Scott Valcourt has been at the University of New Hampshire (UNH) since 1992, with the first twelve years in the University of New Hampshire InterOperability Laboratory (UNH-IOL). Most recently, Dr. Valcourt was the Managing Director of the UNH-IOL from 2000-2004. Dr. Valcourt's current position as the Director of Strategic Technology in Information Technology (IT) has him focused on the development of innovative and strategic University initiatives with wide impact. In addition to his IT duties, Dr. Valcourt is a Professor of Practice in the Computer Science Department and in the Master of Science in Analytics program, bringing him in contact with technology companies in New Hampshire and around the world. These contacts often lead to new research projects that benefit graduate and undergraduate students in a variety
of Computer Science, Data Science, and Information Technology areas, as well as the corporate partners involved in the projects. Dr. Valcourt earned a B.A. in Computer Science with Mathematics Emphasis, cum laude, from Saint Anselm College in 1992, a M.S. in Computer Science from the University of New Hampshire in 1999, and a Ph.D. in Engineering: Systems Design with a Cognate in College Teaching at the University of New Hampshire. He is a member of ACM, Delta Epsilon Sigma, IEEE Standards Association, Computer Science Teachers Association, the Project Management Institute, the IEEE AESS, the IEEE Computer Society, and the IEEE Communication Society. In 2002, he was inducted into the DSL Forum's Circle of Excellence for outstanding contributions to the development of DSL technology worldwide.
I spent the summer of 1986 working as a Boy Scout camp counselor teaching Pioneering Merit Badge. Throughout my career, teaching has been an important part of my life. My reputation around campus is that, given the opportunity, I will take advantage of a "teachable moment." I began formally teaching in the higher education classroom in 2000, learning many lessons from teaching. Some of these lessons have been through my involvement in the UNH Preparing Future Faculty (PFF) program, and some of these lessons have been learned through risk taking and unsuccessful teaching attempts. I can sum up my personal teaching philosophy with a few basic statements that I follow with explanation.
When a student completes my classroom experience, I want to be sure that more than the material was learned. I expect that the student will start a new habit of reviewing current literature or ask a question of herself that she never considered before. If I can have a role in doing that, then I know that the knowledge, skills, techniques, methods and tools introduced in the course will be the seeds that were planted on good soil and result in a bountiful harvest for others to enjoy.
My computer communications research background is rooted in my arts background, studying the ways human beings interact with each other. Fundamentally, I seek the most expedient and efficient means for allowing people to communicate with one another. Initially, this question was based on what signals could be placed on a pair of twisted wires formatted in a variety of wireline protocols. More recently, a complete understanding of the ways in which communication takes place has become more important. Recognizing that web browser-based communication was asynchronous led to the development of the consumer-prevalent technologies delivered by xDSL and cable modems. As broadband communication expands, synchronous communication becomes key when video and audio conferencing or remote monitoring and control are desired means of communication. Through my varied research topics of the past, I expect that my current and future research will lead to advances in areas and disciplines that have only begun to consider what computing technology and broadband communication can do. All of this work is only possible with good colleagues, partners and a supportive community willing to tackle the problems that need to be addressed.
Previous Research Work
My early applied research evolved within the UNH InterOperability Laboratory (UNH-IOL), where I started developing standards-based conformance tests associated with the Token Ring draft standard in the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) LAN-MAN Standards Committee (LMSC) . In the early 1990s, IBM succumbed to market pressure and began an effort in the IEEE LMSC as project IEEE 802.5 to develop a standards-based Token Ring solution. I participated in the drafting and final revision version of the standard as Corrigenda to 802.5:1998 and Amendment 1:1998 that were approved by the Standards Board in 2001, as well as the Dedicated Token Ring standard (802.5t)  that was approved in 1999 and Gigabit Token Ring (802.5v)  approved in 2001. With all of the detailed supported work completed, I was one of the eight voting members of the IEEE 802.5 Working Group that voted for hibernation of the Token Ring Working Group on May 3, 2000.
