Project Abstracts

The Math Gym

The Math Gym (TMG) is a place in the campus where all the tools needed to stay in excellent math shape.  Students are referred to TMG when their performance in various diagnostic tests or in the proprietary QuizZero, conducted by the Department of Mathematics and Statistics, indicates that they may need to boost certain parts of their basic math skills. TMG is also the place to review and reinforce the pre-requisite materials for students who are currently in any course on campus in which students routinely use math skills. Students can choose to go to the TMG on their own or because a faculty member recommends it to them. The TMG is the place for students to go to get a quick brush up of the specific skills they need at that time, and get back to work. The Math Gym also provides personal trainers (PT) who will work with students, one-on-one, keep up a strict customized daily regimen, developed in consultation with knowledgeable math coaches, to improve and maintain basic math skills.

This “just-in-time” teaching coupled with mastery based learning methods is the key feature of TMG. Careful assessment of the progress of individual participants is expected to produce concrete data to assess the applicability of these approaches in UMBC.

Lead Investigator: Nagaraj Neerchal, Professor and Chair, Department of Mathematics and Statistics
Co-Investigators: Raji Baradwaj, Instructor, Department of Mathematics and Statistics
Kalman Nanes, Lecturer, Department of Mathematics and Statistics
Elizabeth Stanwyck, Lecturer, Department of Mathematics and Statistics
Bonny Tighe, Senior Lecturer, Department of Mathematics and Statistics

Active Computing and InnoVation Environment (ACTIVE)

The Active Computing Teaching and InnoVation Environment (ACTIVE) is a dynamic “laptop laboratory” environment that will support curricular innovations in multiple computing courses and will serve as an incubator to explore possibilities for broad redesign of the computing curricula.  The ACTIVE approach is based on research on the power of collaborative learning to promote student success and retention, particularly for women, underrepresented minorities, and transfer students, who benefit greatly from building stronger connections with their peers through shared active learning experiences.  Our project explores the challenges of using collaborative learning in disciplines in which students must develop individual mastery of key skills and problem solving methods. The ACTIVE Center’s infrastructure and pedagogical methods will transfer well to other disciplines, including engineering and the natural sciences.

A pilot course in ACTIVE will begin in fall 2013, and faculty leading the project will be evaluating its impact throughout that time.

Lead Investigator: Marie desJardins, Professor, Computer Science and Electrical Engineering
Co-Investigators: Tim Finin, Professor, Computer Science and Electrical Engineering
Chuck LaBerge, Professor, Computer Science and Electrical Engineering
Penny Rheingans, Professor, Computer Science and Electrical Engineering

The Wisdom Institute

The Wisdom Institute will tap the valuable potential of UMBC’s emeritus professors by having the participants teach about the wisdom gained from their life experiences more than the specialized, theoretical knowledge, which was the focus of their academic careers. The Wisdom lnstitute’s teaching and learning, initially available to students of all levels and degrees/programs at UMBC, will focus on experience-based learning and skills development generalizable to success in academic work and in other life domains. The Wisdom Institute will

initially offer a series of workshops available singly for no credit or, in combination as a one credit course, on the topic of translating experience into applicable wisdom. The goal is to enhance individual wisdom that can be exercised within and beyond the classroom, enhancing success. The format of these workshops would be a series of creative reaction projects/papers or interview format discussions with the emeriti professors, and all on the theme of translating experience into wisdom.

The program’s success relies on the rich resource of civic engagement by our emeritus professors and the life lessons they can share with workshop participants, particularly current UMBC students. Eventually the steering group, comprised of those emeritus faculty and administrators who are willing to continue to share their wisdom, will also consider added/alternative funding options. The courses and workshops would be assessed using qualitative, anonymous surveys and student essays, but unique to this project, the assessment would also include the emeritus participants’ reaction interviews, essays, and surveys.

