k. How would the department characterize the results of the graduate student survey? Are they generally representative of the experience of graduate students in the department? The results of the graduate student survey indicate that by and large most of our graduate students are very or highly satisfied with the department and its offerings. In nearly every category the percent of students that were highly or very satisfied in computer science was above that of the campus; in some cases, it was well above that of the campus. We believe that students in our department are treated fairly and with respect and are given great assistance from faculty and staff towards the completion of their degree. The survey results confirm this. In general, students feel that the strengths of our department are the faculty and research; the mentoring of graduate students; the positive attitude of faculty, staff and students; and the commitment of the department to its students.
The areas where the survey indicates that the department should improve are in providing better guidance to our teaching assistants, providing better career advising and job placement assistance. Written results indicate that some students are dissatisfied with the quality and location of space (i.e. some research labs are in remote trailers); the quality of our graduate student lab facilities for entering students that are not in a specific research lab; the opportunities for social or technical interaction with students outside of their own research group; and the diversity in our courses (specifically, asking for more AI and theory). We believe that each of these are valid concerns and do represent actual problems within our department.
l. Describe the participation of graduate students in the governance of the department. Every departmental faculty committee includes a graduate student representative to ensure that student issues are considered and to give experience to future academics. These committees include faculty recruitment, facilities, graduate admissions, colloquium, undergraduate curriculum, and diversity. In each committee, students are allowed (and encouraged) to voice their opinion and participate in any discussion. Additionally, the Department's graduate students send representatives to UCSB's Graduate Student Association assembly to participate in campus-wide issues concerning graduate education. This includes graduate health insurance, co-sponsoring of cultural, social and academic events and participation in many campus-wide committees. Finally, twice yearly the department chair holds an open meeting with the graduate students. This is an opportunity to voice compliments, complaints, and suggestions for improvement. These meetings are typically well-attended.
UNDERGRADUATE PROGRAM a. What is the rationale for the department's undergraduate instructional programs? How does the department ensure that curricular offerings permit majors to complete their degrees in a timely manner (i.e., four years, 180 units)? Discuss any undergraduate curricular problems and efforts to solve them.
The Department of Computer Science (CS) offers a B.S. in Computer Science in the College of Engineering (COE), and a B.A. in Computer Science though the College of Letters and Science. In addition, CS is the "cognate department" for the B.S. in Computer Science in the College of Creative Studies (CCS).
A common rationale for these degree programs is to balanced theory and practice. Many of our courses require programming assignments and projects where the student must address design and implementation details, which are, for the most part, abstracted away in theoretical discussions. To complement required courses, we offer a rich mix of elective courses that include such topics as databases, cryptography, computer communication networks, network computing, computer graphics, machine intelligence, software engineering, security and privacy, and computer vision. The three degree programs can be distinguished as follows:
The B.S. program is an ABET-accredited degree program that focuses on a deep knowledge of Computer Science and is suitable for a broad range of students.
The B.A. program offers three distinct emphases: Computational Biology, Computational Geography, and Computational Economics. Since the last PRP review, CS has worked with the biology departments (EEMB/MCDB), and with the departments of Geography and Economics to design a degree program that is primarily a degree program in Computer Science, but which includes a core of courses in these other fields. Work in these three areas requires increasing amounts of computation, and there is a sense that a combined degree program would attract students that might otherwise not choose CS.
The B.S. program in the College of Creative Studies is designed to recruit the most talented and imaginative undergraduates. The program offers an accelerated lower division curriculum (one year, rather than two), early access to upper division courses, and an emphasis on undergraduate research.
We offer all the required CS courses at least twice a year. Electives courses are offered once a year. They are sufficiently plentiful, and degree requirements are sufficiently flexible, that students normally do not delay graduation for lack of available elective courses. Also, some courses in related areas offered by other departments may be counted as major area electives.
There are two major initiatives underway related to the our undergraduate programs of the CS department: a restructuring of the lower division curriculum, and a review of the BA program. The most comprehensive of these is the lower division curriculum course restructuring. This effort is in response to student feedback and performance over the past five years. Our goal for this course restructuring is to better enable all students to build a solid foundation in computer science and improve their overall educational experience in our department. The department began investigating how best to implement this course restructuring in Fall 2007. We started to offer the resulting restructured courses in Fall 2009. All of the topics covered by our current courses are covered by our new courses. However, to increase the depth in understanding of the topics and to make the classes more engaging and intuitive, we present the topics in new ways and introduce recently emerged and successful pedagogical practices as part of the lectures.