In parallel, I had begun studying a new technology protocol called Demand Priority (more commonly called 100VG-AnyLAN). Originally spearheaded by Hewlett-Packard, it was introduced into the LMSC as IEEE 802.12 and was standardized in 1998 . I focused my Masters-level research on the implementation of Demand Priority framing within the TCP/IP protocol. My thesis discusses the changes necessary within TCP/IPv4 code to provide for priority framing used in the Demand Priority Protocol above the Media Access Control (MAC) layer. Internet Protocol version 4 does not take into account the real-time transmission benefits of Demand Priority. The addition of priority frame recognition at the network, transport, and application layers of the OSI Reference Model results in an increased performance benefit for multimedia applications running TCP/IP over the Demand Priority Protocol . This increase in transfer for real-time applications does not significantly hinder the transfer of data at normal priority rates. By the time I had completed this research, 100VG-AnyLAN had lost the market battle of product sales and nearly every manufacturer had abandoned the technology. However, I remain convinced that the priority framing offered in the protocol is more favorable to low-latency crippled data streams (such as video) than the present-day packet-based protocols.
With the study of video streaming over networks such as Fast Ethernet, 100VG-AnyLAN, Asynchronous Transfer Mode (ATM) and Token Ring, I concurred with the observations that the Hypertext Transfer Protocol (HTTP) encouraged an asynchronous traffic pattern across networks, especially broadband networks . This pattern, along with federal legislation in 1996, encouraged the development and deployment of the digital subscriber line, or DSL for short. A variety of DSL flavors emerged, with the most predominant being asymmetric digital subscriber line (ADSL), a deployable solution that offers higher downstream bandwidth over the upstream bandwidth level across a single twisted pair loop from a central office (CO) to the customer premises . We also studied the operation of other related DSL technologies, such as High-Speed Digital Subscriber Line Version 2 (HDSL2)  and Very-High-Bit-Rate Digital Subscriber Line (VDSL) , but the most universally deployed DSL in the late 1990s and early 2000s was ADSL.
ADSL uses the ITU-standardized discrete multi-tone modulation (DMT) as a frequency-division multiplexing scheme to communicate the digital bit patterns from the transmitter to the receiver. Customer premises equipment (CPE) communicate with the aggregation device in the CO called the digital subscriber line access multiplexer (DSLAM) across the twisted pair wiring using a DMT carrier. The initial communication is a training process that determines which frequencies have interference and, once determined, may exclude interference-laden frequencies to ensure the clearest communication between CPE and CO devices. DSL has a maximum distance limitation of the local loop to 18k feet, and the strength of the training signal is proportional to the distance between the CO and CPE. Since our initial study of ADSL, there have been nearly ten additions or revisions of the ADSL standard to offer features such as signal interleaving, multi-pair DSL, and pair bonding of DSL. Most current worldwide DSL studies note that in the US, cable modems are deployed over DSL in a 2-to-1 ratio, while the opposite exists in the rest of the world.
Peripheral to my studies of computer networks has been my involvement in the devices and methods that will use these networks. The Service Availability Forum has worked with me and seven students, both graduate and undergraduate, over a five year period to develop a testing mechanism for their standard hardware platform interface (HPI) for highly-available systems architectures. Working closely with IBM and Nokia, we wrote C code and built test platforms to examine devices for their conformance to the HPI standard, as well to test the OpenHPI open source software project supported by the Service Availability Forum.
Ongoing Research Work
My existing research is focused within the networking area of computer science. Cyberinfrastructure (CI) was a term presented by the National Science Foundation (NSF) as a strategic area of focus to advance next-generation science and research. The NSF Strategic Plan for FY11-16 notes that “The advent of widespread use of computational and communications capabilities across all S&E fields, and in STEM education, has made cyberinfrastructure, including its easy access and use, a vital element of tools and capabilities provided by NSF” . CI, in particular, the establishment of large data paths across New Hampshire, is a key investment in the future success of NH citizens. With support and coordination for the NH Department of Resources and Economic Development (NH DRED), I wrote the two attempts at securing funding from the US Department of Commerce’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) through the Broadband Technology Opportunities Program (BTOP). The Round 2 proposal  secured $44.5 million in federal funds (matched with $21.5 million in private funding) to construct 750 miles of dark fiber cable across all 10 counties in New Hampshire, a microwave network for public safety communications across 20 NH mountaintops, 20 miles of in-ground fiber for the NH Department of Transportation’s (NH DOT) Intelligent Transportation System (ITS) upgrade along I-93, nearly 1200 homes and business receiving an initial installation of fiber-to-the-home (FTTH) connectivity in the western area of NH by NH FastRoads, and the connection of 35 community anchor institutions (including all of the USNH and CCSNH campuses) onto a single 10Gbps dense wave-division multiplexing (DWDM) network service. This unprecedented cyberinfrastructure uplift for NH from our research attempts to establish connectivity with non-existent pathways to allow for the participation of NH in cutting-edge, international research because we now have the resources to engage.