Lead Investigator: Craig Saper, Professor and Director, Language, Learning and Culture; Bearman Foundation Chair
Co-Investigator: Leslie Morgan, Co-Director and Graduate Program Director, Gerontology

Putting Students’ Language Skills to Work: Strengthening Collaboration Between Campus and Community

A new course requirement of 1 to 3 credits for German Major and Minor students, German 315—Experiential Learning, is being implemented by the Modern Languages, Linguistics and Intercultural Communication Department.  Students can fulfill this requirement through work experience in local businesses and institutions which require knowledge of German; two examples are The Maryland Historical Society and The German Lutheran Zion Church of Baltimore.

A primary focus of this internship course is to help prepare students to be successful in future careers. Besides improving German language skills and cultural competence, students gain experience in interacting on a professional level, they learn to work as part of a team in a professional environment; they begin to forge connections with professionals, and develop professional confidence. Students also build valuable ‘soft’ skills such as independent problem-solving, time management and successful interpersonal communication. This course leads students out of the teacher-controlled classroom to perform complex projects for an established ‘client’. Students perform meaningful work which requires flexibility, depending on clients’ (evolving) expectations as the project progresses. In a sense, the course also redefines the instructor’s role as mentor to an active and mostly independent learner.

In addition, the German area of MLLI will be establishing close continuous contacts within the Baltimore community. The course can serve as a model and provide important “Do’s and Don’ts” information for other languages and eventually other UMBC departments.  Funding will be used to develop this course fully, including development of a clear framework for the course requirements, clear assessment tools for evaluating student success, and guidelines for expanding contacts to other relevant local organizations.  Information and experience gathered from this project by the team leaders will be presented to the MLLI department, the broader UMBC community, as well as at regional and national professional organization conferences.

Instituting such a course can prove that students who participate in this endeavor are more proficient at the language and more attuned to the culture of the target language than their fellow students who do not have this experience.  In addition, we hope to be able to demonstrate that participating students have a better understanding of the dynamics of the work place and will adapt more easily to a working environment after college.  Hopefully, our experience with the course will encourage other departments to integrate experiential learning programs as an integral part of their curriculum.

Lead Investigator: Susanne Sutton, Lecturer, Modern Languages, Linguistics and Intercultural Communications
Co-Investigators: Brigitte May, Senior Lecturer, Modern Languages, Linguistics and Intercultural Communications
Xenia Wolff, Instructor, Modern Languages, Linguistics and Intercultural

Service Learning in Statics

In the mechanical engineering department, we are interested in motivating and retaining a diverse student body.  Studies show that part of a student’s motivation to study engineering derives from the belief that engineering positively contributes to the welfare of society. In addition, current ABET requirements for accredited engineering programs include helping students acquire “the broad education necessary to understand the impact of engineering solutions in a global, economic, environmental, and societal context.” We wish to cultivate this sense of civic engagement early in their academic career. In order to aid in our students success, it is proposed to add an engineering service learning project in the statics course in spring 2013. The anticipated outcomes from this project include students not only earning higher grade point averages, but increased retention rates as well. In addition, we hope to demonstrate an improvement in academic content knowledge, critical thinking skills, written and verbal communication, engineering self-efficacy, and leadership skills. Moreover, we hope our students show increased interest in becoming personally and professionally involved in future community enhancement projects. The service learning component will be incorporated using protocols developed by Lima and Oaks. To assess the intervention, performance of exams, homework, quizzes and the statics learning inventory will be utilized. In addition, students’ self-efficacy will be examined using existing surveying tools to include Longitudinal Assessment of Engineering Self-efficacy (LEASE) and the Academic Pathways of People Learning Engineering Survey (APPLES).

Lead Investigator: Anne Spence, Assistant Professor, Mechanical Engineering
Co-Investigator: Jamie Gurganus, Assistant Director, Project Lead the Way

Improving High Fidelity Human Simulation

The use of high fidelity human simulation in EMS clinical education is well established and accepted. The simulation based learning experience consists of distinct stages, the most important being the post-scenario debriefing. The use of video to supplement debriefing is well documented however fixed video cameras, even ones with PTZ capability, are limited in coverage area and ability to record clinical procedures during a team exercise. To overcome the limits of fixed video recording devices, this proposal seeks to investigate the feasibility of using small, wearable video camcorders to record individual team member performance.

Bruce Walz, Professor and Director of Emergency Health Services