Computing Education Dissertation Areas/Topics

Social Computing

  1. Computing curricula are shifting away from traditional computer science into the broader area of social computing [3, 4] (see also the new computing curricula at the Universities of Maryland, Michigan, and North Carolina). Denning has discussed the chasm that separates the inventors and visionaries from the much larger group of pragmatists (the users of computing technology) [2]. This shift in computing curricula is essentially a move away from studying the technology toward studying the broader and more socially-oriented area of what users do with the technology [4]. These and related articles indicate that social computing involves decentralized information systems, is highly interdisciplinary (scientific collaboration, e-commerce, entertainment, social creativity, and social networking), and is committed to universal usability (mobile, ubiquitous access, multiple languages, diverse cultures, etc., see [1]).
    [1] Berners-Lee, T., The Mobile Web, Keynote Address, 3GSM Barcelona, 2007.
    [2] Denning, P., Crossing the Chasm, Commun. ACM, Vol. 44, No. 4, April 2001, p 21-25.
    [3] Klawe, M. and Shneiderman, B., Crisis and Opportunity in Computer Science, Commun. ACM, Vol. 48, No. 11, November 2005, p 27-28.
    [4] Shneiderman, B., Web Science: A Provocative Invitation to Computer Science, Commun. ACM, Vol. 50, No. 6, June 2007, p 25-27.

    I gave my masters-level students an assignment to read this background material and to propose the associated direction and changes they think should be made to the curriculum of the Seidenberg School of CSIS at Pace University. The following contains the Assignment 2: Moving the Computing Curriculum toward Social Computing and the student submissions from Summer Session I, 2007: 1 2 3 4 (the PDF submission could not be sanitized by removing the student ID information, so please keep this information confidential), from fall 2007: 1 2 3 4 5, from spring 2008: 1 2 3 4, and from fall 2008: 1 2 4 5 6 7 8.

  2. MySpace and Facebook are widely used by the younger generation for social networking, and a study by Pace University's Prof. Dwyer indicates that Facebook, MySpace users will trade privacy for features. A Google-led alliance is even promoting standards for social networks programs, see MySpace Joins Google Alliance. The social networking features of such sites are beginning to be used for educational purposes.

    Here, we have discussed the area of social computing and how it might affect computing curricula. For a dissertation, of course, one would need to develop a specific problem or focus in this area, but the possibilities appear plentiful.

Virtual Reality Learning Environments

  1. The social networking idea has been extended to the use of avatars in virtual worlds for educational purposes. The users of Second Life (created by Linden Lab), and its competitor Quest Atlantis, create avatars as extensions of themselves and these avatars interact in the virtual environments. Second Life has nine million users and many consider this virtual network socializing better for education than the simpler networks of MySpace and Facebook, see What is Second Life and Wikipedia - Second Life. Second Life has been used for creating meaningful learning activities, for mentoring a dissertation therapy club, for student computer clubs, and for encouraging women in computing (from discussions with E-Learn 2007 participants).

  2. IBM has created a training game called Innov8 to teach internal company procedures and to teach graduate students a combination of business and IT skills, see IBM to Innov8 and YouTube Innov8 demo.

Characteristics of Computing Students

  1. The article Inspiring Students to Pursue Computing Degrees (Communications of the ACM, October 2007) offers ideas for improving student recruitment in computing.

  2. Dr. Jonathan Hill (DPS 2007) recently completed his dissertation, "Applying Abstraction to Master Complexity: The Comparison of Abstraction Ability in Computer Science Majors with Students in Other Disciplines," which will become available shortly on the Pace University Library site, and this work has several possibilities for extension.

Other Possibilities

  1. Student projects can develop supporting infrastructures for student-faculty research, see The Interplay of Student Projects and Student-Faculty Research.

  2. Student use of laptops or PDAs, see Notebook versus desktop computers and Integrating PDAs into a Computer Science Curriculum.

  3. Using educational rubrics, see Rubrics Handout and Rubric for Evaluating Web Pages.

  4. Teaching methodologies, such as cultivating "active learning" in the classroom, see Changing the way undergraduates are taught.