Teaching Computation Online: Tips, Tools, and Resources from the 2020 MATLAB Workshop

Wednesday 11:15-11:45am PT / 12:15-12:45pm MT / 1:15-1:45pm CT / 2:15-2:45pm ET Online


Monica Bruckner, Carleton College
Mitchell Bender-Awalt, Carleton College
Lisa Kempler, MathWorks

Computation enables students and researchers to access data, visualize it, perform analyses, connect to instruments, and model systems to predict behavior and events. The need for a computationally savvy workforce that can address complex, wicked problems demands equipping students with quantitative literacy and skills for future studies and work.

The transition to online teaching due to COVID-19 has been challenging across geoscience education, and learning computational skills in a remote-learning environment may be particularly challenging for students who are new to programming or who are still developing their quantitative skills. The 2020 Teaching Computation Online with MATLAB workshop endeavored to tackle these challenges by bringing together faculty to share and build upon strategies for teaching computation online – both for those who are new to it, as well as experienced educators who are looking for new strategies.

The October 2020 three-day virtual workshop brought together a group of 49 participants, leaders, and staff, with the goal of sharing effective classroom activities, online MATLAB tools for teaching and grading, and MATLAB expertise. Through a combination of presentations, discussions, and group and individual work time, the workshop program offered participants space and guidance to create and strengthen curriculum and bring home best practices to apply in their courses.

Participants identified and discussed strategies that are engaging and interactive, including those that facilitate learning-by-doing, group discussions, and real-time assessment. They also developed ideas around using MATLAB tools (Live Editor/Live Scripts, MATLAB Grader, MATLAB Online, MATLAB Drive) and LMS-embedded tools. Online assessment strategies included how to best design assessments, addressing equity and accessibility challenges, and mitigating cheating. A synthesis of these strategies, recommendations, tools, and resources is available on the Teaching Online web page. In addition, collections of faculty-authored, peer-reviewed teaching activities, essays, and courses are available for free on the website.

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