Computer Science

“Rich Despite Scale/Rich Because of Scale: Saving the world one project at a time”

CS Distinguished Lecturer: Professor Armondo Fox from the University of California Berkeley

When: Thursday, February 15th at 3:10pm

Reception with light refreshments starting at 2:30pm

Where: 1131 Kemper Hall


Title: Rich Despite Scale/Rich Because of Scale: Saving the world one project at a time



In 2012, Professor David Patterson and I launched an experiment in= scaling up the teaching of modern agile software engineering, starting with our own students at UC Berkeley and eventually developing one of the first Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) called “Engineering Software as a Service,” or ESaaS.

We are gratified that ESaaS has since reached hundreds of thousands of individual learners worldwide, and I’ll review some of the applied research that both made the MOOC possible and work that was was inspired by it (“rich because of scale”).  But the MOOC is missing a vital ingredient: team projects.  Students in our UC Berkeley course form “two-pizza teams” to create or enhance SaaS applications for real customers, delivering over 100 SaaS apps to nonprofits and NGOs since 2012.  Students not only learn how to coordinate team technical tasks, but also “soft skills” such as intra-team communication, working with nontechnical customers, and learning to review and critique others’ technical work.  To help students develop these skills, project teams are coached during frequent meetings with the teaching staff.

Given its strong apprenticeship component, can project-based teamwork be taught at MOOC scale (“rich despite scale”)?

Can technology amplify the leverage of project coaches (professors, teaching assistants, professional mentors) just as MOOC “autograders” have done for individual instructors?  One promising avenue is the pervasive use of cloud-based collaboration tools to support both technical and nontechnical team activities, from codebase hygiene to team communication and project management.  We are using the “telemetry” available from suchcloud-based services as a proxy for team behaviors, allowing project coaches to oversee many teams and holding out the promise of MOOC-scale project based construction


Armando Fox is a Professor in the EECS Department at UC Berkeley and a co-PI of the ASPIRE Lab. As of Fall 2012, he is also the Director of the Berkeley MOOCLab, whose mission is to stimulate and fund research related to online-enhanced education that is then incorporated into both online and in-classroom courses and materials, closely tying MOOC development to rigorous research in online learning.

Prior to his work at UC Berkeley, he was on the Computer Science faculty at Stanford. He received his Ph.D., M.S. and B.S. degrees at Berkeley, Illinois and MIT, respectively. His current research interests include applied statistical machine learning, Software as a Service (SaaS) and cloud computing, highly-productive parallel programming, and online education, especially in programming and software engineering. With Prof. David Patterson, he launched Berkeley’s first MOOC (CS 169.1x on based on their successful reinvention of the undergraduate software engineering course, and co-authored the accompanying e-textbook Engineering Software as a Service.

In addition to the usual distinctions (NSF CAREER, ACM Distinguished Member, etc.), his 2003 collaboration with Professor David Patterson on Recovery-Oriented Computing earned him the distinction of being included in the “Scientific American 50” top researchers. In previous lives he helped design the Intel Pentium Pro microprocessor and founded a company to commercialize his UC Berkeley dissertation research on mobile computing.

1131 Kemper Hall

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