iJava: A New Direction in Online Education

Wednesday, February 28, 2007 - 17:30
TH 331
Robert Moll, University of Massachusetts, Amherst
The iJava textbook is an online, interactive text for elementary Java instruction. The textbook narrative is punctuated with about 200 embedded problems, most of which involve programming. These exercises are placed in the text in such a way as to make students competent readers. Did you understand the last two paragraphs? Consolidate your understanding: try this problem. iJava judges the correctness of student answers in real-time, and provides feedback when submissions are incorrect. The text also comes with hundreds of standard end-of-chapter homework problems and mini-projects, most of which are also programming problems. These, too, are judged in real-time, as students make submissions. The system provides extensive instructor tools, including an electronic gradebook. Thus, an instructor might choose a homework set for a certain week, and then, on the due-date, simply view the automated gradebook tabulation to assess student progress. We have had considerable success using the text over the last eighteen months, both in traditional lecture courses and in online distance-learning classes. This project has been funded, in part, by the National Science Foundation. It is currently being supported by the U.S. Department of Education via a FIPSE grant, for the purpose of establishing a third aspect of iJava, an online community of instructors who share ideas, teaching tactics, examples, exam questions, and a variety of other teaching and learning resources. In this talk I’ll discuss details of the book, my experiences teaching with it, how the system works, and my plans for creating the proposed iJava user’s community.

Robert Moll is Associate Professor of Computer Science and Associate Chair for Academic Programs for the Computer Science Department at UMass-Amherst. He has been at UMass since 1973, the same year he completed a Ph.D. in Mathematics at MIT. Professor Moll was Undergraduate Program Director for the Department of Computer Science for nine years before becoming Associate Department Chair. He has had a long-standing interest in computer science education, and has developed several new courses, including the department’s Scheme-based “Programming Language Paradigms” class. Professor Moll has been nominated six times for the University’s prestigious Distinguished Teaching Award. In recent years he has frequently taught the department's introduction to programming class in Java (CS 121), and its follow-on data structures class (CS 187), also in Java. He has taught a wide variety of other courses in the computer science curriculum, ranging from computer literacy to graduate courses in theoretical computer science and combinatorial optimization. He has also co-authored five computer science textbooks, including two introductory Pascal programming texts, and three volumes on theoretical computer science.