SC17 Denver, CO

From Outreach to Education to Researcher - Innovative Ways of Expanding the HPC Community

Authors: Weronika Filinger (University of Edinburgh)

Abstract: The HPC community has consistently identified public outreach and education of new and existing community members as vital to the growth of the field. New strategies and alternative teaching methods are needed, not only to improve access, promote diversity and attract new HPC practitioners, but also to encourage the next generation of scientists and gain the support of the general public. To help improve education and outreach efforts, this BoF will host an interactive discussion, demonstrations of existing training and outreach activities, and examination of alternative teaching approaches such as MOOCs and virtual workshops. Come and try them for yourself!

Long Description: The HPC community has always put great importance on the education of HPC practitioners, regardless of their proficiency levels. Until recently, these learning opportunities were typically in-person training sessions, with the goal of providing learners with practical experience using HPC resources. To make HPC training accessible to a broader audience, the HPC community has been experimenting with developing online training courses. This effort must include developing a deeper understanding what is gained, lost or different between in-person and online HPC training.

Online distance learning is often seen as cost-effective and easy to implement, providing educational experiences for a diverse range of learners. This seems to be a perfect solution to the training needs of the diverse and constantly expanding HPC community. However, this view neglects the fact that many of the tools and methodologies used in traditional teaching are not easily transferable to the online environments. Providing online education is not as simple as uploading the educational content to an online platform. The aim of this session is to discuss the issues and practicalities related to the following:

- creation and delivery of content;

- technologies used to deliver content;

- teaching pedagogies and related socio-economic factors.

Three speakers will discuss their experiences creating and delivering HPC training online. Weronika Filinger (EPCC at the University of Edinburgh) will discuss the PRACE Supercomputing MOOC (Massive Open Online Course), aimed at a general audience and provided through the FutureLearn platform. Julie Mullen (LLSC, MIT Lincoln Laboratory) will discuss SPOC (Small Private Online Course) delivered through Open edX and aimed at new and returning HPC practitioners. Finally, Tom Maiden (Pittsburgh Supercomputing Centre) will discuss XSEDE HPC Training using the Wide Area Classroom aimed at more experienced HPC users. The second part of the session will be a panel discussion in which the members of the audience are welcome to ask questions or share their own experiences.

Questions that will be considered include:

- How much time is required to develop, deliver and maintain online content?

- What is a typical life cycle of a training solution?

- How scalable are current training solutions?

- Is there a correlation between the depth of training material and the size of audience?

- What technologies are involved in creating and delivering online education?

- Do the available tools meet the requirements necessary to effectively teach HPC?

- What are the limitations associated with online HPC education and training?

- Is the design of the teaching material affected by the learners’ freedom to personalise their learning experience?

- How can online education be designed and facilitated to engage and retain learners?

- How can we verify and ensure they are learning?

- What is the role of social interaction in online training? Does it affect the learning process?

- How do we ensure that learners feel supported and part of a larger community?

The progress of the discussion and the conclusions will be gathered into a written report.

Conference Presentation: pdf

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