Faculty Spotlight: Ken Joy

With specializations in computer graphics, geometric modeling, and scientific visualization, Dr. Ken Joy is a Professor in the Computer Science Department and the Director of the Institute for Data Analysis and Visualization at UC Davis. Joy explains that he constantly uses “mathematical techniques and computation, as well as the most innovative technology available. Our techniques are used on the world’s largest supercomputers, as well as on desktop machines and smart phones, and in embedded systems.”

While technology is undeniably tied to the content of Joy’s classes, it’s also crucial to his delivery. Specifically, Joy emphasizes social networks and advanced search techniques. “We utilize social networks for collaborative work,” Joy explains. “In all of my classes, we work to solve a ‘significant’ problem during the class; social network communication allows the students to solve these difficult problems together, and allows the TAs and instructor to be up-to-date on the students’ progress.”

Search techniques are essential because the field’s support resources are available through common search engines. “Students quickly learn to find resources through advanced searches that enable them to solve problems,” Joy explains. “The daunting task for a computer science student is to learn the wide variety of tools, which are ever changing in our field. Each student must continually keep up-to-date, and technological tools (advanced searches, blog postings, and social networks) are the only way to do this.”

With his clear commitment to using technology to enhance learning, it is not surprising that Joy’s interests include online learning. Referencing the work at Stanford, , as well as the myriad free online courses offered by companies like Coursera, Kahn Academy, and Udacity.com, Joy says he expects that, “in the near future, we will have hundreds of such efforts that produce everything from free semester/quarter-long learning experiences, to short courses and lectures on targeted topics. I also expect that courses with material that evolves very slowly (or has remained constant for years) will have online ‘competition’ via learning material developed by outstanding teachers from around the world.”

Joy has already begun to participate in these efforts by developing a course with Udacity.com, and producing short online lectures for upper-division courses. In the near future, Joy plans to assign these lectures as homework so that his classes can focus on “the more problem-solving aspects of the material. If I can tap the best lecturers in the world to present the difficult concepts of the course, it will only enhance my students’ learning experience.”

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