Fulbright Specialist Diary: Day 16

Day 16 – Monday, July 23, 2018

Today, I woke up a little earlier than usual and called my spouse.  I am looking forward to seeing my family in a few days but I will be missing my UTP family as well.  The UTP family has been kind and welcoming to me.  They have given me a different perspective of how an education system works in a young university – they can be nimble and open to new methods.

Photo: Exchanging gifts with the department chair of mechanical engineering, Dr. Puteri, UTP Malaysia

I met with the department chair, Professor Puteri who stays busy with managing a faculty of 57 members.  We had a chat about my stay and the plans for future collaboration.  I was thankful to her and my host for a smooth visit.  Every detail was attended to and that takes time, effort and grace.  We exchanged a few gifts.

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Photo: Gifts from UTP Malaysia

Later during the morning, I had a long conversation with a mechanical engineering faculty member who teaches a Heat Transfer course and he was interested in taking his SoTL (scholarship of teaching and learning) work to a higher level – he had already co-presented and co-published semi-flipped classroom work at a conference.  Since he could not make it to the SoTL workshop I facilitated last Monday, we went through the five stages of SoTL and discussed the simple, validated and reliable instruments he can use for classroom surveys.  We touched upon the ethical standards used for SoTL – at UTP, they are not allowed to use different treatments in the same semester to separate groups. I mentioned that I do not commend such comparison groups either. Instead, one can compare two unpaired groups from two semesters; normalize the cognitive gain results with GPA to avoid any differences in incoming students; check that the two groups in the two semesters are similar or not in other demographic parameters (gender, age, and ethnicity) through a chi-square test.

For lunch, my host took me to a student cafeteria to get a feel for yet another place where students go to eat on campus.  There are no meal plans for students; you just pay as you go.  This cafeteria had a wide variety of food available, mainly chicken and fish cooked in various forms.  You choose the food item and quantity, and through some approximate math, the cashier decides how much you pay.  I did not ask how it works as I feel right at home with numerical methods!

In the afternoon, I met with a student who is doing her master’s in mechanical engineering. She was conducting a three-point bending test on a curved beam and was asked how to interpret the results she was getting from strain gages, and the load and displacement data from the universal testing machine.  I will be sending her models for curved beam bending as well as when the loading is high which takes the material beyond the elastic range.  The combination of analytical and experimental models will be quite helpful to her.

Photo: A three-point bending test. Source: Instron.us

I realize that only a handful of countries require coursework for their graduate programs.  I believe having at least taking eight core classes in a Ph.D. program would be suitable for any student.  Self-study can only do so much good and it would still be of narrow scope.  The thesis is there for the narrow but deep scope of a subject matter, and for learning independent study and research, and life-long learning skills. What do you think?

I got dropped off at the hotel for the last time by the taxi driver who has been transporting me back and forth between the hotel and UTP for two weeks.  Over this time, we have had short but meaningful conversations about life including children, but with lots of pauses on both our parts, as he was mildly fluent in English and my knowledge of Malay was near “kosong” (zero)!

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This material is based upon work supported by the Fulbright Specialist Grant and the products of the National Science Foundation Grants# 0126793, 0341468, 0717624,  0836981, 0836916, 0836805, 1322586, 1609637.  Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation or the Fulbright Program.

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Fulbright Specialist Diary: Day 14-15

Day 14 – Saturday, July 21, 2018

A day to wake up a little late but not too late.  I worked on editing a paper that my colleague and I are writing on comparing flipped classroom with and without adaptive learning for the pre-class work.  She writes so well that it made my job easy.  I mentioned a few edits, made some comments and send it back to her.

In the afternoon, my host and his wife take me to Ipoh for lunch.  We end up in an Indian restaurant as I had missed Indian food for a while.  They drop me off in the evening when I continue to work on this blog.  It is also time to call my mom in India and then my family later in the evening.

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Photo: Tandoor Grill restaurant in Ipoh, Malaysia

Day 15 – Sunday, July 22, 2018

After taking a shower, I decided to go for a walk around the hotel early in the morning.  I must have walked a few times around the block – the roads are empty, the shops were closed except for the ubiquitous restaurants, laundromats, and a 24-hour medical clinic.  Somehow, after eating a sumptuous breakfast, I fell asleep while watching TV.  There are only nine channels on the TV, and two of them are generous with English programs.  However, the same episode of shows of Blue Blood, NCIS Los Angeles, American Ninja Warrior, and Quantico are repeated several times in the day and then in the following days of the week as well.  I can now recall whole episodes including the commercials that entice you to see them.

For lunch, my host takes me back to Ipoh to try another good Indian restaurant. Among the dishes we ordered, we had his native Andhra fish curry and my native Kashmiri Naan.  To tell you frankly and sheepishly, I had never eaten the latter in my life.  I asked my mom about it and she was surprised as well – it must be an item that is served only in restaurants and going to restaurants in Kashmir was a rare affair when I was growing up.

