A unique collaboration among faculty at Washtenaw Community College and the University of Michigan School of Information led to a shared open-source course that will benefit both institutions and creates opportunities for WCC students to transfer to U-M.

This semester, WCC students are taking an introductory class (CPS 141) in the popular programming language Python that UMSI uses as a gateway course to its degree.

Computer Information Systems faculty member Michael Galea, who teaches the course, said it gives WCC students a different potential career path than the computer science and cybersecurity track that many currently follow.

UMSI offers something new, Galea said, as its Bachelor of Science in Information is focused on information analysis, user experience design, and social media analysis and design.

For UMSI, the collaboration meets the school’s goal of encouraging more students -— particularly those underrepresented in STEM fields -— to consider pursuing its degree.

Articulation agreements and other less formal collaborative efforts to help students to transition from community college to four-year institutions are not new.

However, the sharing of course resources in this fashion is unique and could serve as a model for other programs, those involved have said.

The highly interactive course, created by U-M professor and associate dean for research and faculty affairs Paul Resnick, uses an open-source online textbook, complete with interactive exercises for students to practice programing.

The book has embedded multiple-choice questions, samples of code that are mixed up for students to rearrange into proper order, and exercises that allow them to create and run code.

Although Galea is leading classroom discussion for WCC students, some of Resnick’s lecture material can be delivered through online videos.

Additionally, integration created between different course management systems at U-M and WCC has allowed for interactive discussions and activities around the content.

The beauty behind open-source sharing, Resnick said, is that instructors at WCC can pick and choose the elements that work best for them.

“We’ve seen the power of sharing of open-source, not just for software but for other content,” he said.

“Python is increasingly being used in many places. It’s easy to get started with, it’s a real programing language and it’s easier than other languages.” l