Department Receives Three Teaching Innovation Grants

The department recently received three teaching innovation grants to develop new and creative instructional strategies for the Fall 2020 courses.

The University of Maryland awarded the College of Computer, Mathematical, and Natural Sciences (CMNS) 41 Teaching Innovation Grants totaling over $477,000 to reimagine and reshape the future of teaching and learning at the university.  The department received three of these grants to revise and update the courses in order to provide advanced and better learning opportunities to the students. The grant also focuses towards making the online and blended courses more successful.

“Our current unprecedented situation with respect to the COVID-19 pandemic presents great challenges but also provides new opportunities to learn about, develop and plan outstanding online courses that are adaptable and accessible to all students under a variety of circumstances and are highly innovative,” UMD Senior Vice President and Provost Mary Ann Rankin said in the grant solicitation.

The grant will be used towards redesigning three courses: CMSC330, CMSC422 and CMSC423.


Professor Roger Eastman, Professor Michael Hicks and Senior Lecturer Anwar Mamat will be rebooting the curriculum for CMSC330: Organization of Programming Languages. Along with Associate Professor David Van Horn and Assistant Professor Leonidas Lampropoulos, they will be rethinking the large, 600 student course for improved online delivery. 

“How do you keep this many students engaged and productive in an online environment while expecting them to meet the high standards of a College Park education?” said Professor Eastman "We're working on how to support self-directed, online study with faster, online guidance and feedback.” 

 The faculty members plan to convert the existing lecture and course material to an online textbook with short videos and integrated self-directed formative exercises. The course will also focus more on student-directed testing, where students develop their own test suites to evaluate someone else’s code, and an approach called property-based testing.


Professor Ramani Duraiswami and Professor David Jacobs will be redesigning CMSC 422, Introduction to Machine Learning, in order to modernize the course and adapt it to online teaching in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.

 “Because the lack of in-person instruction it makes more difficult for students to receive help and appropriate feedback, we are creating a blended course that leverages the fact that there are two sections of the course in the same semester, allowing students to access live lectures and discussion sections from both instructors,”said Professor Duraiswami. 

They also plan to add frequent short assessments to provide continual feedback to students. Most importantly, the course’s programming assignments plan to make use of a new online textbook and interactive Python notebooks, allowing more interactivity in the assignments and involving students with real-world data. Further, to ensure uniformity of available computational resources for all remote students, these notebooks will be integrated into Google’s Colab offering. When campus returns to in-person teaching of such large courses, these innovations will continue, and help improve the course in that situation as well. 


Professor Mihai Pop will be redesigning course CMSC423: Bioinformatic Algorithms, Databases, and Tools,  with Assistant Research Scientist Jacquelyn Meisel to move towards a Hyflex model that enables online, blended and in person instruction as well as the seamless transition between them. Such a model will be critical during the current pandemic and will allow both the quick pivot of the course itself as conditions change (e.g., transition to classroom teaching followed by a closure of the campus due to an outbreak).

The proposed  model would enable individual students to adapt to circumstances in their life which will improve retention and academic success for students from under-represented groups.

“This award will enable us to develop a battery of problems and exercises that will form the basis for formative and evaluative assessment throughout the semester,”said Professor Pop. “ This resource will also be valuable for in person versions of the class or hybrid models of instructions that may be used once the pandemic is over."

The CMNS Teaching and Learning Center will be offering two workshops to help the faculty members prepare their proposals and will continue to work with them throughout the summer to prepare their courses for the fall semester.




The Department welcomes comments, suggestions and corrections.  Send email to editor [-at-] cs [dot] umd [dot] edu.