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Collaboratory at Columbia: An Aspen Grove of Data Science Education

Published onAug 12, 2021
Collaboratory at Columbia: An Aspen Grove of Data Science Education
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Abstract

Many universities recognize the rapidly growing impact of data science in all fields of study and the professions and seek to embed this expertise widely across their educational offerings. There is often broad interest in developing new data science curricula, with some universities even allocating funds toward this purpose. Yet, it is often unclear what resources are needed for effective data science education, and how resources ought to be prioritized. Although university leadership might be aware of a growing number of successful data science acceleration programs and pedagogical models, many of which are either general purpose or specific to a particular discipline, there remains a lack of clarity about how these models might address their own specific needs. This article presents the Collaboratory Program at Columbia University (termed “the Collaboratory”), which is both a set of “data science in context” educational approaches, as well as a meta-model for an accelerator program that allows different institutions to respond flexibly to their own disciplinary heterogeneity in terms of data science educational needs. The novelty of the Collaboratory lies in its crowd-sourcing approach to creating new data science pedagogy and its ability to kindle transdisciplinary collaboration in doing so. By offering seed funding, it fosters proactive efforts to embed data science “in context” into more traditional domains through a cohort of compelling, transdisciplinary, crowd-sourced data science education proposals each year. Collaboratory educational offerings are required to be developed through a partnership between two faculty members, a data scientist and a domain expert from another field, or a larger team with complementary expertise. Over the past 5 years, the Collaboratory has supported the development of a wide spectrum of data science pedagogical models spread across more than 40 academic departments, centers, institutes, and professional schools at Columbia University. As a result, the Collaboratory has to date served the learning needs of more than 4,000 students. Furthermore, it has cultivated a thriving ecosystem that includes a funding mechanism and a community-support structure that all contribute to its agility and success. Here, we offer our experience and best practices in developing and managing the Collaboratory, which, we hope, will contribute to a blueprint for data science education leaders everywhere.

Just Accepted - Preview

8/12/21: To preview this content, click below for the Just Accepted version of the article. This peer-reviewed version has been accepted for its content and is currently being copyedited to conform with HDSR’s style and formatting requirements.

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