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Computer science on the rebound?

March 9, 2008, 8:15 am

Back in September 2006, I wrote about a new and innovative approach that Georgia Tech was taking towards its computer science curriculum. It appears that this approach, plus an improved job market for computing professionals, is helping turn around a fairly gloomy period for the field:

The Georgia Institute of Technology has revised its computer science curriculum to move away from a traditional hardware-software approach to much more emphasis on the creative process and the roles computer science majors go on to assume in their careers.

Giselle Martin, who directs student recruitment for the College of Computing at Georgia Tech, said that undergraduate applications are up 15 percent this year — in part due to new approaches to explaining the field. One key audience is parents, Martin said. Many remember the horror stories of the job market a few years back and Georgia Tech believes that it can break through that out-of-date mindset most directly with actual employers. So in April, when the college holds a series of events for accepted applicants, there is a panel for parents featuring employers who recruit at Georgia Tech talking about the jobs available and how much demand there is for new graduates.

And there’s this from Virginia Tech:

A new course focuses on problem solving, and several courses are being shifted to focus more on “how to think like a computer scientist,” he said. “We are thinking about how we portray ourselves and what we do,” [Cal] Ribbens [associate department head in computer science] said. “We do not want to be seen as just offering a bunch of programming classes.”

Indeed. There’s a lot of talk going around our campus and at the ICTCM about offering intro courses that focus on problem-solving and the methodology of the discipline, rather than just one little (but deep) slice of content. That certainly seems to make the front door of a major easier to get into. Right now, at least in math, it seems like many students who might do well in a math-related major are either turned off to the subject, or even shut out of it, because their first introduction to math is a technical calculus course, which is almost nothing like what the discipline of mathematics is actually about.

[h/t Inside Higher Ed]

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