campus.

For instance, Virginia Tech Technology-enhanced Learning and Online Strategies TILOs department asked for some volunteers to help to teach instructors to work with Kaltura and Zoom tools. What we found is that there are some instructors who do not know how to work with many basic technologies. This should not be allowed in any university that wants to be leading the nation to the future.

In the end, Virginia Tech made great efforts since the beginning of this Pandemic. Starting from the great decision form President Sands that extended the Spring break for another week. This gave all instructors the ability to be ready for the big shift. Tech also offered 4 hours of sessions that teach professors and Teaching assistance on how to work with different tools like Zoom and Kaltura. Tech also is paying enough money to ensure that all advanced tools and technology exist for many years. This allowed Tech to move smoothly to a virtual campus in one week. This is the reason that all universities should look at Virginia Tech and mimic their ideas and policies that allowed Tech to survive the Pandemic.

Posted in Preparing Future Professoriate

All in one environments in higher education

As the years’ pass, higher education becomes more challenging. If we look back 10 years ago, we will see that there was no diversity today. Also, teaching techniques were limited and also the science of teaching was evolving. Now, we have so many papers that study different teaching strategies and compare these strategies together to give us the recommendations about what to use, when and the expected outcome

This semester I am studying Comtemproray pedagogy class. During this class, I learned about sincere teaching, diversity and inclusive classrooms, and finally, the problem-based pedagogy. the question now is how to build an environment that has as much as possible from these wonderful ideas.

Let us start by Problem-Based Learning (PBL) environment. Since I am a Computer Science student who is seeking an instructor position in CS, I will be asked to teach a number of courses. Some of them are theory course where I have to give a traditional teaching technique. But, there are many courses that can be taught using PBL. The most famous course that can be taught as PBL is the Data Structures and Algorithms course CS 3114.

CS 3114 is one of the most fundamental courses in the Computer Science department at Virginia Tech. CS 3114 is about advanced data structures and analysis of data structure and algorithm performance. In this course, students study a variety of algorithms to solve complicated problems that will face them after graduation. Problems like Sorting, searching, hashing, advanced tree structures and algorithms, and File system organization and access methods. Students study the available methods (algorithms) to solve these problems and the efficiency (in terms of time and memory required) of the solutions.

Since CS3114 is similar to what CS students are expected to see in their careers, applying PBL is most fit. CS3114 programming projects are very important as they will give students the required hands-on experiences that they need to fully digest the ideas and principles discussed in the course and apply them in new situations.

Then how to be inclusive in this course? The best way is to force groups to have diverse students and apply rules to ensure mutual respect between team members. For example, I am an international student and I am a Muslim, a minority in the USA. In every course, I enroll in I look for other minorities because I know that we are on the same page. I also try to avoid interactions with other students. If I forced to be working in a group with different students who have different gender, ethnicity, etc. I will be able to interact with them and know about their ideas and beliefs. This will increase the knowledge and respect for others and their beliefs.

Also as the Contemporary pedagogy instructor said, when he gave a similar setup in his engineering course, an international student commented that that was the first time he felt that he is respected and included.

 

Posted in Contemporary pedagogy blogs

Absence of Money in Education Leads to Using Social Media to Communicate with Students

Higher education requires a large amount of money to help students to learn correctly and interact with the course contents and instructors in the correct way. Being a student and an instructor here at Virginia Tech taught me that.

At Tech, we have a huge Learning Management System like Canvas that can connect all students with TAs and instructors. Students also can know announcements in real-time. Instructors can tell every student anything by just write an announcement on Canvas. Instructors also can know a lot of useful statistics by a look at Canvas grades. Canvas makes instructors and students that they are in the same boat. We all can communicate and interact easily. A good advantage also in Canvas is that students can save their privacy. No one knows the grades and points for any other student.

Since Canvas work under an LTI education technology, Learning Tools Interoperability. There are dozens of tools that can be integrated with Canvas to add more features to help both instructors and teachers. Examples for these tools are:

  1. Zoom. Zoom in now the number one tool that every single person in the Education system is using to communicate with students and other colleagues. Since the COVID19 pandemic started, we only use ZOOM to give office hours to students, to make meetings with supervisors and take lectures.
  2. GradeScope. This useful software helps instructors to grade assignments and exams and save enormous amount of time by embedding Machine Learning to group similar answers together so Instudntors are only grading the same answers once. It also allows students to ask for regarding some questions.
  3. Kaltura, this tool is used extensively to record videos and save them on Canvas.

