IBM Academic Initiative

Building skills for a Smarter Planet

Spotlight on Dr. David Powell

Ensuring students' post-graduate success

Powell Dr. David Powell
Professor, Computing Sciences and Business Administration
Elon University, Elon, North Carolina, USA

Dr. Powell is a Professor of Computing Sciences and serves on the Academic Technology and Computing Committee.

You cannot argue with a 100% success rate

Dr. Powell's goal has been to help Elon students graduate with computing skills that enable them to have their choice between a high-paying job or acceptance to graduate school to further their education. He happily reports that 100 percent of all Elon CS graduates in 2010, 2011 and 2012 are employed in the computer industry in the job of their choice or are attending graduate school for an advanced degree in Computer Science. In an economy plagued with high unemployment, this is a remarkable accomplishment for any school!

Key factors to achieving his goal

Dr. Powell not only has the educational credentials to teach in his field, but he also worked in the software industry for several years, managing end-to-end software development processes. His experiences hiring and working with many students "fresh out of school" gave him first-hand knowledge about the skills that they need. He has structured his courses at Elon to include hands-on use of the latest software, productivity tools and software development methodologies —and he has looked to the IBM Academic Initiative program to help him succeed.

The right combo of products in an easy-to-use environment

In the Spring 2012 semester, Dr. Powell taught a senior elective course on advanced programming that covered JSP 2.2 and Servlets 3.0. He wanted his students to use industry standard, enterprise-level Java EE 6 software rather than lighter-weight open source technologies. He worked closely with IBM to create an integrated solution of IBM Rational Application Developer and IBM WebSphere Application Server with a non-embedded Derby data store running on Windows in the IBM Academic Skills Cloud. This provided an ideal platform that enabled his students to access the software running in the cloud environment from anywhere, on or off campus, using Microsoft's Remote Desktop Connection from any Windows-based machine with internet access. Each student had an individual virtual machine for development and a separate virtual machine for deployment. This gave each student the chance to play the roles of developer, deployer, and administrator while isolating the impact of their changes and configurations from other students.

Expanding the program

The best part was how easy it was for the Elon faculty and administrators. There was no software for them to install and configure, no downtime, no costs, no firewall problems, and no performance issues. The environment worked so well in this first course, that the department plans to use it in an expanded role in the Fall semester to introduce JEE 6, JSF 2, and cloud computing to students in the core undergraduate Computer Science III course. In the future, this integrated solution can also be extended to other schools who have access to the Academic Skills Cloud or who are using a VCL environment.

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