As a result of this CI investment, there are specific problems that I am researching solutions today. Beyond using the microwave network for public safety communications by the NH Army National Guard, NH DOT, NH State Police and NH DRED, NH Public Television (NHPTV) will use the network to deliver its digital television (DTV) broadcast signal to its transmitters across NH. Besides being the state-designated participant in the Digital Emergency Alert System (DEAS), NHPTV participates in delivering emergency digital data using datacasting. Datacasting uses the excess bandwidth in the DTV stream to deliver any digital signal in a one-way broadcast to receivers configured to accept the signal . My earlier research in 2005-2007 pioneered the installation of datacasting receivers in NH State Police cruisers through a grant from the US Department of Justice . We discovered that the solution was very effective in allowing the cruisers to receive digital images and video across the DTV stream. However, the datacasting technology did not allow for receivers to be in motion when receiving DTV signals. DTV appeared to address the need for getting large data to remote users, but not mobile remote users. Fast forward five years, and today, the two competing standards for mobile DTV have converged into one solution that allows for full mobile DTV while traveling 65 MPH as demonstrated using existing equipment. Exciters and transmitters that support mobile DTV are being installed in the NHPTV broadcast network in 2013 and the datacasting pilot test will be re-performed to demonstrate that public safety can achieve the benefits of large data broadcasts using mobile DTV. A new question to be studied is how datacasting can handle movement from one mobile DTV transmitter to another. We have examined the handoff mechanisms that the cellular network and mesh networks employ , and will be testing which of these solutions operates best as mobile DTV receivers transmit from the two primary southern NH towers in Keene and Deerfield.
Essentially, we see datacasting as a possible step in bringing broadband-like services to the broadband unserved in NH. Following the asynchronous web usage patterns of DSL, important digital service information can be broadcasted via datacasting to receivers across a region of the state. Users who need a particular piece of digital data can use a dial-up or other modem to request the data from a central repository, one managed by a state or municipal agency. Then, the data would be served through the datacasting channel to the requestor via the mobile DTV stream. With a coverage map of nearly the entire NH landscape, NHPTV’s datacasting service already reaches areas where broadband services do not.
While we are trying to bring broadband to areas where broadband isn’t, we are also examining ways to make areas with existing broadband operate better. One key area of research is in software-defined networks (SDN). Through a research partnership with New Hampshire Optical Systems (NHOS) of Nashua, I secured grant funding from the NH Innovation Research Center (NHIRC) to examine the benefits of SDN in a production-like environment, rather than in the research networks where SDN has been since its discovery as part of the GENI Project funded by the NSF . SDN purports to offer data transfer speedup because of the specialized, standards-based tagging of data flow from transmitter to receiver across a centrally-controlled network. OpenFlow, the technology being deployed by some hardware switch vendors, is currently being empirically investigated by me and my students to determine how much of a benefit over traditional packet-based networks is achieved. If any benefit is apparent, NHOS is likely to invest in lighting some of their fiber optic cable plant with OpenFlow technology in a production environment, and will likely be able to claim to be the first commercial SDN provider in NH.
My most recent research activity has less to do with technology and more to do with people. Two research awards from the National Science Foundation are core towards the development of Research Computing Facilitators and Cyberinfrastructure (CI) Engineers. By working closely with research scientists in understanding their approach and needs, I am developing a new set of expert scientists and leaders who can participate in the computationally-heavy domain work of science while partnering with the technology-heavy support teams that make CI available to all researchers. Our next set of research scientists need this skill to advance everyone forward.