We have identified a set of outcomes that we hope to achieve with our restructuring effort, based on feedback on our curriculum from our students (graduated and current) and based on our experiences with this curriculum and our students throughout the program. Our expected outcomes are (i) an increased pedagogical emphasis on problem problem-solving with computers, (ii) inclusion of real-world examples, tools, systems, and modern pedagogical practices within the curriculum, (iii) better preparation of students in the foundational concepts needed for the upper division computer science courses, (iv) improved retention and recruitment statistics throughout the lower division, and (v) a more fluid transition between all courses in the programming-based problem problem-solving sequence and consistency in topic coverage and teaching quality throughout the lower division.
To achieve these goals our restructuring effort:
Introduces seven new classescourses. One class course from the original curriculum remainss for a total of eight.
Provides a set of four classes that comprise a tightly integrated sequence focused on developing programming foundations and that employ a "spiral" model.
Targets problem- solving and confidence- building.
Employs recent successful pedagogical practices, and modern tools and systems.
Provides a course that providesfor students with no programming background with an introduction to programming that is fun and exciting.
Includes topics that are needed for the more advanced content of the upper division courses.
In particular, our courses will provide (i) more hands-on experience with writing programs and solving problems, (ii) novel classroom activities that facilitate teacher-student interaction, (iii) programming assignments and problem sets that are more realistic and interesting to students and that reveal the importance of the topics in the larger context of computer science, technology and the world around us, (iv) use of program development tools, e.g., debuggers, integrated development environments, testing systems, documentation systems, collaboration tools, and (v) team-based and end-to-end (design, implementation, demonstration, presentation) program development and collaboration.
In addition to the restructuring, wWe also are also currently taking a fresh look at the BA program, which. This program has not been as popular with students as we had hoped. Of the three emphases, only computational economics has drawn the interest of a handful of students. The cComputational biology emphasis has a few students and the third area has virtually no students. The BA program's goal was to combine other disciplines with computational thinking. There seem to be asome number of issues with the current implementation: inflexibility with respect to emphases and insufficient advertisement to students. We have studied this problem and discuss our plans further in the development plan.
b. Describe departmental honors programs and projects, and the educational experiences they provide to qualified students.
In 2009, we established a Distinction in the Major Program (DIMAP). The top 10% of students are eligible to apply for admission to this program. In order to receive Distinction in the Major, admitted students need to complete either a Research Project under the supervision of a faculty member or a Capstone Project under the supervision of the instructors of the capstone project course sequence. All students who participate in the DIMAP give 30-minute public presentations of their projects, which are evaluated by at least two faculty members, one of which is the student’s advisor. Students who receive successful evaluations receive Distinction in the Major. Four students participated in the inaugural year of the program, one of whom was the recipient of the College of Engineering Undergraduate Research award (Casey Cipriani, advised by CS Dept. Faculty member Teofilo Gonzalez.)
CS is also the "cognate department" for the Computer Science program in the College of Creative Studies which provides another path for academically gifted students to pursue Computer Science. CCS students are required to complete their upper division courses from those offered by CS. Some CCS students take graduate courses offered by CS, and engage in undergraduate research with CS faculty members.
c. How is undergraduate research encouraged in the department, and how successful has the department been in this regard in recent years?
Out of the our thirty-four ladder and SOE track faculty members affiliated with the department, twenty-six of them (76%) have involved undergraduates in their research activities during the PRP study period. The department also introduced a Distinction in the Major Program (DIMAP) in 2009 (see response to question b).
Phill Conrad has developed an undergraduate variable-unit course that allows undergraduates to prepare for research projects with faculty. It is a combination of practical information about the academic environment from a faculty perspective, the CS research methodology of research, and watching observing faculty research presentations, and faculty participating in a question / answer sessions with studentsfaculty members. This has resulted in several students working with faculty members. Diana Franklin and Phill Conrad have recently just received an NSF grant for a summer outreach program for middle school students which will hire at least two freshman/sophomore computer science undergraduate students each summer. These are lower division students, and Tthis opportunity is intended as an incentive for students to do well in their introductory courses, to receive personalized advising, and to be encouraged to enroll in the research course, and to participate in future undergraduate research opportunities.
d. What efforts are made to increase the diversity of undergraduate majors and to retain them to completion of the degree? What efforts are made to increase the diversity of undergraduate majors and to retain them to completion of the degree?
To encourage superior prospective undergraduate students to enter the major, CS department faculty and staff have participated in the Chancellor's Regional Receptions throughout the study period. These receptions are annual events designed to recruit the top admitted students to come to UCSB. We have also sent letters to the Regents Scholars that have been admitted to the CS program at UCSB to offer them a special welcome, and some of the same opportunities offered to students in the CCS CS program—including an accelerated path through the lower division curriculum. Over the last three years, we have also increased the our faculty presence and student project presentations at Spring Insight to try to makebetter more of a connection with prospective undergraduates students.