All these tools are expensive. Not every university can pay for these tools and many many more tools. So coming from a third country where education is not a priority while the army is Smilie: :)

I remember when I was teaching in my country, we do not have any tools to communicate with students. What is the free to use and easy to access tool, YES FACEBOOK

All instructors have FB accounts, by default, the same for students. So, every new year, students create a FB page for the course and add the instructor and the TAs to that page. Any announcement about the course will be made on that page. Of course, there is no privacy AT ALL. Imagine that the instructor wants to publish the exam grades, he/she will go to the FB page and upload the grades there. So anyone can know the grade for the students. NO PRIVACY AT ALL. BUT, on the other side, there is no other option we have. There is no way to pay millions of dollars to buy tools. So in countries like my country, social media can be the only possible way to communicate with students, supervisors, and colleagues.

I hope that these countries, like mine, start focusing on Higher education and dedicate big enough money every year to support and enhance higher education and research. As we see, after COVID19 stated, people hope is that scientists and researchers can find an exit from this pandemic.

 

Posted in Preparing Future Professoriate

Impact of COVID19 on Preparing Future Professoriate (Additional Blog 3)

Traditionally, teaching was meaning that an instructor who meets with group of students face to face. The instructor start talking about the course topic and explain to students the topic as he/she likes. Students role is to attend and prepare for the exam. Some courses require them to solve homework assignments and/or projects related to the course. The main concern for students is how to pass the final exam to pass the course and collect credit toward graduation.

As an instructor, this is the easiest and most straight forward way of teaching. Some small details like how to engage students, active learning, and sincere teaching are based on the teacher ability and skills.

Once COVID19 strikes the world, we start talking about change this traditional model of teaching and move toward online teaching, Virtual teaching. In virtual teaching, the instructor is asked to manage everything online with a bare minimum interaction with students. Things like lectures (whether it is Synchronous or Asynchronous), office hours and exams will be online. Here, there is no feedback from students as before. To explain the difference, students may ask a question during the lecture to ask the instructor to reexplain the topic, or ask for another example. Students may also enter some debates with the instructor or with each other to defend their opinions. In virtual teaching, all of these useful feedback will be missing. Now the instructor will be asked to provide a good quality teaching experience without know if he/she is doing the required effort that he/she expect or not. Even if the instructor is working in synchronous teaching and students are online during the lecture or office hours, they will not interact and debate like what they may do in the face to face lecture.

I believe that COVID19 will show us a clear separation between good teachers and normal teachers. Teachers who are enthusiastic in teaching and love students and seek their benefit and understanding will do more efforts and spent time to produce a high quality teaching experience to the students. In the other hand, normal teachers will just do anything and will not think about students altogether.

I believe that form now and on, every university should teach its professors how to create creative online courses that helps students to feel like they are face to face with the instructor. The old methods that are used to prepare many instructors will not be helpful anymore.

What do you you think? I hope to see good answers to this crucial topic.

In my next post, I will talk about my experience in Sync VS Async teaching.

 

 

Posted in Preparing Future Professoriate

Out of the BOX way to teach Computer Science course

During my undergraduate courses we were supposed to take a course called File Structures, this course is a mandatory Computer Science course that teaches students how to write code that manages and store different files. As you may know, any database we use in our life is a collection of files. Different database systems use different methods to store these files and manage them. The typical method to teach this course is to use a book that talks about every possible method and compare them to each other.

Luckily, I took this course with an exceptional instructor who was teaching this course with a project-based pedagogy, His way to teach the course is:

  1. The instructor starts by writing sample code for a possible type of file structure method.
  2. Give all students this code in a paper, it was 2002 and papers are the best method to share data Smilie: :)
  3. During the lectures, we enter group-based discussions to test the code, fix it, and enhance the code.
  4. During the lab, we add more functions to the code we have,

We made these steps for every possible method available in any File Structures course. This way all students engaged in every code we implemented. Each student shared his thoughts about how to fix the code or enhance it. So, the result is that all students understood the topic of File Structure without reading any book related to the topic.

Till now I remember every method and its pros and cons and I can reimplement any method if I need without need to read about it. This is because we tool the course using the most suitable pedagogy.

Posted in Contemporary pedagogy blogs

The importance of open-access publications

I remember when I was preparing for my Master’s degree in computer science that I was not able to find good papers to read and compare my results with. All good papers are published on good reputation journals are cost too much money that I can not pay. Even my university is not able to pay the subscription fees to allow its researchers to have access to the papers. The only available option is to use google scholar to find any similar copy for the paper. Or to cite and read bad papers that have a lot of fake results.