Future Research Work
With a large portfolio of over $75 million in externally-funded research, my future research plans might seem to be broad. Rather, I am laser aimed at some key questions that must be addressed: “What do we do with such huge levels of broadband across the state?” and “What happens when computers are cheaper than LEGO blocks?” 
With nearly $4.7 billion invested in broadband expansion by the NTIA across the US, there are many efforts taking place to ensure that the investment reaps the benefits intend with the ARRA Stimulus funding. Efforts, such as US Ignite, are challenging US individuals and organizations to consider the development of technology that will capitalize on the broadband capacity in the US. I am working with NH companies to start new efforts in building applications and devices that impact video conferencing and telepresence in common, everyday ways that we have never considered. The 2012 Horizon Report identifies, in the four-to-five year window, the expansion of the “Internet of Things.”  The collection of sensors and devices on everything in the world will change our behaviors, such and reconsidering going to the mall due to overcrowding or buying groceries because our refrigerator can tell us exactly what we are short or missing for a good meal. Eldercare is a growing segment of the homecare market, and most homecare services are provided in NH either in person or with expensive, proprietary monitoring devices. In partnering with Lamprey Networks, Inc. (LNI), a Durham, NH-based open standards developer and homecare communications device entrepreneur, we are working with an open-standards healthcare program to create an ecosystem that relies upon broadband and can utilize interoperable medical devices to give homebound patients and their caregiver families the freedom to live comfortably and with the highest quality utilizing technology solutions. Through an active NHIRC grant, a new communications protocol between the home device and the control system is being developed along with a voice-activated authenticated system to make the patient engagement with the system easier to accept. These two area examples are part of the greater problem of finding applications and solutions that will utilize the deployed broadband in NH in a manner that will require the installation of more broadband.
As part of an initiative to encourage STEM graduates, I am intensely intrigued and have begun efforts to utilize small sensor networks using small devices, such as the Beagle Board, Arduino Kits, and Raspberry Pi . The NH EPSCoR RII Track 1 project “Ecosystems & Society” is a project that has the expectation to develop and use sensor networks to measure what is taking place in the world as well as what is taking place with society. My present involvement is as a consultant to the CI required. However, I am following my research partners and discovering that they are in need of good, low power, low cost sensor networks as part of this research and other work.
Plan to Involve Students
I see the need for student involvement in all aspects of research as critical. I advocate for meshing research project activity as part of introductory coursework. I see the learning benefits of having small programmable devices be illustrative in the structures of introductory operating systems where memory management, communications bus transactions, swapping, paging, deadlocks and file management can be presented in ways where the question “why is this important” can be answered. I see the learning benefits of those same programmable devices working together in ways to demonstrate computer networks and to support students working with and developing mesh networks.
Early in my time in the UNH-IOL, I moved all of my students towards using laptops, which has been embraced strongly. I prefer to offer my students the ability and option to perform their research where-ever and when-ever, using the tools that the commercial world has been pioneering to increase productivity. Our philosophy in the UNH-IOL has always been to give students the experience of being in the commercial development world without having to be there during their academic studies. I continue to offer that same environment outside of the UNH-IOL for students who work with me, and would be looking to maintain that atmosphere with all organizations in which I come in contact.
