Teaching High Throughput Computing: An International Comparison of Andragogical Techniques

The importance of High Throughput Computing (HTC), whether through high performance or cloud-enabled, is a critical issue for research institutions as data metrics are increasing at a rate greater than the capacity of user systems [1]. As a result nascent evidence suggests higher research output from institutions that provide access to HTC facilities. However the necessary skills to operate HTC systems is lacking from the very research communities that would benefit from them. Apart from reducing research output this also places additional unnecessary pressure on system administrators who need to respond to uneducated user requests.

With empirical data spanning several years correlating training and utilization from the Victorian Partnership for Advanced Computing (VPAC), the University of Melbourne, and Goethe-University Frankfurt Am Main, theoretical and practical issues are raised. As advanced adult learners, the postgraduate researchers involved in the course offerings from these institutions should be an ideal fit for andragogical teaching techniques [2]. However exploring the practices and course offerings of the listed institutions indicates a combination of experience and cultural factors reinforces the notion of a continuum between pedagogical and andragogical techniques, but also raises whether there are correlative stages for the components within this continuum or whether they are independent.

The results of this international investigation with variant teaching methods, classes, and results, provide opportunities for other institutions to initiate or review their own training programmes and create the conditions for dynamic HTC user communities and increased informed utilization of their systems.

A presentation to eResearchAustralasia, Brisbane, October 18, 2017 by Lev Lafayette (University of Melbourne) and Anja Gerbes (Centre for Scientific Computing, Frankfurt)