Sep 012018

The Fall 2018 semester begins in 4 days and I’ve been working hard for the last month or two on the courses I am teaching – CS-343 and CS-443. In this post, I’m going to talk about two course changes – Full POGIL and All OER.

Full POGIL and All OER

These two changes affect both courses.


POGIL is an acronym for Process Oriented Guided Inquiry Learning. It is a student-centered, group-learning instructional strategy and philosophy developed through research on how students learn best.

The POGIL Project, What is POGIL

In past semesters, I have done some POGIL or POGIL-like activities in classes. Students seemed to be highly engaged with them. When I started to lecture, engagement started to go down. So, I plan to teach entirely with POGIL activities this semester in both of my courses.

In 2015, I attended the 3-day Northeast Regional POGIL Workshop held at Muhlenberg College, in the Introductory Track. That gave me the basics about how to teach with POGIL, I used it occasionally, mostly using activities that had been written by Stoney Jackson at Western New England University, or Clif Kussmaul at Muhlenberg.

I also tried to write some activities of my own, which were generally better than lecturing, but didn’t really fit the full POGIL methodology. So, this summer, I decided to attend the 3-day 2018 Northeast Regional POGIL Workshop (at Manhattan College), and take the Writing Activities track.

But before I went to the workshop, I decided to go all-in and teach CS-140 this summer as a full POGIL course. This was a good time to try this experiment because I had a small class (only 6 students) and I knew that there were a lot of already written activities for CS1 (Introductory programming) in Java. I used the activities from Chris Mayfield (at James Madison University). I read all of his activities, and soon decided that I would have to write some of my own. But having such a great collection of activities from Chris helped me generalize the structure of the activities and write some of my own.

Now I am writing all my own activities for my two courses this semester. This will be a challenge to keep up with, and I’m sure they will not always perfectly follow the POGIL learning cycle, but it feel confident that these will be a good start that I can improve upon for future semesters.


In Fall 2017, I applied for and received an Open Educational Resources Initiative (OERI) mini-grant from the Worcester State University Library. I used it to teach CS 343 without a textbook. I did the same with CS 348 in Spring 2018 (without a grant). This semester I will be continuing by using OER in CS-343 again and eliminating the textbook from CS-443.

One of the reasons I decided to go full POGIL is that the activities replace much of the reading material in the courses. I can write an activity that introduces the concepts and terminology to the students for the first time, and then assign them some online readings for more details.

It’s great that I can save the students money with OER instead of a textbook, but from my perspective the most important feature of OER in my classes is that I can organize the class around material that I feel is important to the students. Often the course topics in these upper-level software development courses cannot be covered in a single book – I would have to assign 3 or 4 books to cover the areas, and I would use only part of each book. And I’m very fortunate that Computer Science is a field where practitioners feel compelled to document what they do, what tools they use, and how they work, on the Web providing me with a large collection of materials I can assign to my students.

Still to come…

In future posts, I’ll discuss Specification/Competency Grading, Self-Directed Professional Development Blog Entries, as well as changes in tools that I am using this semester.

Oct 012017

To help me with finding student’s blog posts that have been syndicated to the CS@Worcester blog, I have been asking them to tag them with the course number (e.g. CS-343). That has worked well for finding just the posts for a particular class. But, what would make it even easier for me, would be to… Continue Reading Testing Categories and Tags for Syndication

Jun 152017

The Worcester State University Library has called for proposals for Open Educational Resources Initiative (OERI) mini-grants to support Fall 2017 courses to the use of Open Educational Resources. I have submitted a proposal to support the use of OER in CS 343 Software Construction, Design, and Architecture. This is the first required course in our… Continue Reading Course Prep: Open Educational Materials Grant Proposal

Jun 152017

Yesterday was International Weblogger’s Day, and in honor of the day I’m going to make a resolution to post on my blog at least once a week. (Let’s see how well that goes…)

May 252017

I am preparing for a new (for me) course for the Fall 2017 semester: CS 343 Software Construction, Design, and Architecture. My intention is for this to be a course primarily about software design and I want to approach it through design patterns, software architectures, and modern software frameworks. These are all topics that I… Continue Reading New Course Prep: Learning UML

Oct 092014

I wanted to post an update to my post Sabbatical Reading List. To better keep track of my progress with my reading, I’ve started tagging the books on my LibraryThing account in different categories: The current list of all the books on my sabbatical reading list. Books that I have finished reading. Books I am… Continue Reading Sabbatical Reading Update

Sep 082014

Summer is over, and it’s time to really get to work on my Sabbatical project. I did do some work this summer – I’ve read 3 of the books on my Sabbatical Reading List (and added a few more to the list) and I’ve finally de-lurked on the OpenMRS developer mailing list and in some… Continue Reading Sabbatical Restart

Jun 182014

I have been lurking in the OpenMRS project for the last 6 months or so. I have read wiki pages, installed the development environment, cloned the repository and built the code, and listened in on a number of OpenMRS weekly developer meetings. As I begin my sabbatical, I realized that it was time to finally… Continue Reading De-lurking…

Jun 062014

I have begun my reading list for my sabbatical. It includes general software development/software engineering books, as well as books specifically aimed at the next two courses I will be teaching in our Software Development Concentration: CS-348 Software Process Management (Spring 2015) CS-443 Software Quality Assurance and Testing (Fall 2015) Here is my sabbatical reading… Continue Reading Sabbatical Reading List

Jun 062014

I am spending the Fall 2014 semester on sabbatical1. This is the proposal I submitted to request my sabbatical leave: I will use my sabbatical to become more expert in the area of Software Development/Software Engineering. The Computer Science Department recently created a Concentration in Software Development, which has expanded our course offerings in this… Continue Reading Fall 2014 Sabbatical