 IEEE Standard 802.12-1998: Demand Priority Access Method, Physical Layer and Repeater Specification for 100Mb/s Operation, Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, Inc., Piscataway, NJ, July, 1998.  Supplement to ISO/IEC 8802-5:1998 [ANSI/IEEE Draft Standard 802.5t], Information Technology -- Telecommunications and Information Exchange Between Systems -- Local and Metropolitan Area Networks -- Part 5: Token Ring Access Method and Physical Layer Specifications -- High Data Rate Operation, Draft 2.6, Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, Inc., Piscataway, NJ, February 1999.  Fielding, R., Gettys, J., Mogul, J., Frystyk, H., Masinter, L., Leach, P., Berners-Lee, T., Hypertext Transfer Protocol – HTTP/1.1, RFC 2616, June 1999.  Empowering the Nation Through Discovery and Innovation: NSF Strategic Plan for Fiscal Years (FY) 2011-2016, NSF 11-047, National Science Foundation, Arlington, VA, April 2011.  NMC Horizon Report: 2012 Higher Education Edition, New Media Consortium and EDUCAUSE Learning Initiative (ELI), Stanford, CA, 2012.  Petrone, Emile, “What happens when computers are cheaper than LEGO blocks?” Website http://gigaom.com/2012/10/12/what-happens-when-computers-are-cheaper-than-lego-blocks/, October 12, 2012.  ISO/IEC 8802-5:1998 [ANSI/IEEE Standard 802.5, 1998 Edition], Information Technology -- Telecommunications and Information Exchange Between Systems -- Local and Metropolitan Area Networks -- Part 5: Token Ring Access Method and Physical Layer Specifications, Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, Inc., Piscataway, NJ, July 1998.  Supplement to ISO/IEC 8802-5:1998 [ANSI/IEEE Standard 802.5v], Information Technology -- Telecommunications and Information Exchange Between Systems -- Local and Metropolitan Area Networks -- Part 5: Token Ring Access Method and Physical Layer Specifications – Amendment 5: Gigabit Token Ring Operation, Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, Inc., Piscataway, NJ, May 2001.  Valcourt, Scott A. and Robert D. Russell, A Method for the Incorporation of Demand Priority Framing of 100VG-AnyLAN in the TCP/IP Protocol, TR 99-01, Computer Science Department, University of New Hampshire, Durham, NH, May 1999.  [ANSI T1.413-1998] Network and Customer Installation Interfaces—Asymmetric Digital Subscriber Line (ADSL) Metallic Interface, American National Standards Institute, Washington, DC, 1998.  [ITU-T G.991.2] High-Bit-Rate Digital Subscriber Line, Second Generation (HDSL2), International Telecommunications Union, Geneva, Switzerland, 1998.  [ITU-T G.993.2] Very-High-Speed Digital Subscriber Line Version 2 (VDSL2), International Telecommunications Union, Geneva, Switzerland, 2005.  Network New Hampshire Now, website http://www2.ntia.doc.gov/grantee/university-system-of-new-hampshire, retrieved December 11, 2012.  Valcourt, Scott, Kent Chamberlin, Benjamin McMahon and Andrew Kun, “Systems Engineering of Datacasting for Public Safety Vehicles,” in Proceedings of the 2007 IEEE Conference on Technologies for Homeland Security: Enhancing Critical Infrastructure Dependability, Woburn, MA, May 2007.  Valcourt, Scott A., Pushpa Datla, Kent Chamberlin and Benjamin McMahon, "Using Two-Way Datacasting to Deliver Real-Time Public Safety Information," 2008 IEEE International Conference on Technologies for Homeland Security, Boston, MA, May 12-13, 2008.  Tripathi, Nishith, Jeffrey Reed and Hugh F. VanLandingham, “Handoff in Cellular Systems,” IEEE Personal Communications, Piscataway, NJ, December 1998.  Mussman, Harry, “GENI—An Introduction,” GENI Project Office at Raytheon BBN Technologies, Cambridge, MA, February 2011.
As an instructor, I have two fundamental goals in the way that I teach.
IT 775 is a one-semester required course in the information technology BS major. This 4 credit course consists of three hours of lecture and minimally three hours of homework per week focused on the application of the theoretical concepts discussed in the course. This course is designed to bring a student who has little to no knowledge of database systems and technology to a place where the student could install and configure a secure database system, design and build a database schema, write optimized SQL code to insert and extract data from the database, and prepare for the operation and maintenance of the database for other professionals. Topics covered in the course include: entity-relationship modeling, relational modeling, schema development, SQL coding to include CREATE, SELECT, JOIN, UPDATE, INSERT, DROP, GRANT and other standard commands, normalization, transactions, security, VIEWS, NoSQL, Big Data and Hadoop.
Students are primarily assessed by their performance on quizzes, exams, and homework assignments. Quizzes and exams are written to assess student conceptual understanding of database technology and progress through Bloom’s Revised Taxonomy. Homework assignments offers the students a change to apply the theories presented in class in an actual problem example and are graded based on the student’s ability to accomplish the expected outcome from the many approaches that could be used using SQL and other elements.
