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Clifford Shaffer receives XCaliber Award

April 23, 2017

Clifford Shaffer
Clifford Shaffer

Clifford Shaffer, professor of computer science in the College of Engineering, has received the university’s 2017 XCaliber Award.

Established in 1996 by the Office of the Provost, the XCaliber Award is presented annually by Technology-enhanced Learning and Online Strategies to recognize individual faculty members or teams of faculty and staff who integrate technology in teaching and learning. The award celebrates innovative, student-centered approaches.

Shaffer received the award for his development of the computer science course, CS3114 Data Structures and Algorithms.

This course plays a central role into the curriculum of the computer science program and is essential for learning fundamental programming skills. The course is also notorious for its exceptional difficulty, resulting in an unusually high drop rate, which was Shaffer’s inspiration for innovative pedagogy.

Shaffer’s first step to changing the course was to utilize the OpenDSA eText-book system, which allows students extensive practice through the use of online simulations. He also dedicates about one-third of class time to question-and-answer sessions where students have a chance to discuss and better understand their work in an informal way.

In order to better assess the way in which students conduct their programming, Shaffer requires that students submit intermediate milestones before any final project is due. Currently, Staffer and colleague Steve Edwards are developing software to better track students’ projects in order to instruct more efficiently.

Shaffer received his Ph.D. in computer science from the University of Maryland, College Park, in 1986. He is regularly invited to speak at conferences and has received significant funding for his research.