Jan. 7, 2022

Schulich professor aims to increase UCalgary’s profile for software engineering

Mohammad Moshirpour officially named faculty's first Teaching Chair in Software Engineering
Mohammad Moshirpour
Mohammad Moshirpour.

The best kind of experience is of the hands-on variety, says the Schulich School of Engineering’s first Teaching Chair in Software Engineering.

The appointment of Dr. Mohammad Moshirpour, BSc’08, BSc (Eng)’09, MSc’11, PhD’16, was officially announced as Schulich’s Teaching Chair in Software Engineering at the November 2021 Schulich Connects event, though the professor actually started in his new role last July.

He says he’s hopeful the five-year term will allow him to expand on the work he has already done to make the software engineering program the best in the country.

Building on experience

Having spent years as a software engineer where he trained interns and engineers, Moshirpour joined Schulich in 2016 armed with an idea on how to build the best graduates.

“My strategy in those days was basically to help them build skills on their own and provide them with just-in-time support,” he says. “When teaching at Schulich, I tried to scale this style of training in my classes.”

Dubbing it a “devshop style of teaching,” Moshirpour focused heavily on active and project-based learning.

In the summer of 2018, he was tasked with being the lead curriculum designer for the new Master in Engineering (MEng) in Software Engineering program, for which he is now the director.

The one-year, course-based program gives students a strong foundation in programming skills that they can use when they move on to advanced software engineering courses.

Moshirpour received national recognition for the development of this program when he was awarded the 2021 D2L Innovation Award from the Society for Teaching and Learning in Higher Education.

Grabbing industry’s attention

Moshirpour’s teaching approach and the quality of the Schulich programming soon caught the attention of industry, with several graduates finding jobs with big-name companies like Amazon, Cisco and Benevity. He recalls:

Industry took notice. Within a couple of years, I was getting calls from software-development managers who would ask for meetings, saying they had noticed a strong improvement in the quality of our students, and the students had mentioned my classes as being among the reasons.

He started engaging with industry partners, involving them in defining course projects so students could apply their knowledge to real-world problems.

“We had identified a need, based on the fact that software engineers are practitioners, and, much like doctors who work in hospitals as part of their training, our students must work on industry projects and interact with and get feedback from experienced practitioners,” Moshirpour says.

Making Schulich a 'hub'

Moshirpour’s goal is simple: Make Schulich a hub for software engineering education and practice.

He says the mission of the chair was defined as: “To create and maintain a highly technical and dynamic software engineering program at the Schulich School of Engineering, to effectively prepare students for the complex challenges of industry.”

By effectively reviewing and developing curriculum, using innovative pedagogical approaches and creating a community of learning and collaboration, Moshirpour believes students will continue to fluourish.

Companies such as Aucerna and Peloton Computer Enterprises Ltd. have invested in the chair, with Moshirpour adding that other companies are welcome to join the initiative.

Schulich School of Engineering Dean Bill Rosehart says the teaching chair position is important in setting new directions for how programs are taught.

“Mohammad has worked tirelessly to improve student success,” Rosehart says. “We’re excited to see the vision for this chair take shape.”