By Stephanie McMillen
Colin Archibald, known to his students as “Dr. A,” has been a professor of computer programming at Valencia since 1998. Currently he teaches at East Campus and specializes in modern programming languages.
Colin’s interest in computer programing was peaked when, in 1978, he received his first response after typing a command into a computer. “The response was something like ‘Invalid command,’ but the fact that the machine had responded to me was the spark that made me want to create machines that interact with people in useful ways,” Colin said.
This desire prompted Colin to obtain a bachelor’s and master’s degree in computer science and a Ph.D. in electrical engineering.
Before coming to Valencia, Colin was a scientist for the National Research Council in Canada for 10 years. He has published two books and more than 30 papers in the areas of artificial intelligence, robot programming, and computer vision.
When looking for a teaching position in the 1990’s, Colin assumed that he would find his career at a university, but was instead, attracted to Valencia’s learning-centered mission. It was here that he could focus on teaching, not lecturing. “The job of teaching is not the same as lecturing, and the difference is the interaction,” Colin pointed out.
Today, you can find “Dr. A” interacting with his students in online classrooms (mostly Google Hangouts – a free video chat service from Google), which he says can be “more engaging” than traditional classrooms (see picture below).
Lisa Macon, interim dean of architecture, engineering, and technology, notes that Colin’s passion for the discipline is “highly infectious” and as a result, his students are “highly engaged” in the coursework.
Since 2005, Colin has been producing hands-on video lectures for computer programming classes, which are available for students on the web, and contain explanations, demonstrations and programming exercises. His instructional video for teaching COP1000 (Introduction to Programming Concepts) has replaced the textbook for the course. “This is a large enrollment course,” Lisa adds, “and has collectively saved students several…thousands of dollars in textbook costs.”
More recently, Colin has been teaching the Android App development class at Valencia – a course that grew out of the SunGard Endowed Teaching Chair in Computer Science, which he has been awarded for five consecutive years. His creativity and dedication, also earned him the NISOD Excellence Award – twice.
Colin’s accomplishments “in industry,” include the development of a software program called CardScan, which is still a popular product. In education, he was successful in leading the effort to create the Bachelor of Applied Science degree program in software development at the University of Central Florida (UCF).
“Although it’s a UCF degree, it could not have been created from within [the university],” Colin explained. “The barriers to creating this educational path existed at all levels in all institutions involved. The Associate of Science to Bachelor of Applied Science path is still not smooth, nor well understood, but we’ve made a lot of progress!”
In his free time, Colin serves as the statewide computer science discipline coordinator for Florida’s State Course Numbering System (SCNS). He is currently the co-principal investigator for the National Science Foundation grant “Software Development Educational Pathways” in partnership with UCF, Seminole State College, Brevard Community College, and Lake Sumter Community College.
Colin lives in Ocoee with his spouse of 23 years and four dogs. He volunteers with animal rescue groups, plays tennis, bowls, and recently has become a “poor contributor” to a barroom trivia team.
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