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ECE Colloquium (ECE500): "What can we learn from teaching a parallel programming MOOC?"

Event Type
151 Everitt Lab
Mar 14, 2013   4:00 pm  
Prof. Wen-mei Hwu, ECE, University of Illinois
Prof. Farzad Kamalabadi
Originating Calendar
ECE ILLINOIS Distinguished Colloquium Series

The Heterogeneous Parallel Programming (HPP) MOOC covers a subset of the UIUC ECE408 (a.k.a. CS483) syllabus, which introduces foundational concepts and techniques in programming massively parallel processors. Effective learning of these topics requires hands-on programming activities using advanced hardware. At UIUC, we typically offer the on-campus version of this course to no more than 40 students so that we can give each student enough support. With more than 27,000 students registered on Coursera, we clearly needed a different approach. In this talk, I will start with the design of the videos that eventually accumulated 212,000 views and 345,000 downloads by 16,860 individuals. I will also describe the design of the programming lab that eventually performed more than 700,000 compile-and-runs on the Amazon EC2 cloud on behalf of 9,908 users from 127 countries. In the end, more than 2,600 students received Certificate of Achievement (with a grade of 70% or higher); 2,281 of them received Certificate of Distinction (with a grade of 85% or higher). With multiple gigabytes of data collected from the video and lab interfaces, I will attempt to answer a few questions: How do we adapt a lab-intensive senior/graduate level course into a MOOC platform? Who are the students taking this course? How hard do the students work in this course? How does the work done for the MOOC version impact the UIUC version? How does a good student in the MOOC offering compare against on-campus students? What do students think about the course?

Wen-mei W. Hwu is a Professor and holds the Sanders-AMD Endowed Chair in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. He is also CTO of MulticoreWare Inc., Chief Scientist of UIUC Parallel Computing Institute and director of the IMPACT research group ( He directs the UIUC CUDA Center of Excellence and serves as one of the principal investigators of the $208M NSF Blue Waters Petascale computer project. For his contributions, he received the ACM SigArch Maurice Wilkes Award, the ACM Grace Murray Hopper Award, the ISCA Influential Paper Award, and the Distinguished Alumni Award in Computer Science of the University of California, Berkeley. He is a fellow of IEEE and ACM. Dr. Hwu received his Ph.D. degree in Computer Science from the University of California, Berkeley.

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