A Student’s Perspective on Expansions in Computer Science Education

Coming into college as a liberal arts major, it was eye opening to realize that the most popular class at Berkeley was the introduction to computer science (CS 61A).1 The class sizes have grown steadily since 2006, but have dramatically jumped in 2012. Generally, more students register for the rigorous course in the fall semesters.From 691 students in 2012 to 1098 in 2013, the class enrollment nearly doubled. It is no wonder that the class professor advises students to watch the webcasts online rather than go to crowded lectures halls.

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I began classes at Cal one year after the exponential growth of CS 61A.  Since being surrounded by so many analytical and technical thinkers, the pressure to learn how to code is always present. In a conversation with some friends, I found myself lost in discussions laced with programming jargon. When I fell back to my safe question and asked what they were doing during the weekend, I got answers like working on coding projects, doing computer science homework, or going to local hackathons. It is astonishing to realize the proportion of students involved in developing their own computer science education, as it prompts me to find a way to catch up.

At the same time, knowing computer science is an economic edge when employment opportunities are slim. Campus recruiters see skills in Python as a gold star on resumes, especially when students swarm towards company representatives at every info-session. At a university where everyone is high achieving, students desperately seek to set themselves apart in any way possible. I quickly found the significance in coding not only as a useful skill, but also as a means to communicate and network.

The growing demand for computer science education naturally prompts for an increase in supply of computer science courses. There are now more exciting opportunities for non-computer science majors to also learn how to code. Student-run classes ranging from one to two units are offered every semester to students who want to learn programming in a lower intensity environment.

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A new class at UC Berkeley titled “The Beauty and Joy of Computing” taught by Dan Garcia is directed towards students of any major to discover the thrills in programming.2 This class has opened doors for various groups to get involved with computer science. In the spring of 2014, the class had 106 females and 104 males in the class, evidence of a rising attraction in computer science for women as well.3 According to a White House fact sheet, “New Commitments to Computer Science Education”, this class will also begin to be the basis for College Board’s AP Computer Science Principles implemented in high schools.4 Lectures this spring are already being recorded for the upcoming AP classes, which will expand access to high school students interested in learning computer science.

Finding ways to deepen my learning and use as many resources as possible at my university is a goal that I meet with enrolling in programming courses. For many scholars, coding is a refreshing way of thinking after hours of reading and writing papers. I would not be surprised to see computer science as a new requirement for all students in the future. In an age where technology is booming, a background in computer science is becoming more and more necessary and new ways to learn help are encouraging more to strengthen their voice in the language of programming and participate in the widening discourse of technology.

 

RESOURCES 

1Computer Science 61A Sections. (2015, February 5). Retrieved from https://ninjacourses.com/explore/1/course/COMPSCI/61A/

2Mhatre, P. (2013, March 23). UC Berkeley Aims to Stay Ahead of the Curve in Age of Tech. The Daily Californian. Retrieved from http://www.dailycal.org/2013/03/21/uc-berkeley-aims-to-stay-ahead-of-the-curve-in-age-of-tech/

3Brown, K. V. (2014, Feb 18). Tech Shift: More Women in Computer Science Classes. SF Gate. Retrieved from http://www.sfgate.com/education/article/Tech-shift-More-women-in-computer-science-classes-5243026.php#photo-5895463

4Fact Sheet: New Commitments Support Computer Science Education. (2014, December 8) The White House Office of the Press Secretary. Retrieved from http://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2014/12/08/fact-sheet-new-commitments-support-computer-science-education

Featured Image Via: http://www.sfgate.com/education/article/Tech-shift-More-women-in-computer-science-classes-5243026.php#photo-5895463