The United States-Sri Lanka Fulbright Commission has initiated a unique project where a group of students at University of Sri Jayawardenapura and three IT organizations have got involved in a collaborative problem-solving exercise. The problem solving is done with the help of virtual media. The project affords an opportunity for the industry to witness the problem-solving capabilities of students. The programme also gives the students exposure to real life industry problems. The project highlights the progressive spirit shown by the University of Sri Jayewardenapura over the years. Dr. Ramya Jeerasinghe, Deputy Director of the United States-Sri Lanka Fulbright Commission facilitated the arrival of Prof. Premadasa from the USA for the project.

United States Fulbright Specialist and University of Wisconsin Professor of Mathematics Kirthi Premadasa is coordinating this project with Dr. Ravindra De Silva, Senior Lecturer in the Department of Computer Science of the University of Sri Jayawardenapura. Three leading software organizations, IFS international, Creative Software, and CodeGen International are participating in this unique project. Several Faculty members of the Department of Computer Science of the University of Sri Jayawardenapura are enthusiastically collaborating in this project, which is poised to serve students in the years to come. Ananda Dehisgaspitiya, Dr. TGI Fernando, and Dr. Ravindra De Silva are offering the first set of courses for the project. This innovative project was created under the inspiring patronage of Vice-Chancellor, Prof. Sampath Amaratunge, and Prof. Sudantha Liyanage, the Dean of the Faculty of Applied Sciences.

The project is offered in two different forms to benefit the special degree and general degree, students. As a part of this project, Computer Science Special Degree Students at the university will get an opportunity to conduct ‘live’ problem-solving sessions with industry professionals as part of their coursework. Industry Professionals, with the support of the professor in charge of the course, will design a collection of problems, which they will collaboratively solve with the students using a collaborative platform such as Twitter or Slack. The initial courses that will be part of the project include Artificial Intelligence, Human-Computer Interaction, and Machine Learning.

A ‘good’ problem is one, which usually takes good collaboration and a considerable amount of time to solve. Professors usually run out of class time before students can attempt such a problem. Thanks to virtual communication platforms such as Twitter and Slack, professors now have the opportunity to overcome this constraint. They now have the technology to provide university students the opportunity to solve such problems outside the class time, collaboratively over a period. Prof. Premadasa has done significant research on instructional technology and was chosen by the World Learning section of the US State Department as a Fulbright Specialist to conduct this project. His significant classroom experience in Sri Lanka as well as in the United States should contribute to the success of this project.

A ‘good’ problem is one, which usually takes good collaboration and a considerable amount of time to solve. Professors usually run out of class time before students can attempt such a problem

Through this method, the industry will get an opportunity to present good problems that will enhance the technical and problem-solving ability of students, creating a mutually beneficial outcome. The successful participation of this project will be a requirement for the student grades in the courses.

The project offered to the general degree student has connections to the ‘flipped classroom’ model, which is popular in the United States and the world over. Each participating company will first present a short video of a concept, which they would like students to study at home. Once students watch the video and familiarize themselves with the concept, the company will then invite the students on a ‘field trip’ to the company, where they will participate in a problem-solving session based on the video with industry professionals. This ‘field trip’ will also provide one of the first exposures to the students of an industry-working environment.

Research Assistants Udaka Manawadu and Kavindu Madushanka, who serve as the student coordinators for the project, feel that students at the University of Sri Jayawardenapura have enthusiastically endorsed the project and appreciates its usefulness for the student body for years to come. Forty-one students in the third year are currently participating in the project.

The inauguration ceremony of the project was taken place on 5th July (Thursday) 2018 at the Faculty of Applied Sciences.

Cited from:
Daily Mirror: http://www.dailymirror.lk/article/Fulbright-Specialist-Programme-established-at-Japura-Uni-152179.html
Daily FT: http://www.ft.lk/ft-education/Fulbright-specialist-program-established-at-University-of-Sri-Jayewardenepura/10515-658338