Meeting the Minds – Interviewing Dr. Kinshuk, Part, III


The Associate Dean of AU’s Faculty of Science, Dr. Kinshuk, currently holds an NSERC/iCORE/Xerox/Markin Industrial Research Chair for Adaptivity and Personalization in Informatics, and has more than 300 research publications in referreed journals. With all this going on, The Voice Magazine is very happy that he was able to take the time to be interviewed by our own Marie Well. You may also be interested in reading the first and second parts of this interview.

Marie: Do you use the Landing in your teaching practices? Why or why not?
Kinshuk: Partly. As I mentioned, I only teach one course, and students are welcome to provide reflections on their learning and what they think of the various topics, but it is not compulsory. On the other hand, we use the Landing very heavily in our research based activities with our research students. Many of my students provide feedback on their course, what are the next steps, analysis of literature?all of that. In our research projects, we use the Landing for the discussions, all the shared experiences.

Marie: If you had one piece of advice for online learners, what would it be?
Kinshuk: My advice would be to find relevance in learning because learning is something that can be useful. Effective learning happens when you can see how useful it is in your context. Trying to find relevance means trying to find how a particular concept, a particular topic, can be used in your particular environment. That helps to understand the topic better. For me, the one piece of advice I would give is to find relevance. don’t think learning is in addition to everything you are doing. Try to make learning as part of what else you are doing, so that, first of all, learning doesn’t become a burden, and second of all, it actually becomes better because you are using it immediately in your context.

Everything you learn has a certain application. You just have to find it. That requires much deeper reflection. Finding relevance, I would say, is one piece of advice.

Marie: If you could wave a magic wand and improve one thing about online education, what would it be?
Kinshuk: I would say learning in context. How could I make learning effective for individual students. Learning en masse doesn’t really help. Each student is different. As a teacher, I must realize that and understand that. That kind of understanding and then making learning for the individual student is what I would like to see happening. A lot of time, it is about one content given to everybody and everybody is trying to learn that. That’s not the approach I see as the most effective.

Finding an opportunity for learning in every action, in every event that happens in life is how I see online learning.

Marie: What is your view on interdisciplinary studies for computer science majors?
Kinshuk: I think that one thing that computer science majors have to understand is that computing is only useful when it is integrated into everything else. Computing on its own is a very narrow mindset. I see integrated studies as a very important component for computer science majors because they really need to understand how computing can help in every other aspect of life. So combining computer with, say, business, arts, history, the natural sciences, all different disciplines, and how computing can help with everything, how computer science can help in providing benefits to every other discipline is very important. So, That’s how I see integrated studies. I think it is very important, and I would suggest every computer science major to either think about doing a dual major or having at least minors so that they have direct application in other parts of their life.

Marie: What would be the majors you would recommend?
Kinshuk: I think that would not be the right way of thinking. I would suggest to look at what is your aptitude. If you have aptitude for language learning, then computer science and language learning are very good combination. If someone has arts or design aptitude, then design with computer science provides so many opportunities. It makes the understanding better and provides better outcomes. I think It’s the aptitude, and It’s what is useful in your life.

Again, people have different circumstances. Someone may have to manage their ?family business. That is perfectly fine. Then, have computer science with business, and you get better results out of it. I would not recommend any particular disciplines to be combined with computer science, since It’s about the personal situation. don’t think of computer science as the only thing: computer science has to have applications.

Marie: How do you keep abreast of best teaching practices?
Kinshuk: I don’t know if I do everything I should, but I try my best in different ways. First of all, my personal research is improving learning processes in technology, so I read a lot, discuss with other researchers. We have lots of collaboration, so I try to understand how they do things. I do experiments myself. I have published work with some very experienced colleagues, both in education and computer science. Not just that–we have very strong educators in other disciplines. I do research with others in health discipline, in business, and so on, so I try to find out how they do things. Research, teaching, understanding how others are approaching teaching, and doing experiments myself–through all these different ways, I try to find best practices.

Marie: What are some of the challenges and highlights to publishing academic literature?
Kinshuk: I would say none. I don’t think there are any challenges. I will take this question from a different point-of-view. What I can say is that when somebody is publishing something, the first thing we need to understand is why are we writing? Writing for myself, I don’t need to write. That means, I am writing for other people. I really have to write by understanding what they need and how they can relate to it. I am also editor of the journal I mentioned earlier, and that journal is quite reputable. It is actually one of the top three in the world, according to Google Scholar metrics. There,

I see a lot of research from different parts of the world. In my teaching, I see how my students write. One of the things I’ve seen too often in all these various venues is that people write either because they are forced to write as That’s what is? expected of them, or they write to say, this is what I did. The important thing is understand who is going to read, and why would someone read? The readers have to dedicate their time in reading our work, and we have to understand that everybody is busy and their time is precious. So, why would they put the time on reading something that you are writing? Making it relevant to them is very important. Also, that goes for anything else we do. We do this research and a publication comes out, and why would you put so much research into something if nobody needs it? There is the real source of problem. When we write, we need to ask how others can relate to it. Once they can relate, they will be interested in you trying to solve this problem when they have the same problem, too. So, they would like to see how you are trying to solve it. That is the approach we should have, and if we have that approach, then publishing is not a problem at all.

Another thing I would recommend is that research, publishing, any of these things, they don’t happen in isolation. They require working with others. They require appreciating what others have done. And, they require working with others to take it to the next level. So collaboration is very important.

Marie: What is your favorite course to teach?
Kinshuk: I teach only one course. I love to teach COMP 695. It’s a research-based course. It’s where I can actually help students develop research skills from day one. Then, I know whatever they do afterwards, they will be successful because they have achieved the attitude towards problem solving so that they will be identifying what are the solutions they should be looking for. They will have open mind when they are doing the research, and they will be following rigorous practices and not going into biased research. That is very important for research. That’s why I love this course.

Marie: If you could confer one piece of wisdom on an upcoming PhD student in computer science, what would it be?
Kinshuk: First, find a good application for your research so that you can see how your research is going to be useful. If you have that in mind, then whatever research topic you take, it is going to result in very good research. It is going to be useful to society. So, usefulness of research to society, I think that I would say to any research student. It doesn’t matter how abstract the research you do is, a lot of research we do is fundamental research, which requires abstract solutions, but at the same time, the application of it, and how it will benefit society should remain at the center of your research.

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