Fulbright Specialist Diary: Day 12-13

Day 12 – Thursday, July 19, 2018

This was a low activity day, well deserved, after a string of high-intensity workshops.  I spent the morning at the hotel making final preparation for the guest lecturing I would be doing tomorrow for a Numerical Methods course.  The afternoon was spent writing the blog entries, and compiling the information, links, and documents I promised to send to the workshop participants.

Day 13 – Friday, July 20, 2018

Today was my most favorite activity day.  I am biased but I love interacting with students.  So the two numerical methods instructors of record in mechanical engineering at UTP were gracious to let me teach two sections of the class this morning.  The classes were 50-minute sessions starting at 10 AM and 11 AM.  About 40-50 students were present in each section and we reviewed the Trapezoidal rule in order to make the case for the Gauss-Legendre quadrature rule.

The definition of quadrature took us to the old saying –“As thy difficult a problem as finding quadrature of a circle”.

I introduced the 1- and 2-pt Gaussian quadrature rule, derived the two rules, and compared it via example with the trapezoidal rule.  Questions of the efficacy of the Gaussian quadrature and trapezoidal rules were asked, and the ever-present relationship of absolute relative approximate error to pre-specified tolerance and significant digits was recalled.  With both sections, we took a class picture. In both of them, they had to say “Approximate” and in the second one, I remembered to ask them to make an approximate sign with their fingers.  I asked them to stay in touch through the numerical methods course by asking questions via the numericalmethodsguy YouTube channel.

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Photo: The two sections of the Numerical Methods class at UTP, Malaysia

My host took me for lunch to an Arabic restaurant on campus.  The food was good – we both had Chicken Biryani coupled with freshly squeezed watermelon juice.

Since the university has a break for Friday prayers from 12:30-2:30 PM, we talked about the differences in the promotion process, his research in welding, medical facilities in the city, departmental research, and opportunities for grant applications for UTP faculty.

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This material is based upon work supported by the Fulbright Specialist Grant and the products of the National Science Foundation Grants# 0126793, 0341468, 0717624,  0836981, 0836916, 0836805, 1322586, 1609637.  Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation or the Fulbright Program.

Fulbright Specialist Diary: Day 11

Day 11 – Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Today, I facilitated the last of the four workshops planned at UTP. This one was on the development of MOOCs and was preceded by their history.

Workshop Title: History and Development of MOOCs 
Workshop Description: In this workshop, participants will learn the best practices for developing a MOOC.  The facilitator has developed three MOOCs on the canvas network and Udemy and will show how these best practices were used to develop one of the MOOCs.  We will go through the content development of video lectures, text, objectives, quizzes, and certifications.

The participants were quite interested in the timeline of the history of MOOCs.  They connected well with the original premise and success of cMOOCs, and how the xMOOCs have evolved/reduced to a vehicle for continuing education for corporations, micro degrees, and online certifications.

 

I demonstrated the platforms options of Udemy, Canvas, and openlearning.org they have access to as individual faculty members.  Malaysia has a nationwide initiative on the development of MOOCs under the Malaysia Education Blueprint 2015-2025 (Higher Education) plan.  Launched in 2015, openlearning.org/Malaysia now has 450 courses and growing.

The Malaysian Qualification Agency is determining ways to certify MOOCs for university course credit.  I raised the question on authentication and equivalency.  For the former, we brought up the ideas from competency-based education, on-campus examinations and use of software such as Proctorio that “is focused on bringing integrity and analytics to online exams.”

Four parts of MOOC development – home page, course information and expectations, the content of modules and assessment were introduced.  Best practices for each of the parts were shared and it was emphasized that they could take these practices to face-to-face classes for a blended and flipped approaches and to fully online courses.

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This material is based upon work supported by the Fulbright Specialist Grant and the products of the National Science Foundation Grants# 0126793, 0341468, 0717624,  0836981, 0836916, 0836805, 1322586, 1609637.  Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation or the Fulbright Program.

Fulbright Specialist Diary: Day 10

Day 10 – Tuesday, July 17, 2018

The morning started with a workshop on how to improve cognitive and affective learning gains in student performance.

Workshop Title: How to Increase Cognitive and Affective Learning Gains in Student Performance
Workshop Description: We will discuss several evidence-based strategies to improve student performance and success as they progress through their curriculum.  The use of technology and departmental commitment to accomplish this goal will be illustrated.  Several pedagogies including blended, flipped, and adaptive learning will be discussed.  As has been shown by several studies, affective mode of learning and good teaching are equally important in ensuring student retention and success.  Tools such as discussion of misconceptions, peer-to-peer learning, and universal design for learning to accomplish this will also be discussed.

