Online Education Expert Available for Interviews

Why fight traffic to arrive at expensive buildings only to passively listen to content that could be more effectively delivered online, professor says

Frank Vahid stands in front of a wall

Frank Vahid, a professor of computer science, helped develop an online introduction to computer science class.

RIVERSIDE, Calif. (www.ucr.edu) — Frank Vahid, a professor of computer science at the University of California, Riverside Bourns College of Engineering who developed an introduction to computer science class for the UC Online project that will be offered for the first time in April, is available to talk to reporters about online education.

Vahid calls the UC online initiative and online education in general, including massive open online courses (MOOCs), “long overdue.” He believes traditional college classes, especially lower-division courses, commonly involve too much duplication of effort, while requiring students to fight traffic to arrive at expensive buildings only to passively listen to content that could be more effectively delivered online.

“Pooling resources to create a few great courses that compete for students is sometimes better,” Vahid said. “With hundreds of thousands of dollars invested in each such course, we’ll get BBC-documentary-quality material, automated assessment and help, 24/7 low-cost tutoring, individualized learning content, state-of-the-art performance analysis and optimization, and more.”

“To be clear, nothing beats an in-person course with a knowledgeable talented motivating teacher in a small-class setting. But when such a situation is not achievable, an online course could be an excellent option for some topics and for some students,” Vahid said.

Vahid helped develop a UC Online course called “Introduction to Computer Science for Science, Mathematics, and Engineering I.”

The course covers problem solving through structured programming of algorithms on computers using the C++ object-oriented language. Topics include variables, expressions, input/output (I/O), branches, loops, functions, parameters, arrays, strings, file I/O, and classes. The course also covers software design, testing, and debugging.

The course is open to UC students and non-UC students. Students majoring in computer science, engineering and science can take the course to fulfill a computer science requirement. Business majors and professionals looking to get experience in programming and C++ will also benefit from the course.

UC Online is a UC systemwide initiative to create online classes that capitalize on interactive technology to enhance learning. The program develops lower-division courses taught by UC faculty for course credit to both UC and non-UC students. The courses have the same prerequisites and involve the same degree of coursework and academic rigor as classes taken on campus.

Vahid, who has written several textbooks and is focused on creating web-based animated interactive learning content to replace textbooks, can be reached at Frank.Vahid@ucr.edu.

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