Terry Tang Researches Online Education Tools

TerryTang_6378Lei “Terry” Tang is one of three computer science (CS) students at Rice University to receive a Rice Center for Engineering Leadership (RCEL) award to attend the IGNITE 2016 Silicon Valley Entrepreneurship Trek.

The March 2-5 event is cosponsored by the University of California at Davis Graduate School of Management and Rice. The summit and tour brings together CEOs, venture capitalists and other business leaders with students from U.C. Davis, Rice and other institutions.

A fourth-year graduate student, Tang’s research focuses on tools to improve the quality of online educational courses. “I’m interested in exploring the entrepreneurship angle,” he said. “In the future, I think personalized education will be very promising with the help of machine learning for big data in the cloud.”

Tang refers to Joe Warren, professor of computer science at Rice, as his mentor. “Working with Terry is a pleasure,” said Warren. “I’m also very proud of Terry’s work with the Computer Science Graduate Student Association.  He truly cares about his fellow graduate students.” Warren’s first MOOC, taught in 2013 with Rice CS professors Scott Rixner, Stephen Wong, and John Greiner, reached over 80,000 students and used a browser-based environment to teach interactive programming in Python.  That course and six others co-taught by Warren are available through Coursera.

Working with Warren, Tang focuses on how to best teach programming to a large number of online students from around the world through massive open online courses (MOOCs). “One of the problems we’re working on is how to determine what the students really need,” he says. “Unlike teaching at Rice in a conventional classroom, when you have tens of thousands of students, it’s difficult for us to interact with the students to know what they want or how to best help them with their studies.”

Tang uses a data-driven approach to help understand student needs. “When we identify common issues and misconceptions from their submitted code,” he said. “we can improve course materials and build web-based educational tools and practices to help students.”

For more information on the largest academic department at Rice University, visit the Computer Science Department web site: http://cs.rice.edu.