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Reimagining computer science education with CourseMatix

As the world increasingly relies on software, businesses have struggled to find enough developer talent to build and maintain their applications. IDC estimates the global shortage of software developers reached 1.4 million in 2021 and expects that number toballoon to 4 million by 2025.

Higher education is a great starting point to solve the software development skills shortage. One institution — Spokane Community College — has made strides in enhancing student learning and serving more students with the right mix of software development and IT education while saving educators time. 

Building a modern IT education platform

As a first step to improve computer science education and scale the number of students it could teach, Spokane Community College needed a platform that could help instructors more efficiently manage the teaching process. That’s where CourseMatix came in.

CourseMatix is an education platform that delivers the required tools, platforms, and frameworks such as automated grading, assignment tracking, and testing to save teachers time and enhance students’ learning. 

CourseMatix is entirely made up of microservices, with significant compute demands because it creates and runs a unique dedicated environment for each student. The platform is complex by nature as it supports a range of technologies that computer science professors need to teach varying coursework. This led to issues with scalability, reliability, and uptime when running on legacy infrastructure.

“We really wanted to no longer manage our infrastructure, leaving us to focus entirely on our platform,” says Aleks Korn, chief executive officer of CourseMatix. “We engaged Google Cloud partner CDW to see how we could simplify and improve our IT environment. The decision was quickly made to migrate to Google Kubernetes Engine (GKE).”

GKE provides CourseMatix with automatic horizontal and vertical scaling to minimize costs and downtime, while removing management and maintenance requirements. This enables CourseMatix to expand the reach of its platform at the lowest possible price and maintain a lean team. CDW helped CourseMatix make this decision to migrate to GKE, managed the migration, and provided guidance on a storage solution. 

Because CourseMatix has high data storage volume requirements (given the size of software development assignments) and needs to be fully reliable to ensure work is not lost, it also chose to work with NetApp. NetApp Cloud Volumes Service for Google Cloud perfectly complements GKE in its highly expandable, reliable, and user-friendly capabilities. The platform was now ready for its U.S. launch at Spokane Community College. 

Transforming software development education 

Spokane Community College needed a solution to address the challenges facing its professors, particularly with respect to time management.

“Each software development assignment can take an hour to grade,” says Bret Dickey, professor of software development at Spokane Community College. “When you have 100 students, you’re talking weeks of turnaround time to grade those projects. CourseMatix provides immediate feedback, which is a game changer for us as professors and our students.”

Students now complete and submit their assignments with real-world tools, using source control, creating branches to complete their work, and merging those branches to push up to the server where pipelines run the applications.

“It’s making our teaching better overall, including using real-world concepts to enhance teaching and outcomes,” says Dickey.

CourseMatix also provides the tooling to upskill on various programming languages and software packages required for coursework, helping Spokane Community College manage server-side frameworks and client-side languages that each have their own tools. 

“Students can access their cloud-based coding environment and all the tools they may need for an assignment are ready to go,” says Karmen Blake, another software development professor at Spokane Community College. “Having a central system for tooling within CourseMatix has been a huge time saver, meaning more time for learning and practice that prepares students for careers as professional software developers.”

Karmen and Dickey have seen marked improvements in their ability to teach and in student learning by using CourseMatix. For example, the platform provides automated hints and varying error messages based on the number of attempts a student has made to solve a problem to help each student along without making the assignment too easy or too difficult. 

As a cloud-based platform, CourseMatix also empowers students from a wide range of socioeconomic backgrounds to learn computer science. 

“As long as students can access the internet on their laptops, they have everything to complete their assignments,” says Karmen. “The cloud-based CourseMatix offering improves efficiency and equity across all students in our computer science programs.”

With a more fluid experience for students and immense amounts of time saved on grading, Spokane Community College is in a better position to increase enrollment in software development classes.

“Now that we have automated our grading and optimized our assignment processes, I am beginning to take on more students and teach more classes,” says Dickey. “I could not have imagined this outcome only a couple of years ago, and it’s all possible thanks to CourseMatix.”

To learn more about how partners help organizations make the most of Google Cloud, you can visit our partner page.

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