General Evaluation of the Computational Biophysics Workshop at Champaign, Illinois

July 6-10, 2009

Questionnaire: Gila Budescu, TCB Group, UIUC, and modified by David Brandon, TCB Group, UIUC
Analysis and report: David Brandon, TCB Group, UIUC

The NIH Resource for Macromolecular Modeling and Bioinformatics is headed by Klaus Schulten, and Co-PIs Z. Luthey-Schulten, L. Kale, E. Tajkhorshid, and A. Aksimentiev. As part of its outreach, the Resource offers workshops to introduce and transfer its programs and technological solutions to the biomedical community. The Resource presented a five-day (July 6-10, 2009) workshop at the iHotel and Conference Center in Champaign, Illinois. Resource faculty provided morning lectures, and teaching assistants and faculty led afternoon hands-on sessions using Resource software, and tutorials consisting of text and computer files.

Workshop lectures were provided by K. Schulten, E. Tajkhorshid, and Z. Luthey-Schulten. Teaching assistants were graduate students from TCBG and the Luthey-Schulten group. Tutorials and preparation of the laptops was provided by the graduate students and by other Resource staff, and on-site the tutorial sessions were led by the graduate students.  The program of the workshop consisted of lectures and hands-on sessions, with an emphasis on the latter. On the last day of the workshop, participants were asked to complete a general evaluation form consisting of questions about the lectures, hands-on tutorial sessions, outcomes, and overall satisfaction. A copy of the form is available here, with results described below.

In the summary below, participant 'agreement' with a statement is calculated by adding together the 'agree' and 'strongly agree' percentages from the tables below, e.g., in the first item of the first table below agreement is assessed at 90% (38% agree + 52% strongly agree). Due to rounding, some cumulative percentages in the table exceed 100%. The number of participants responding to each question is indicated by the 'N' count in each table. Attendance varied during the workshop, with some attending lectures but not tutorials, and with some days more popular than others. At a maximum the workshop drew 25 participants, hence we will place the response rate for the general evaluation form at about 84%.

I. Outcomes

With regards to outcomes, most participants (91%) indicated the workshop taught them techniques directly applicable to their career, most (90%) felt the material presented in the workshop was relevant to their research, and most (90%) indicated that hat the workshop broadened their understanding of concepts and principles in computational and theoretical biophysics. Smaller yet still high percentages felt the workshop improved their ability to carry out research in the area of theoretical and computational biophysics (82%), and that the workshop improved significantly their computational skills (72%).



Strongly disagree Disagree Unsure Agree Strongly agree
1. The Workshop broadened my understanding of concepts and principles in the field of Computational and Theoretical Biophysics. 21     10% 38% 52%
2. The Workshop improved my ability to carry out original research in the field of Theoretical and Computational Biophysics. 20   5% 15% 30% 52%
3. The Workshop improved significantly my computational skills 21 5% 14% 10% 62% 10%
4. The Workshop taught me techniques directly applicable to my career. 21     10% 29% 62%
5. The material presented in the Workshop was relevant to my research. 21     10% 33% 57%

II. Lectures

All participants (100%) found that the instructor's knowledge of the subjects was good, and nearly all (95-96%) indicated that the instructors stimulated participant intellectual curiosity, that lectures incorporated recent developments in the field, that lectures were coordinated between instructors, and that instructors explained their material well. Strong support from participants (86-91% agreement) was found for items indicating that the level of lectures was appropriate, that instructors provided real-world examples, that lectures covered the essentials of the field, and that the rationale of techniques presented was clear. Just over three quarters of participants (81%) found that the afternoon question and answer periods were beneficial.



Strongly disagree Disagree Unsure Agree Strongly agree
1. The instructors' knowledge of the subjects was good. 21       14% 86%
2. The instructors explained the material well. 21     5% 33% 62%
3. The instructors provided real-world examples. 21   5% 5% 14% 76%
4. The lectures were coordinated between instructors. 21     5% 29% 67%
5. Lectures incorporated recent developments in the field. 21     5% 19% 76%
6. The range of lectures captured the overall essentials of the field. 21   5% 10% 43% 43%
7. The level of the lectures was appropriate. 21     10% 48% 43%
8. The underlying rationale of the techniques presented was clear. 21     14% 38% 48%
9. The instructors stimulated my intellectual curiosity. 21     5% 24% 71%
10. The daily noon Q&A period was beneficial. 21 5%   14% 24% 57%

