The New York Times published an article recognizing the pervasion of computer science into college curriculum. Arguments reference the need for “elements of computational thinking” in all careers and majors. Wheaton College in Massachusetts offers a course called “Computing for Poets.” The subtext reads: “a love of the written (and digital) word.” Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh offers “Principles of Computation” for those not in the major itself. This reflects an effort to develop skills in technological literacy, an ever more important skill. The University should take a more integrative perspective in its approach in offering the hard sciences — one that could also appeal to those students outside these majors.
It’s the responsibility of the University to offer relevant courses, but they also need to be accessible and welcoming. All too often LSA students are turned off by the thought of taking science classes because of concerns that they might not have the necessary background in these subjects. Headlines over the past three years have noted the lack of grade inflation — and possibly increased deflation — in science, technology, engineering and math majors. There’s an observed 40- to 60-percent major-dropout rates from engineering, meaning that about half of those intending on an engineering major ended up switching out. These figures could be compensated by a program that partners LSA with the Electrical Engineering and Computer Science Department in the College of Engineering. The program would develop a curriculum that engages, encourages and intrigues those outside of engineering fields. Chemistry 215 double honors is an example of this. The final project involves coding a website to represent an organic molecular mechanism. Across campus, students would benefit by learning technological methods, literacy and thinking, if integrated into curricula.
Technological skills are a needed bonus in the job market. Computer-related occupations, in general, pay an average of $73,710 according to the Bureau of Labor Stastics. Entry level salaries for computer science positions have grown the fastest and according to U.S. News, four of the “top 10 Best Jobs” relate directly to computer science. Literacy in coding is a desirable skill for an increasing array of professions. In order to cultivate the entrepreneurial spirit promoted all over the Diag, students need to be equipped with the tools to do so.
Moreover, the University needs more interdisciplinary focus around campus. Students of all disciplines could benefit from such intertwined learning. By sharing knowledge between disciplines, students could gain a far broader exposure than they would in isolated majors. Expanding cores to include such “exposure” classes, or changing curricula to incorporate such elements could encourage this kind of preparation.
The University should take the example of other colleges and develop courses that give students a broader skill base. University students of the future will need a more expansive toolset; one that includes the tools for the online world.