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January 1993

Web-based Technologies Bring Advanced Computing Education and Training to the Classroom

Using web-based technologies developed by researchers at the Northeast Parallel Architectures Center (NPAC) at Syracuse University, a distance education partnership is piloting cost-effective ways to deliver cutting-edge university courses to students and government users of high-performance computing. CRPC sites at NPAC, Rice University, elsewhere are working with North Carolina State University (NCSU) as part of the National Science Foundation's Metacenter Regional Alliance (MRA) program to develop advanced network-based education and training (NBET).

NBET uses network-based solutions to support synchronous and asynchronous education and training workflows. It enables the the rapid introduction of emerging technologies and information into education, training, and engineering practice. NBET is part of the CRPC's "Retooling the Supercomputing Community for Scalable Parallelism" project, which provides professional trainers from supercomputer center sites with up-to-date curricular materials and training in the use of parallel programming tools, and methods. Initiated in 1994, the retooling project allows the CRPC to reach a large portion of the High Performance Computing and Communications (HPCC) community by disseminating multimedia educational materials electronically and through annual workshops.

"The original strategy of the program was termed 'train the trainers' to indicate a hierarchial model, where experts trained other NSF and supercomputer center staff, who in turn trained the users," says project leader Geoffrey Fox of NPAC. "Our current approach is to bring the experts to a broad range of users through distance education technologies. Our courses will use a variety of delivery techniques."

The courses will be designed for all levels of education and training. The following currently are being developed:

  • K-12: Java programming (NPAC)
  • Undergraduate: Introduction to Parallel Programming (Boston University)
  • Graduate: Introduction to Computational Science (NPAC)
  • Training: HPC++ (Indiana University) and Performance Tools (University of Illinois)
These NBET courses were conceived at the third annual NSF MRA workshop, held June 26-27 at the San Diego Supercomputer Center (SDSC). A joint effort of the CRPC and the Regional Training Center for Parallel Processing (RTCPP), the workshop brought together participants from academia, government, and industry to learn about the integration of distance education into various aspects of the Partnerships for Advanced Computational Infrastructure (PACI), as well as other programs. (See "Workshop 'Trains the Trainer' in Network-Based Education," Spring/Summer 1998 Parallel Computing Research.).

"The workshop attracted an interesting, active audience with broad representation, including members of government, DoD training programs, and K-12 and community colleges, as well as traditional universities," says Fox. "Significant followup work is underway for the four courses we've planned, and we look forward to developing others in the future to meet a wide spectrum of education and training needs."

For more information, see http://renoir.csc.ncsu.edu and http://old-npac.ucs.indiana.edu/tango.