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University of Nebraska–Lincoln

Renaissance Computing

An Initiative for Promoting Student Participation in Computing

"Computational thinking is as fundamental as mathematical thinking in all disciplines." -- Leen-Kiat Soh, PI

Fall 2010 Renaissance Computing courses: CSCE150E & CSCE150A (CS1-Engineering), CSCE155 (CS1-Regular), RAIK183H (CS1-Business) ... – [Details]

Overhauling CS1 courses at UNL ... – [Details]

Renaissance Computing

In the narrowest sense, "computational thinking" is the mindset that students need to acquire in order to work effectively with computational systems. More broadly, however, it is a way of understanding the world – one that transcends mere methodology and which is likewise transportable across a wide variety of human endeavors. In our view, computer science curricula that do not address this broadening do not address the ways in which computational thinking pervades life in the modern world.

We propose what we consider a radical re–thinking not only of our core curriculum in computer science, but of the role of computer science at the university level. In our conception, "computational thinking" is neither easily separated from other endeavors nor easily balkanized into a single department. We thus imagine a CS program that is inextricably linked to other domains. We further understand these domains to include not only the subjects ordinarily thought of as cognate with computational thinking (like bioinformatics), but with such notions as "humanities computing," "arts computing, " and "music computing."

Our term for this new approach, "Renaissance Computing," is intended to evoke that period of history in which computational thinking arguably first began–a period marked by the signal lack of hard and fast lines between subjects that has now overtaken university curricula. We imagine an undergraduate program in which students are prepared for the challenges of any one computational domain by virtue of their exposure to multiple domains in which computational thinking plays prominent a role. Our program imagines discrete tracks into computational thinking, but also emphasizes learning environments in which students are able to see the broad transferability of computational notions into other areas.
With this Concept Development and Planning proposal, we seek funding to (1) organize workshops and meetings to identify the needs of participating academic units and to clearly define the aspects of interdisciplinary problem solving, computational thinking, and collaborative learning that affect student learning irrespective of major, (2) create specifications for a cohesive Renaissance Computing curriculum, (3) carry out a pilot study with two CS1 interdisciplinary courses and collect student and instructor feedback on the course content, design and delivery, and (4) assess the results of the pilot study to further refine the curriculum, garner further institutional support, and develop a highly–competitive Transformative Implementation proposal for submission to NSF CPATH. We will also investigate the use of learning objects and computer–supported collaborative learning to help enrich the Renaissance Computing experience.

Intellectual Merit. The Renaissance Computing framework is holistic since it covers introductory, depth, and capstone courses, and targets both CS majors and minors. Further, it is aimed to develop interdisciplinary courses in sciences, engineering, arts, and humanities. In addition, the framework embraces collaborative learning to help improve learning. The PIs are highly motivated in implementing interdisciplinary education for their respective disciplines and have had significant experience in curricular development.

Broader Impacts. Through our workshops, more academic units on campus will be inspired to join our efforts, giving Renaissance Computing a stronger foothold at UNL. Tangible results such as completed programming assignments and learning objects will be disseminated to middle and high schools to recruit students into CS and STEM areas, as well as digital arts and humanities. We will also reach a large portion of female students through our interdisciplinary courses that should increase female participation in undergraduate computing education.



Please refer to the following documents for more information:

  • Renaissance Computing: An Initiative for Promoting Student Participation in Computing [Download]
  • Full Project Description[Download]
  • Project Poster[Download] (please feel free to distribute)
Renaissance Computing Project is Funded by NSF