Recently I started to learn about the open-access movement. Where journals will allow low cost or free, access to papers. This will definitely help people like me who live in a third country, poor country, to have access to a large number of useful papers. Imagine the benefits of such a movement. Imagine that all good researchers who are waiting for the opportunity to read these papers to produce better research ideas and results. This will definitely will help the world to have better research and better outcomes in all research topics.

As a Computer Science student I looked at the ACM journals its open access policy. ACM is one of the major journals that any CS researcher will seek publishing papers on ACM alongside with IEEE.

The purpose of ACM?

The main purpose of ACM, in general, is to hold the most elite papers in scientific computing. It has a very large digital library and conferences.

ACM also has a purpose related to the open access, it has what is called ACM OPEN. This ACM OPEN will have peer-reviewed scholarly articles that will be published in the ACM Digital Library on an Open Access (OA) basis.

How does ACM address/explain open access?

ACM has a unique service that “enables authors to generate and post links on their homepage and in their employer’s Institutional Repository for visitors of those sites to download the definitive “Version of Record” of their articles from the ACM Digital Library at no charge to the author and without any pay-wall constraints for the reader“.

ACM allows authors to post their papers for free on their homepage and/or institution repository without a fee. This allows other researchers to access these papers and use them in their research.

 

In the end, I hope that all big avenues to convert to be Open-access journals to provide the knowledge to everyone in the universe.

Posted in Preparing Future Professoriate

Higher education Uniqueness V.S. quality (Additional Blog 2)

This year I am taking a course about Preparing Future Professoriate. During this course, we study the current Higher education system in the USA and in the world. Based on what we learned, there are a very big number of degrees that are available to students to enroll in. We can find that the same department offers different degrees with a slight difference in the actual content. This reminded me of when I was a teaching assistant in my Country. We were about to renew the faculty handbook and the department’s definition. During that time, we created a new department with a new degree in Multimedia. In fact, this department is the same as another existing department we already have, but we need to say that we have this unique degree and at the same time, most of the courses covered in the new department are actually taken in the other department. Another incident happened recently at Cairo University when they renamed their degree from Masters in Computer Science to be a Masters in Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence.

Now comes the question, Are we strive to have unique degrees or unique quality of education?

I believe that what makes the USA have the most prestigious university is that they offer the best quality in their research and teaching, not because they have tens of similar degrees with different names. I hope to see all Egyptian universities in the top tier universities in the world by the quality we offer in form of publications and quality of graduate students we produce not by having new names for old things.

Posted in Preparing Future Professoriate

Seeking publications ONLY

As we are researchers, we seek to have a good number of publications (especially strong publications). The idea is simple, any scientist starts his life by doing some research in a point of interest. To do so, we enroll ourselves into Master’s or Ph.D. degrees in a known institution as they will increase the value of our research and our reputation. During the degree period, we try to make our best to find interesting information and publish it to the world. This publishing process is so competitive, because, we may spend years in research and found others, have the same idea, published their idea and results before us. This means that all these years are wasted for nothing at all.

Once we finish our degree, we look for job offers. One of the major factors to distinguish between the applicants is the publication record. Here we see the truth where the actual goal from publishing the work is to find a good job instead of adding to the knowledge of humanity.

Since our future is based mainly on publications, many researchers tend to fake or steal their publications. Faking the publication happens by changing the values of the research outcomes to make them interesting to the publishers. Stealing the publication by changing the order of the authors to make oneself the main author for a publication, and the make the true author as a second or remove him/her altogether from the author list. In the past, I was a TA at Assiut University, and I heard about a professor who made research conduct by claiming that a paper is his own work while it was his student’s work. That professor made the publication for himself only and removed his student name altogether from the authors’ list. Also, there were many times when we tried to contact some paper’s authors and ask them for the data they used to find these STRANGE RESULTS and they never replied to us.

This semester, I am taking a course for Preparing Future Professoriate, and we are asked to read some research Misconduct that is reported on this site.  I spent some minutes looking at different cases and astonished as I saw a big number of research misconduct in critical areas like medicine. The case that I read extensively was for a Kadam Rajendra, she was a Ph.D. student in pharmaceutical sciences, University of Colorado, Denver (UCD) (Respondent). Kadam engaged in research misconduct in research supported by large institutions like the National Eye Institute (NEI), National Institutes of Health (NIH).

As a consequence, Kadam is excluded from any contract in the USA. She is also excluded from being an advisory committee or review committee. Also, one of her papers is retracted. I see that these kinds of punishments will make anyone who may think about misconducting any research will think more than once before doing this UGLY action.

Of course, we need papers, reputations, and good positions. But we must earn them by our hard-working ONLY.

Posted in Preparing Future Professoriate