A total of 23 different institutions participated in the course over the two offerings. Eight institutions participated in both years. A total of 328 students participated in the courses over the two offerings. Of those, 301 or 92% successfully completed the course. This is one measure of the success of the program.
An evaluation of the course by the participating faculty included their perspectives on both the course content and the collaborative model. Those evaluations were made through a combination of surveys, open discussions with the faculty during live discussion sessions, and selected interviews with other faculty.
Overall, the faculty felt the content of the course is excellent and offers a comprehensive view of parallel computing. They indicated that the course offering greatly increased the interest in parallel computing among their students. However, a number of suggestions were made that could improve the impact of the course. Those included suggestions that would help students taking the course and suggestions that would help faculty that had never taught such a course be better prepared to advise their students.
- Several faculty suggested that additional lectures and support materials are needed that focus on the practical aspects of running and optimizing codes on the XSEDE computers. Materials on debugging code, how to approach optimization problems, and backup readings or tutorials on each major subtopic would aid students who are just being introduced to parallel computing concepts.
- A number of the undergraduate students taking the course were not well prepared with respect to the math prerequisites. The course assumed some understanding of calculus and linear algebra. One suggestion was to create a pre-course assessment for undergraduates to ascertain whether they have the appropriate background.
- It was suggested that there be a pre-course orientation class for faculty who have never offered such a course. Over the course of six to 10 hours over a few weeks, faculty would optionally be guided through the course materials and especially the programming assignments. That would better prepare them to help their own students.
- Several faculty indicated that they would have appreciated a clearer set of partial and complete solutions to the programming problems that they could study and use to advise their students. They also noted that issues arose between the two offerings as there was a change in the available XSEDE hardware and the solutions to the problems were not updated in a timely manner to reflect those changes.
The other discussions with faculty centered around the efficacy of the collaborative course model. In particular, those discussions involved their overall assessment of this approach, their willingness to participate in an on-going consortium, and the organization and terms of such a consortial arrangement.
- All of the faculty who participated in the discussions about the collaborative course model felt it was a valuable approach to offer specialized courses. Several indicated that they would not have been able to offer a parallel computing course on their own. Several also indicated that experience in the course would contribute to their ability to offer a course in the future.
- All but two of the participating faculty agreed that a collaborative course consortium would definitely or probably benefit their institution.
- There was a range of opinions on the nature of the agreements that would comprise an ongoing consortium. All agreed that some exchange of services in the form of course preparation for the consortium would be an acceptable arrangement. However, the faculty were split on the nature of that exchange. Most felt that each campus should take some responsibility for course preparation every 3-2 years. However, they were split on whether a single institution should take responsibility for an entire course versus having each institution be responsible for a portion of the course preparation. The strongest consensus was for each institution to be responsible for only a portion of each course preparation.
- Parallel computing was among several courses that the faculty thought should be part of a collaborative consortium. The others mentioned in order of preference were introduction to high performance computing, data analytics, modeling and simulation, techniques for many core computing, and bioinformatics.
The results indicate that further efforts should be made to continue the efforts for the current course and to pursue options for creating an ongoing collaborative consortium modeled on this effort.