III. Hands-on Sessions

The hands-on sessions refers to the afternoon tutorial sessions, during which participants completed work on their own laptops. All participants (100%) indicate teaching assistants were well-prepared to answer questions, and nearly all participants (95%) indicated that the hands-on sessions were coordinated with the lectures, that sufficient instructions were provided to proceed with the hands-on sessions, and that there were enough instructional staff on hand to help participants during hands-on sessions. A majority (90%) of participants agreed that the hands-on sessions were important to the workshop, and that the concrete examples provided via the tutorials increased understanding of lecture material. However, only a slight majority (60%) of participants found that the hands-on sessions were long enough. 



Strongly disagree Disagree Unsure Agree Strongly agree
1. The hands-on sessions were important for the learning process in the Workshop. 21     10% 33% 57%
2. The concrete examples in the hands-on tutorials increased my understanding of the lectures. 21   5% 5% 33% 57%
3. The hands-on sessions were long enough. 20   15% 25% 35% 25%
4. The hands-on sessions were coordinated with the lectures. 20     5% 45% 50%
5. TAs were well-prepared to answer questions. 20       50% 50%
6. There were sufficient instructions to proceed with the hands-on assignments. 20     5% 20% 75%
7. There were enough TAs / instructional staff to help the participants. 20     5% 25% 70%

IV. Environment & Technical Resources

Questions about environment and technical resources refer to the physical context of the workshop (housing, conference room, etc.) and technologies needed to carry off the workshop (computing hardware, software, projection systems, other). All participants (100%) agreed that the iHotel provided sufficient accommodations and that the projection system was sufficient for lectures, while at the same time a smaller percentage (85%) agreed that the lecture room used was conducive to learning. A majority (80%) of participants indicated that the software used in the workshop ran well on their laptops.



Strongly disagree Disagree Unsure Agree Strongly agree
1. The software used in the Workshop ran well on my laptop 20   5% 15% 35% 45%
2. The lecture room was conducive to learning. 20   5% 10% 40% 45%
3. The projection system was sufficient for the lectures. 20       25% 75%
4. The iHotel provided sufficient accommodations. 19       32% 68%

V. Communication & Dissemination

Items about communication and dissemination refer to how TCBG communicates with participants before and during the workshop. All participants (100%) found that emails about setting up their laptops for the workshop were helpful, and a majority (90%) indicate that the workshop website was informative about the event, and that instructors were readily available for questions and answers outside of lecture periods.



Strongly disagree Disagree Unsure Agree Strongly agree
1. 1. Instructors were readily available for Q&A outside the lecture periods. 20     10% 10% 80%
2. The Workshop web site was informative about the event. 20     10% 40% 50%
3. The emails about setting up laptops for the Workshop were helpful. 20       30% 70%


VI. Overall Satisfaction

A final set of questions asked participants about their overall satisfaction with the workshop. All participants (100%) agree that the workshop met their expectations, and that the event was well organized. Majorities also indicated that the workshop addressed participant research needs (95%) and that the balance between lectures and hands-on sessions was optimal (90%).



Strongly disagree Disagree Unsure Agree Strongly agree
1. The Workshop was well organized. 20       30% 70%
2. The balance between lectures and hands-on sessions was optimal. 20     10% 30% 60%
3. The Workshop addressed my research needs. 20     5% 40% 55%
4. Overall, the Workshop met my expectations. 20       25% 75%

V. Comments

Participants were solicited for comments in three areas, 1) suggestions for improving the workshop, 2) suggestions for similar workshops, and 3) other comments. Each area of comments in summarized below; a compilation of raw statements can be obtained by e-mailing If a comment was made in one area, it is not repeated again in another area below.

  • Suggestions for improving the workshop:
    • more time to work on tutorials, or shorter tutorials, or tutorials distributed over a different time frame
    • more social activities so that participants can discuss their work with each other and TCBG members
    • workshops very tightly packed with information, participants need time to reflect on what they've learned and how it applies to their own work
    • more interactive tutorials
  • Suggestions for similar workshops:
    • more theory in lectures and/or tutorials, e.g., how does NAMD work
    • solicit research interests from participants before they arrive, post so others know the areas of inquiry
    • DNA or Si surfaces
    • GPU algorithms
  • Other comments:
    • more time with code developers would be helpful
    • facilitate more contact between iHotel location and university