Suggested Pathways with Notes and Assignments through the Material in the Second Edition

Based on experience using versions of the material in Introduction to Computational Science since 2002, this webpage contains some suggestions on how to manage a course and cover the material using the text. A course could include any one or a combination of the following modeling and simulation techniques in any order: system dynamics modeling, empirical modeling, cellular automaton simulations, agent-based modeling, and modeling with matrices. For a two-semester course, virtually all the modules can be covered in greater detail. For a computational biology course, applications in biology can be emphasized. Moreover, one could choose to start a course in any of a variety of places—with an overview of the modeling process (Chapter 1) and system dynamics modeling (Chapters 2-4), Chapter 8 on “Data-Driven Models,” Chapter 9 on “Monte Carlo Simulations,” Chapter 12 on “Agent-Based Modeling,” or Chapter 13 on “Matrix Models.”

Suggestions on Course Management

Quizzes: We can improve student engagement if there are daily short (5 minute) quizzes with questions taken directly from the Quick Review Questions. The website contains sample quizzes with answers.

Computers in Class: Students learn by doing. Therefore, it is very beneficial for students to work on models or parts of models in class. If it is not possible to conduct the class in a computer lab, the instructor could request that students bring their computers to class. One computer per two students is usually adequate and effective. It is particularly helpful to have the class in a computing environment for the first tutorial of a tool for a new modeling technique. Work not completed during the closed lab time, can be finished outside of class.

Teamwork: The ability to work well with an interdisciplinary team is essential for a computational scientist, and project assignments provide good opportunities for teamwork. Having students complete confidential partner evaluations at midterm and the end of the semester can provide valuable insight to the instructor. For example, you might ask, “Please type an evaluation paragraph for each partner related to contributions to projects, understanding of the material, percent contribution to project(s), responsibility in attending meetings, cooperation, other comments.”

Substantial Projects: While a module might develop one model for an application area, the projects section suggests many other refinements, approaches, and applications. Chapters 7 and 14 provide modules of additional, substantial projects from a variety of scientific areas that are appropriate for teams of students. These modules indicate prerequisite text material, and earlier modules forward reference appropriate projects from Chapters 7 and 14.

Reports: From writing reports on their models, students increase their understanding of the material and the models (Module 1.2, “The Modeling Process,” section “Report on the Model”). Moreover, if students submit a report, in addition to their model, it is easier for the instructor to assess the project. If time permits, students also gain further communication skills by making oral presentations.

Presentations: It is instructive for a project’s team to present its model to the class. A presentation also provides the opportunity to share the team’s accomplishment and allows other students the chance to critique the model and make suggestions. We have found it effective to have each team compose and print for the class five good questions that could be answered after hearing the presentation. The team could be graded on the quality of the questions. To help to assure attention during the presentation, the rest of the class could be required to write answers to one or several of the questions for homework or a test.

Suggestions on Material Coverage

The following one-semester syllabus provides a week-by-week suggested pathway through the material with possible assignments.

Week 1

Week 2

Week 3

Week 4

Week 5

Week 6

Week 7

Week 8

Week 9

Week 10

Week 11

Week 12

Week 13

Week 14

Week 15