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Professor Discusses Approach for Creating Mixed-delivery Instruction this Fall
Professor Shiu-Kai Chin ’75, G’78, G’86 has taught courses in the College of Engineering and Computer Science for over three decades. As a Laura J. and L. Douglas Meredith Professor, Chin is recognized for his teaching excellence in electrical engineering and computer science.
Chin is one of a few Meredith Professors interviewed by Syracuse University News to discuss their preparation for the semester and how they are addressing the challenges presented by social distancing guidelines in their teaching.
Over the summer, Chin worked with Louis Stokes Alliance for Minority Participation Scholar Virkin Jimenez to redevelop the course CIS 487: Access Control, Security and Trust: A Logical Approach for hybrid instruction. With support from the Center for Teaching and Learning Excellence, Chin and Jimenez worked together to transition from full face-to-face interaction to also using online learning for the 50-person class.
In this Q&A, Chin breaks down the changes he made in the course, how hybrid instruction changed his approach and what has been successful this semester.
How did hybrid instruction change your course this fall?
We needed to rework synchronous class meetings within the context of hybrid teaching. This is where students are both in person and online. I have a cohort of students in China and Hong Kong who work asynchronously and are in lock-step with us in Syracuse. We pre-record mini-lectures introducing the in-class group work for our students in Asia. They work as a cohort on group work during their synchronous time together 12 hours later than us in Syracuse.
We also needed to reduce the previous reliance on in-class exams and a final, which makes up from 85 to 90 percent of course grades to 45 to 50 percent, by introducing additional weekly low-stakes assessments. Next, we had to construct the low-stakes assessments in ways to foster student-to-student engagement to mitigate the loss of having all students in-class engaged in small team problem solving. We are also introducing weekly reflections in the form of diagrams and writing to support clarification and integration of course concepts into their professional and personal world views.
What are the goals of CIS 487?
CIS 487 has 35 online asynchronous learning modules I created, designed to be reviewed outside of class. Synchronous components are live meetings. The modules support a textbook I wrote with Susan Older. This course explores uses of propositional modal logic, specifically how to create systems that restrict access based on reason. The application is wide ranging. This logic can be applied to things like bank transactions, military base operations or access to social services and food stamps.
Students will review modules about access rights, privileges, entitlements, certifications and trust. We use logical proofs to document, describe and deduce how access and privilege decisions are made in systems. These systems can govern organizations, algorithms, computers and networks.
Can you talk about your approach to hybrid learning in this course?
Redevelopment, first and foremost, is a team effort and an experiment. This is work in progress. The inspiration for this approach comes from working with Louis Stokes Alliance for Minority Participation Scholar Mr. Virkin Jimenez. I worked with him this summer to research soft systems methodology applied to learning in a hybrid teaching environment.
Mr. Jimenez practices creative writing in engineering, i.e., writing to increase his creative abilities expressed by constructing new systems. He views engineering as a means for creative expression. To develop this approach for the classroom, he worked with the director of the Center for Teaching and Learning Excellence, Martha Diede. Her generosity with her time has been crucial to this effort. She encouraged this line of thinking and helped devise goals. For example, a priority is to foster meaningful engagements among students and instructors. One strategy is to offer work on problems where stakeholders describe problematic situations in incomplete, unclear and sometimes contradictory ways, where solutions are not recognizable, known as “wicked problems.”
How else has the Center for Teaching and Learning Excellence been helpful?
I also worked with the Laurel Willingham-McLain, who is also a former director of the Center for Teaching Excellence at Duquesne University. She helped me develop concepts of operation with my input. Her ability to listen, structure and devise next steps to move forward is amazing.
What has worked well this fall?
We continue to do weekly reflections with diagramming, and students are asked to write to connect course concepts to their personal lives. This has worked fabulously well. Although they are short one- to two-page writing and diagramming assignments, the responses are thoughtful and captivating.
We’ve been able to support group work face to face, online synchronous and online asynchronous by having students write documents and devise mathematical/logic answers during their designated class time. They then submit all assignments to me for assessment in Blackboard. We’ve also used shared folders and files in the University’s Google Drive to make this happen. Another benefit to mixed delivery is the class is developing a substantial body of work that all class members can review. When I asked them what I should do with all their writing after each class and they opted to preserve the record, i.e., keep read access but preserve what was written unmodified as “footprints of their learning.” This made me feel great.
It has been a lot of work, but it is worth it. I’m feeling like I’m getting to a good groove. My students are thoughtful, diligent, funny, and determined to make the most of this semester. I admire what they are doing, how they are feeling and thinking. I’m sure that there are many more Syracuse University students like them.