Technologies for Networked Orchestration

Technologies for Networked Orchestration

Training undergraduates in conducting authentic, independent research provides many benefits to the student, including learning the regulation skills and the planning skills to conduct research, and learning how to deal with complex, ill-structured problems that they will encounter in the real-world.

Prior work in Agile Research Studios (ARS) has contributed a socio-technical model that supports research communities of practice through various processes, social structures, and virtual tools. However, despite these existing processes, orchestrating support in ARS remains challenging due to the diversity of needs that students have week-to-week, the scarcity of one-on-one mentoring resources, and the necessity for distributed support between community members.

To address these challenges, we are designing, implementing, and evaluating networked orchestration technologies that empower mentors to more effectively orchestrate support between students across an entire studio by (1) automatically monitoring for when needs in a team arise and (2) routing support to needs while cognizant of the continually changing available resources across the entire team. As a precursory step to designing and building these networked orchestration strategies, we must first understand what networked orchestration in an ARS looks like, and what challenges mentors and students face in their day-to-day work.

What is Networked Orchestration in DTR? Networked orchestration involves much greater complexity in coordination between people and available resources than less distributed research settings, which requires teaching students essential self-orchestration and help-seeking skills in order for the community to run effectively.

Networked orchestration should involve the whole community in helping to fulfill the needs of students while conscious of scarce resources

  • Students have access to multiple outlets throughout the week to fulfill project needs
  • Mentors emphasize finding the right resource (e.g., resources that can help student but are generally less limited in community) for whatever needs students have

Mentors and students share the orchestration responsibility

  • Mentors help orchestrate the student’s learning and work process during meetings by providing them feedback on whether their perceived project risks are the most important and their plan for addressing the risks
  • Outside of meetings students to self-direct their work process and learning, with mentors expecting them to seek out help and feedback from the community as they work on their weekly plan
  • Mentors encourage students to think carefully about how they will use a scarce human resource, such as meeting time, by planning ahead for how to use the resource.

Tensions for Orchestration Networked orchestration requires mentors and students to have some level of awareness about the work practices of students and the availability of helpers in the community, but can be challenging to maintain for even 20-30 students.

Networked orchestration practices--including self-direction and help-seeking--undertaken by students outside of scheduled meetings is opaque to mentors, making it difficult to diagnose and address any inefficiencies/struggles students may have with those practices.

  • Mentors want to diagnose and address ineffective self-direction practices, but find this challenging because the practices undertaken by students outside of scheduled meetings are generally opaque to the mentors.
  • Mentors want to teach students both the necessary self-direction and research planning skills to conduct independently directed research, but find this challenging because the limited time requires mentors to trade-off which skills to teach/discuss at a meeting.
  • Mentors want to ensure that students develop good coverage skills across skills for both self-direction and research planning, but struggle to know what skills have/have not been worked on recently so that they can assess what gaps could be forming.

Cognitively burdensome for mentors to track many students, making it difficult for mentors to be aware of the current project state and the individual things they want to work on with each student

  • Mentors want to help students address challenges students are having with their research and metacognitive blockers, but struggle to maintain a model of what each student in the community is currently working on and struggling with week-to-week.
  • Mentors want to understand how the community as a whole is doing towards the goals of self-direction and help-seeking, but struggle to have community-wide awareness of (1) how students are self-directing and (2) how students are helping one another..

Networked orchestration requires distributed resource use, but students struggle to find appropriate resources that use the entire community

  • Students want to reach out for help from others in the community, but struggle to find help from those beyond a small group of people that they know can help well because it is difficult to maintain a model of student expertise across the whole community.
Technologies for Networked Orchestration image 1

Figure 1: Example of a Networked Orchestration Technology: creating an orchestration script to reduce undergrads overworking (i.e. spending more than 120% of possible points on their sprint)

Technologies for Networked Orchestration image 2

Figure 2: Actionable feedback provided when the Resource-Aware Orchestration Engine detects that a student is overworking. In this case, undergrads (Andrew) are sent a message to reflect on what happened last week. For graduate students, the mentor (Haoqi) is notified that a student (Kapil) is over points and that he should check in with the student.



  • Haoqi Zhang

Ph.D. Students

  • Kapil Garg

Masters and Undergraduate Students

  • None