To retain superior undergraduate students, we added the "Distinction in the Major" program starting with the 2009 school year. Four students participated in this program, each completing an undergraduate research project under the direction of a CS department faculty member. We also offer a 5-year combined BS/MS program, and encourage all of our students to participate in student professional organizations, such as the student chapter of the Association for Computing Machinery.
There We currently have several are a variety of efforts underway to recruit and retain a diverse undergraduate student body. Several of our initiatives in this area are informed by research (by Jane Margolis of UCLA, and others) showing that women and minority students are less likely than their white male counterparts to be aware of a Computer Science as a career option prior to entering college. Diana Franklin, Gerardo Aldana, and Phill Conrad have recently just received an NSF grant for a summer outreach program for middle school students targeted towards females and Latina/os, which. This program starts in middle school and continues through high school—the intent is to plant seeds that in future years may lead to an increased in CS applicants to our department. In addition, Aan outreach program run through UCSB's CSNI (California NanoSystems Institute), called Family Science Nights, includes a computer science component run by Diana Franklin. This event is held at several local middle schools in our local area. Finally, we have redesigned our lower-division curriculum, including our GE introduction to computing course, to make it more attractive to students who have not yet declared computer science as a major. We are hopeing that this gentler, and more engaging introduction to computing appeals to a broader student spectrum of students.
Several initiatives are under way to retain undergraduate CS majors across the board, and with particular attention to those from underrepresented groups. The lower division curriculum redesign, we hope, goes throughout the lower division, which will hopefully increase the percentage of females and under-represented minority students that move take on to upper division courses. Last year, we started a new club, WISH (Women in Software and Hardware), allowing females in computer engineering and computer science to socialize, network, and support each other in the major. This spring quarter will is be the first quarter the Ddepartment, in conjunction with ACM, has paid tutors to help students in lower division courses. They have coordinated with Los Ingenieros to provide tutoring with the specific aim of helping minority students. Finally, we have offered courses in which students use their computer science skills to help the community as part of outreach efforts. We have established partnerships with Girls Incorporated, local high schools, and other community non-profit organizations in our community.
Finally, iIn fall 2010, we will begin a pilot advising program for freshman. There Among this pilot’s goals are many goals to this program, but one is to retainretention of students from underrepresented groups—students that might otherwise have leave left due to feeling like isolated the department does not care about them, they do not fit into computer science, or they to inadequate have performanceed poorly and are unable to advance to upper division courses.
e. Describe the departmental major advising and general advising programs. What role does the faculty play?
Advising of students is a shared responsibility between the College of Engineering Undergraduate Office and the faculty in the Computer Science Department. We briefly describe below those activities undertaken by the Department.
The CS Undergraduate Advisor gives advice about CS-related issues to the students. The CS Undergraduate Advisor also may give advice about the CS programs, internships, jobs, career options, graduate school, electives, etc. The CS Undergraduate Program Assistant helps students plan their schedules, discusses issues about taking courses concurrently, etc.
The CS Undergraduate Advisor has 3 - 5 office hours a week. In addition, the CS Undergraduate Program Assistant is available all the time to answer day-to-day questions, to collect and return petitions, forms, etc. General advising and announcements are disseminated through the ‘ugrads’ mailing list. Advice also is given to CS pre-major/major students during yearly meetings, which are enumerated below:
New Student Orientation: Participants: Undergraduate Adviser, Staff Undergraduate Assistant, and incoming freshmen and transfer students. It occurs on an orientation day before Fall quarter.
Pre-major meeting: Participants: Undergraduate Adviser, Staff Undergraduate Assistant, and students declared in the pre-major. It occurs during the seventh week of winter quarter.
Senior Focus group: Participants: Undergraduate Adviser and a small group of graduating seniors. It is held every three years in June, and is one of our ABET assessments.
(New) CS Major meeting: This is a two-part meeting. Participants: All and only CS majors (as opposed to CS premajor students, who are served by meetings 1. and 2. above). It occurs on those years that there is no Senior Focus Group:
The department also plans a pilot study of individual undergraduate advising by individual faculty members that will occur in the academic year 2010 - 2011. The proposal for this pilot study is part of our Development Plan. The results will be assessed and evaluated. If all goes well, we will upgrade our undergraduate advising to include wider faculty involvement.
f. How does the department monitor the quality of its undergraduates at the different stages of their studies, and how does it handle underperforming majors? Comment on departmental grading trends.
Currently, tThe department employs a premajor to ensure the quality of the undergraduates that transition from the lower division to the upper division. Students who underperform in the lower division are contacted by the College of Engineering, if they fall below a certain grade point average in the lower division or perform poorly repeatedly in classes. We provide an both staff and faculty undergraduate advisors both at the staff and faculty level for students to speak consult to throughout their careers. They advise students, help students them find tutoring resources, and help students them transition to other majors, if necessary. The college College and the ACM provide tutoring services. The department coordinates with both, to ensuringe that adequate courses (particularly the more challenging) ones have coverage; the faculty encourage top upper division students to participate in the tutoring to help those that come after them.
