There exists today a crisis throughout engineering education, and cyberinfrastructure education in particular: enrollments are decreasing, many students are ill-prepared and disengaged, and faculty are pressured to cover an increasing volume of material. Curricula have become stove-piped and disconnected, in spite of research indicating that science and engineering education best resonates with women and underrepresented minority students when clear connections are drawn to transformative applications and other fields of study. Industry routinely lobbies for better engineering graduates that are at ease when collaborating on teams, and eager to attack hands-on design challenges. The academic/industrial/professional society partnership we propose between Rice University, Georgia Institute of Technology, Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology, the University of Texas at El Paso, National Instruments, Texas Instruments, Hewlett-Packard, and the Institute for Electrical and Electronics Engineers Signal Processing Society directly attacks these issues by aiming to revolutionize the way we teach and learn about cyberinfrastructure. We are guided by a common vision: to prepare the cyberinfrastructure leaders of tomorrow, we must break away from the traditional textbook, lecture, homework-based approach to education, and build a new framework where a vibrant network of educators, students, and field practitioners continually interact, collaborate, connect, and explore interactive content. The innovative aspects and scientific merits of this collaborative project lie in our new approach to building and sustaining virtual educational communities around interactive content and applying the results to the full spectrum of engineering education venues: university undergraduate and graduate courses, industrial training and continuing education, just-in-time on the job learning, and high-school laboratories. Our research focuses on one strategic discipline in engineering, signal processing, and involves and balances education, community development, technology development, marketing and business planning, and impact assessment. The specific objectives of the project are to:
- Implement a light-weight Technology Framework that enables faculty and student users to exploit and expand upon the existing signal processing education content;
- Build a signal processing Education Network of champions from faculty, students, and industry leaders nationwide that continually expands, improves, and diversifies the materials and that promotes the use of the framework both at network member institutions and at institutions in the wider engineering education community;
- Assess the effectiveness of the framework and network for accelerating adoption and use as well as the value of the mentoring and support provided by the network of champions;
- Widely Disseminate the results and lessons learned.
Broader impacts of this research include the development of people-resources and technologies that will substantially increase the performance and capabilities of engineering educators, effectively opening up engineering education for motivated self-learners in all parts of the nation as well as the world. In particular, education in digital signal processing and related technologies is critical in sustaining many high-tech industries. Finally, digital signal processing educators, practitioners and students will be brought together to form dynamic knowledge sharing communities that greatly impact education not only on their home campuses but around the world.