September 26, 2006

The one size fits all approach to computer science just isn’t working anymore

This is a quote by Richard A. DeMillo, dean of the College of Computing at Georgia Tech, from today's Inside Higher Ed story New 'Threads' for Computer Science by Scott Jaschik. The idea is that with declining enrollments in CS, something has to be done. Well, what Greorgia Tech has done is completely revision their computing curriculum, removing the mandatory core courses and replacing them with two main components. First of all, is an application area component, such as intelligence or media. The second component is the role component, for example programmer, entrepreneur or innovator. Students pick two application areas and one role. This is a very interesting idea, which has already seen an increase in Georgia Tech's enrollments. The relevant GT site is here.

To give a bit of the flavour of the program, I'll list the applications areas (Threads, as they call them) and the roles.


  1. Computation modelling (computational science)
  2. Embodiment (embedded systems)
  3. Foundations (theoretical CS)
  4. Information internetworks
  5. Intelligence
  6. Media (multimedia, interactive systems)
  7. People (HCI)
  8. Platforms (hardware)

  1. Master Practitioner (programmer)
  2. Entrepreneur
  3. Innovator (research)
  4. Communicator (tech writer)

This is a very exciting way to approach computer science education, one which is probably transferable to most other disciplines as well. When you think about it, the roles are fairly universal, with on the content of "master practitioner" changing with the field. The application areas are also relevant to most fields where people can study different sub-areas.


Jane said...

This is such an interesting concept. I'd love to see what their results are in a few years---and I hope this helps us kick-start our curricular discussions in my own department. (I love the ideas of "roles", too---so many of our students think they're limited to a life of tech support or being a "code monkey"---so not true!!)

John Dupuis said...

Yeah, roles. What a concept! It makes me wonder what I would have chosen for myself way back in the stone age. Probably a cross between master practitioner and communicator, if that would have been possible.