Below are links to a syllabus that I wrote for the course along with the teaching evaluation summaries for the last 4 years I taught the course along with my commentary on the results of those summaries.
DATA 821 is an eight (8) week online course within the core courses of the eUNH online Data Science Certificate program. It is designed for bachelor’s degree-holding students who are working professionals who want to augment their degrees with a graduate-level certificate in data science and analytics. This 4 credit online course consists of reading materials, video lectures and presentations, programming assignments in Structured Query Language (SQL) and online discussions designed to help the student understand the emerging field of data science while gaining the skills necessary to use the data scientist’s tools effectively and correctly. Obtaining a conceptual and working understanding of course material is critical to seeing where these tools and concepts apply to the other aspects of the certificate program. Topics covered in the course include: entity-relationship modeling, relational modeling, schema development, normalization, SQL programming using SELECT, JOIN, UPDATE, INSERT, and CREATE, installing and extracting data from a relational database, navigating the Hadoop family of high-performance computing (HPC), and contrasting NoSQL with the relational model. Home-based programming and learning assignments were chosen to reinforce topics covered in lecture.
Students are primarily assessed by their performance on quizzes, exams, and assignments. Quizzes and exams are written to assess student conceptual understanding of the material. Assignments are graded as quickly as possible to allow the student to build in experience with working through complex problems and design considerations.
My goal in this course is to help students obtain a foundation in organizing data. This includes gaining a basic conceptual understanding of the many options of structured data that could be applied and to consider what format will be of the greatest value when embarking on the need to store, retrieve, and analyze data.
Below are links to a syllabus that I wrote for the course.
DATA 900 is a one-semester modularized course that is presented by a variety of instructors in the aspects associated with Big Data Architecture. The modules that I cover in this course are focused on the use of relational database systems and programming in Structure Query Language (SQL), a general understanding with some problem exercises in Hadoop technology and a basic overview of NoSQL and how that emerging technology can be used to support data analytics. The students in the course are part of a cohort in the Masters of Science in Analytics program in the UNH Graduate School and come from a variety of backgrounds—engineering, science, business, and liberal arts. While much of the course is lecture-based, the course meetings include in-class activities and homework assignments outside of class.
Students are primarily assessed by their performance in the classroom and on homework assignments. Their use of the concepts and technologies studied in the program will be incorporated in the program capstone assignments at the end of the degree year.
My goal in these course modules is to help students arm their technology tool bag with the skills and understanding associated with storing and retrieving data in the most efficient manner to assist in the analysis of that data. This includes gaining a basic conceptual understanding of the nature of data and its formats, as well as the development of problem solving skills.
Below are links to a syllabus and an assignment that I wrote for the course module.
Teaching competency can be viewed as the ability to accomplish the following six key factors:
Over the last 17 years, I have had the pleasure of teaching at Saint Anselm College, the University of New Hampshire at Manchester, and the University of New Hampshire in Durham in a variety of departments and with a range of courses. My current and most recent teaching assignments focus on Introduction to Database Technology (IT775), Data Architecture (DATA900), and Data Architecture (DATA821-Online), all at the University of New Hampshire. An inspection of materials from these classes demonstrates my teaching competency.
As described in my statement of teaching philosophy, I view learning as occurring through the engagement of the learner in the process of learning. In my technical field, students are less likely to read a text-based document and reach a higher-order of learning through that solitary exercise. Rather, students use the reading of a textbook or introductory document as a starting point, along with pre-knowledge (material that students already know) that each student brings into the classroom, as a starting point to engage in the learning process. In viewing the IT775 syllabus, in-class conversations and activities are used to reinforce the text-based material and homework assignments seek to reinforce the topics.