We have analyzed the course-wise average GPA data over the past six years. The Ggrades in the courses have been consistent over this period. We will continue to use this data to provide feedback to faculty and to alert detect us of outliers that we can address, if/when they occur.
We gather and have analyzed data on the success of our premajor students as well. We find that Tthe ratio percentage of premajors that become majors has historically is been around 40%. Our data confirms that this historical trend was evident This ratio is also consistent over the past 6 years, in particular. over which we performed the analysis. We will continue to track this data as we consider ways of improving student quality, reducing attrition, and increasing diversity.
g. What efforts are under way to improve instruction? What sources of evidence (e.g., student evaluations, peer evaluation) does the department use to assess the quality of teaching? How is good teaching effectively encouraged? Comment on the mix of ladder-rank faculty, lecturers, and teaching assistants in undergraduate instruction and on the level of contact between faculty and undergraduate students.
We have hired Lecturers with Security of Employment and Potential Security of Employment whose mission is to improve our undergraduate instruction. They provide improved continuity of effort over temporary lecturers and contribute significant teaching ability and experience to our classes. In addition, Tthey research and bring apply novel pedagogical techniques, to the classes they teach and they share successful techniques with other the faculty.
Students evaluate the instructor and the TA(s) in every CS course using campus-standard ESCI surveys. The results of the surverys and the written comments are provided to the faculty. The Chair discusses any concerns with the instructor. The tTeaching evaluations now become are an integral part of the merit and promotion dossier. The oOverall evaluation of the our teaching of our courses at the lower and upper division level courses is similar to the that numbers for the Ccollege and the campus (usually a little better than the collegeCollege, and a little worse than the campus).
Every year, graduating College of Engineering students vote for the Outstanding Faculty in Computer Science Award. Over the past eight years, there have been 9 awardees from our department (one year, two faculty tied and were given co-awards). The College of Engineering students each year also vote for an outstanding Teaching Assistant each quarter (3 per year). They select the best TA in a lower and upper division class. Our department celebrates publicly all of these awardees, emphasizing the value we place on quality..
Finally, oOur faculty has been recognized recently for their teaching contributions via University-wide and external awards. Each year, UCSB awards an Academic Senate Distinguished Teaching Award and a Distinguished Mentor Award. Since the 2003-4 academic year, four different CS faculty have been received the former awarded the former honor and one CS faculty received the latter honoraward. These awards are extremely competitive given that faculty from all departments in all colleges are considered. One of our faculty members received the 2007 Northrop Grumman Excellence in Teaching award in 2007; and another received the CRA-W Anita Borg Early Career Award for research, outreach, and mentoring.
h. How are teaching assistants trained, supervised, and evaluated?
Since the last PRP review, we instituted two changes intended to improve our TAs. First, our Graduate Admissions Committee pays more attention to an applicant’s skills in English communication. Secondly, we started a Lead TA program to improve the performance of our TAs.
The Lead TA (LTA) is selected based on the evaluations and feedback we receive for each TA from the course undergraduatesstudents and instructors. The Lead TA then attends the Lead TA Institute workshops provided by UCSB's Office of Instructional Development. The LTA then guides our TAs via a three-part training process that takes place throughout the year.
The fFirst, we added is a new graduate course, CMPSC 501: Techniques of Computer Science Teaching , for CS graduate students who are interested in assisting instructors in their course material. In this course, the LTA provides information on an array of topics from leading course discussions and interacting with students during office hours to familiarizing our TAs with departmental and campus resources and procedures. During this course, there are also guest speakers who address various issues pertaining to interacting with students. Second, every quarter, we use midquarter TA evaluations which are taken by our students during the middle of the quarter and tabulated by the LTA toto monitor the progress of our TAs. Every academic quarter, Midterm TAThese evaluations, are used in addition to the campus wide survey, in order to help the LTA, the course instructor, and the TA to detect early-on concerns (such as adjusting the pace of the discussion Discussion to Sectionmeet the students' needs) .that need to be address based on student feedback.
Third, we videotape the TA's during one of their discussion sessions through the Teaching Assistant Development Program. This program offers TAs a chance to see and hear how they actually appear to students and to receive consultation from an experienced TA (often outside the department) and LTA.
In addition, tThe Lead TA, and with the Graduate Advisor also, meets with and helps problematic TAs. AlsoMoreover, each graduate student undergoes an annual review by the whole CS faculty. During that review, TA reviews are given more weight: Students who receive poor reviews are put on probation and receive extra attention.
To help motivate excellence, each quarter, we now recognize outstanding Teaching Assistants with a Teaching Assistant Award in a public ceremony.
We will continue to refine and improve our Lead TA program.