The workshop went well.  Participants mainly had questions about why the affective mode of learning is important and how to assess such measures.  The part on universal design learning was well received and its simple premise that is connected to learning sciences (what – recognition network, how -strategic network, and why – affective network) was well received.

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Photo: Workshop participants at UTP, Malaysia

We continued our discussion over lunch that was sponsored by UTP CeTAL.

In the afternoon, I caught up with work email and talked to a graduate student about his research on droplet mechanisms in internal combustion engines.

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This material is based upon work supported by the Fulbright Specialist Grant and the products of the National Science Foundation Grants# 0126793, 0341468, 0717624,  0836981, 0836916, 0836805, 1322586, #1609637.  Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation or the Fulbright Program.

Fulbright Specialist Diary: Day 9

Day 9 – Monday, July 16, 2018

On this Monday morning, I facilitated the workshop on the scholarship of teaching and learning.  This is the first time I was conducting a workshop on this topic, although I have been writing educational research methods papers since 2002.

Workshop Title: Scholarship of Teaching and Learning 
Workshop Description: In this workshop, we will discuss the development of a research question, designing the study, implementing the methods, collecting data via surveys and examinations, analyzing the data, and then publishing the results.  We will use examples and reflective exercises to get the participants to generate a pathway to conduct what is called SOTL – scholarship of teaching and learning.

This was a highly interactive workshop as I took the participants through the five steps of SoTL.

  1. Identify the research question
  2. Design the study
  3. Collect the data
  4. Analyze the data and draw conclusions
  5. Present and publish the SoTL project

Worksheets asked them to fill in details and these were followed by an example of our own study of comparing flipped learning with blended learning.  Most of the discussion revolved under how to codify qualitative data and ethical considerations of conducting a study.

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Photo: Participants of the SoTL workshop at UTP, Malaysia

In the afternoon, I co-guided a recitation session in a Numerical Methods class. The topics discussed were numerical integration and differentiation.  I asked some conceptual questions and related them to applied problems.  The instructor of record had given a worksheet to the students, and I and the graduate assistant guided the students through it.  Most questions revolved around the use of trapezoidal rule formulas for discrete data, calculation of relative true errors, relationship to true errors to the number of segments, and order of the accuracy of divided difference formulas.  The tutorial session became an avenue for the graduate assistant, Zuhaib to learn about implementing active learning as well as an opportunity for the students to take ownership of learning.

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Photo: A selfie with graduate assistant Zuhaib.  He went to the same high school I attended in India – yes he graduated 35 years later than I did – but what a small world. 

Back in my room, I ordered room service to try some local Malay food.  I ate Ilham Naluri, which is fried rice with chicken on skewers.  I also had a fruit platter for dessert and some hot tea made with mostly milk.

 

Photo: Left – milk tea made mostly with milk and a generous amount of sugar; Right – fruit platter made with apples, papaya, watermelon and cantaloupe (sauce is a mystery).

I  spent the rest of the evening rereading the book – Make it Stick for tomorrow’s workshop on “How to Increase Cognitive and Affective Gains in Student Performance”.

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This material is based upon work supported by the Fulbright Specialist Grant and the products of the National Science Foundation Grants# 0126793, 0341468, 0717624,  0836981, 0836916, 0836805, 1322586, 1609637.  Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation or the Fulbright Program.

Fubright Specialist Diary: Day 7 thru Day 8

Day 7 – Saturday, July 14, 2018

Yes, it is Saturday and it was the day to sleep in.  However, I woke up early, went for a walk around the hotel, and then took a morning nap.  Then in the afternoon, I walked a mile over to Subway for lunch to eat the familiar.   On the way, hawkers were selling fruits including mangosteen and the king of fruits called durian.  Durian is not allowed in hotels as it has a distinctly unpleasant smell for most.

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Photo: A notice in hotel elevator about the durian fruit.

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Photo: The mangosteen fruit – tastes like lychee.

I spent the rest of the afternoon reviewing the back-to-back workshops I was facilitating Monday thru Wednesday.

Day 8 – Sunday, July 15, 2018

I spent the early morning time before that on replying to some work emails and reviewing for the upcoming workshops.  My host invited me for lunch and it included a mango shake, curried shrimp, chicken curry, sambar, rice, and yogurt.  I thanked my host and his spouse for making me feel at home.  My host then took me to the capital city of the state of Perak named Ipoh for a tour. Ipoh is the second biggest city of Malaysia.  Of course, like any other major city, there is a place called Little India.  The place is lined with Indian shops.  We returned to Seri Iskandar for me to take some rest and give some final touches to the Monday’s scholarship of teaching and learning workshop.

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Photo: At Little India, Ipoh, Malaysia (Courtesy: Dr. Srinavasa Rao).