Teaching online with MATLAB

Andrew M Fischer, Institute for Marine and Antarctic Studies, University of Tasmania

I currently teach and class for beginning graduate students. The aims of the class are to introduce them to MATLAB, while simultaneously teaching then about spatial data and spatiotemporal data analysis. This year the class has been offered online. As a result, I have incorporated Blackboard web conferencing, MATLAB Online and MATLAB Grader. Overall the class starts out with the basics of MATLAB, spatial data types and working with these data in MATLAB. The first, five weeks covers the basics of MATLAB (e.g. variables, data structures and matrix manipulation and graphics and figure production) and the basics of spatial data (e.g. raster, vector, projections). Each week students are provided with a 50 minute lecture on a specific topic, followed by a scripted activity related to the topic of the week. The lecture material is supplemented with questions on MATLAB grader. As students work through the scripted activity, I remain online with MATLAB Online to explain concepts, highlight MATLAB functions, or clarify confusion.

After the mid-semester break we switch to more advanced analysis with the spatial data. These topics include empirical orthogonal functions, autocorrelation, geometry operations with some introduction to machine learning. The entire class ends with students submitting a final poster project in which they demonstrate how they can use spatial data in MATLAB and apply spatial analysis technique to answer a specific question that they have developed earlier in the semester.

Surprisingly, student attendance (though not required) and engagement online is high. It is hard to say what that is attributed to since this is the first year it has been offered fully online. In the future, I think I will implement coding challenges in breakout groups.

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