Education

ASU course encourages high schoolers to get their heads in the cloud

It’s an early morning wake up call for Trinity Smith, lead teaching fellow and student studying business data analytics at Arizona State University (ASU). During the Spring 2022 semester, Smith started most mornings with 30 high school students who were enrolled in CIS 194 Cloud Foundations, a course delivered by ASU.

The online course was co-developed by ASU’s University Technology Office and W.P. Carey School of Business, along with Amazon Web Services (AWS) and the National Education Equity Lab. The class offers an opportunity for high school students — targeting those who attend Title I or disadvantaged schools — to earn high school and college credit, as well as an industry certificate, in cloud computing.

Students nationwide participate in the ASU course  

Last week, the 13-week course wrapped up its second semester, which was delivered in a hybrid modality to 14 high schools nationwide, including states like Iowa, Louisiana and New York. To date, over 225 high schoolers have enrolled in the course. 

The course uses Canvas to manage the online, asynchronous portion of learning – this includes recorded lectures by ASU faculty, along with weekly assignments and quizzes. Students log into the course right from the comfort of their high school’s classrooms and computer labs, which reduces barriers for students to access the course and learning materials online. 

Many of the students do not have reliable access to the devices or internet connection at home, so it’s crucial that they have the time and space in school to complete the course. 

Smith, who is one of the five teaching fellows who participated this semester, shared: “As a teaching fellow, I came to realize that the digital divide is much more complex than lacking the right resources. It is deepened by a lack of exposure to opportunities in IT education and careers, which makes this course that much more important for these students.”

In addition to asynchronous learning, students were invited to join weekly office hours with the course’s teaching fellows, who are enrolled ASU students like Smith. Conducted on Zoom, students from across schools join to review the current learning module, complete homework and ask questions. 

On average, about 30-35 students joined each of the live sessions. Smith notes the importance of this interaction for students: “Although optional, these sessions are highly attended by students to review the current learning module and, even more effectively, get a baseline understanding of the upcoming content for the course.” And because the topics are quite complex, this time allows students to get a bit more comfortable with the content before diving into the next module.

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