One key aspect of my teaching is not to be the smartest person in the room, but rather assist the students in becoming the experts themselves through self-learning and continual personal development. The field of Computer Science is constantly changing, and finding valid materials that will help students to continually learn is key to remaining current and competitive. I explicitly encourage students, as noted in the syllabus in IT775, to bring forward in class any topic that might be in the current media that has a relationship to our database technology topics. I recall one of the many SQL injection data breeches that are reported on in the media as one of our in-class discussion topics, where we not only discussed what happened and why, but how to prevent the breech from occurring, including code examples to write that could test installed databases. Since most of my exams are open-book, open-note exams, as noted in the syllabus, I remind the students of the key principles of good studying itself, and often refer to the literature on teaching and learning to show that my interleaving teaching and assessment process is based on the studies on learning that show improved learning by following these methods. Over the years, as I attend more workshops on teaching, I have incorporated into my courses, though not stated explicitly in the syllabus, the utilization of a few Classroom Assessment Techniques (see Angelo & Cross, 1993) that I have seen effectively used in a course format similar to IT775. Learning Goals Assessment, Muddiest Point, Course Speed Feedback, and Minute Papers have all been used in IT775 in the last five year.
I have expressed to students on the first day of class that my approach is to not attempt to force 80% of the learning of the course into the last 20% of the class time. Rather, I structure the course to be modular such that there are three major modules that have several sub-modules, making interleaving and small topics of learning more focused to understand for the students in the course.
In my exam structure, I tend to prefer three exams in a 15-week, semester-long course. The first exam is generally focused on many of the basic terms and concepts, aligning to the first two levels of Bloom’s Taxonomy – Knowledge and Comprehension. In IT775, the questions would be focused on the definition of terms and pointing out items on a chart. The second exam tends to draw on the concepts of the first exam and asks the student to apply and analyze the material that has been studied – Bloom’s Taxonomy Levels of Application and Analysis. IT775 questions ask the student to convert Entity-Relationship (E-R) Models into Relational Models, or build a database schema from an E-R Model, or use an existing schema and apply the process of Normalization to the database schema to make the database more efficient. The third exam will typically pose a real-life scenario to the student, and the student needs to draw upon all aspects of the database technology discipline to propose a possible solution that would satisfy the user requirements. The Bloom’s Taxonomy Levels of Synthesis and Evaluation are applied in this final exam, leading the student to realize that the student has mastered the concepts and progressed through the levels of learning over the period of the course. My students have commented informally that the gradual challenge of the exam process assists them in reaching a proficiency level that abides after the course is over, when they are in hiring interviews for jobs and when they are solving problems in their professional career.
As is inevitable in the practice of teaching, I have learned many lessons across my classroom experiences, some harder than others. As I understand material concepts better by teaching them over and over again, I have been able to be my own adviser in recommending changes to the course delivery to increase student learning. The course design, including topics to cover and their order, the textbook to augment the course, and the assignments to complete for homework, have all undergone extensive overhaul. The first course delivery is very different from the last course delivery. I always ask the students in each course to provide feedback on the course design and content on the course evaluation document. In the center of the course, I will ask the students to provide anonymous feedback on the remaining topics in the course, asking if the remaining topics are all adequate or if something should drop to be replaced with something else. By asking halfway through the course, I can make those corrections and assist the students in controlling their learning, while helping them to realize that they have gained a significant level of expertise in the subject matter at the halfway point in the course as the topics make sense to them and they can begin to Synthesize and Evaluate as Bloom would expect.
In IT775, my intention is to vary the teaching methods to match the varied learning styles of the class. When the course topic is focused on requirements engineering to design schemas, the reading and class lecture are about the mechanisms and processes to follow to carry out that function. The subsequent class activity is similar to Prediction Guide (LAT #11) (Barkley & Howell Major 2016) where the class breaks into small teams and each team is given an envelope that has, taped to the outside, a scenario that requires the team to design a schema based on the requirements presented in the scenario. Each envelope has a different scenario. The team places their solution to the scenario in the envelope without looking at the other solutions already in the envelope, and the envelopes rotate around the room until every team has seen every envelope, with each team finally receiving back their original starting envelope. Each team removes the solutions placed in the envelope and reviews the solutions presented, either selecting the best solution (which may not be their own) or rejecting all of the solutions and drafting a new solution. Then, each team presents the scenario they had and their selected solution and a discussion ensues. Finally, the homework assignment asks each student to do the same task, but on a new scenario and without the assistance of others. By using different teaching methods, I am able to see when and by what means each student learns the concepts and be in a better place to assist in their learning.