Gregory Hislop, PhD, a professor at Drexel University’s College of Computing & Informatics (CCI), is the recipient of a National Science Foundation award for a collaborative project titled “Collaborative Research: OpenPace - Broadening Participation in Computing through Authentic, Collaborative Engagement with Computing for the Greater Good” (a total of $2 million over five years, with Drexel receiving $725,000). Drexel serves as the lead institution on the project, in collaboration with researchers from Nassau Community College, Western New England University, Worcester State University and Dickinson College.
The award builds on over a decade of work in education with Humanitarian Free and Open Source Software (HFOSS). HFOSS is software that addresses societal needs in areas such as healthcare, disaster management, education and economic development, and can improve computing education by providing experience with authentic computing problems. HFOSS also helps draw underrepresented student groups to computing by demonstrating the positive potential of computing. The project goal of attracting women and other underrepresented groups to computing professions “is important to improve diversity in the computing field while also expanding the computing workforce,” said Hislop.
OpenPace will extend HFOSS education methods by developing HFOSS Kits, which are packaged environments that give instructors full control of a complex, realistic practice environment for students. OpenPace will also create new HFOSS projects that will be run and managed by instructors and students to deliver social benefit while providing experience with real projects.
The project will also utilize POGIL (Process Oriented Guided Inquiry Learning) to provide scaffolding as students learn new technologies as well as early professional skill development. OpenPace will include innovative studies of the change in role and identity of instructor and student implied by a shift to active learning, as well as studies of student engagement, retention and diversity.
The OpenPace team believes that the project “has the potential to transform computing education by using computing for the greater good to improve engagement, learning and student diversity,” with potential applications across STEM education at large.