Educators Discuss Generative AI, Experiential Learning, Neurodivergence, and More at 20th Anniversary Workshop
September 14, 2023—To train the next generation of software professionals, educators must keep up with changing technology and the latest teaching techniques. For twenty years, the Software Engineering Institute (SEI) has held the Software Engineering Workshop for Educators so that college-level teachers can learn from SEI experts and each other. The most recent workshop, held in person and virtually over three days this August, gave 45 attendees perspectives on recent tech trends.
The SEI hosts the annual workshop to foster an ongoing exchange of ideas among educators whose curricula include subjects spanning software engineering, computer science, and related fields. The event is free of charge and open to any accredited college-level educator.
Each day of the 2023 workshop opened with the ever-popular artifact sharing, in which the in-person participants traded experiences, ideas, and tangible tools from their curricula. This year, participants shared course syllabi, projects, and exercises on subjects including generative artificial intelligence (AI), Agile development methods, formal modeling, and more.
The instructional sessions focused on teaching how to teach. Andrew Begel, of Carnegie Mellon University (CMU), discussed how to support neurodivergent students. Begel noted that while these students face challenges in the classroom, they also need to be prepared to enter the workforce. The SEI’s Rotem Guttman and William R. Nichols led two trainings centered on their experience teaching at CMU. Their first session toured their award-winning Cyber Forensics and Incident Response Capstone Class. Their second session walked participants through the process of creating their own experiential learning content, starting from learning objectives and progressing through to a complete course plan.
The workshop’s deep-dive session reflected a concern among many of the participants. “Educators are grappling with the impact of generative AI on education,” said Robert Nord, principal member of the SEI technical staff and event co-facilitator. “Early adopters shared guidelines on maintaining academic integrity when using the technology as a teaching tool. This led to breakout sessions to better understand the potential and limitations of the technology and to discuss the practical application of the guidelines that educators will use to develop courses and aids for students.”
Other breakout sessions focused on AI for software engineering, ABET certification of university technology programs, and the National Science Foundation’s DEAPening Employer Academic Partnerships project.
In a break from the last three years of the workshop, the 2023 event shifted its focus away from remote learning. “The educators were ready to move on from the challenges of remote and hybrid teaching,” said Grace Lewis, workshop co-facilitator and principal researcher and lead of the Tactical and AI-Enabled Systems (TAS) initiative at the SEI. “There was a lot of discussion and interest in more of the traditional software engineering education topics such as creative, hands-on projects to keep the students engaged while they practice what they learned, creating realistic experiences to better prepare students for the workforce, and getting students to understand and adopt systems thinking.”
The first workshop in 2004 focused on software architecture and hosted 14 participants. Over the years, the workshop grew to as many as 75 educators from 16 countries, due in part to the hybrid event format adopted during the COVID-19 pandemic.
This year’s event featured a retrospective on the workshop by its cofounders: SEI Fellow Linda Northrop, CMU adjunct faculty and former SEI researcher Len Bass, and ABET Fellow and former SEI researcher Larry Jones. “The educators’ workshop continues to provide both a technology infusion and a networking opportunity for professors from small to midsize colleges and universities. That was the original intent and continues today,” said Northrop. “Of course, the societal and technological landscapes have changed considerably over the last twenty years, and the workshop has kept pace. There was excitement this year about the impact of generative AI on research, curricula, software engineering practice, and pedagogy. There were also insights about teaching neurodiverse students and successfully operating in a society that is more skeptical about the benefits of higher education.”
Hossein Saiedian, a participant from the University of Kansas, echoed the sentiments of many attendees who appreciated networking with fellow educators and SEI staff. “The Software Engineering Workshop for Educators [was] an invaluable experience that has greatly enriched my pedagogical toolkit,” said Saiedian. “The workshop not only provided a wealth of insightful content but also imparted a profound sense of purpose as I prepare my students to assume roles as future leaders in the industrial software engineering landscape.”