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Tina Meyers

Related article to the thesis topic: Curriculum Development in Computer Science.

The National Science Foundation is dedicated to offering and administering grant money to institutions and individuals across the nation in the area of science and curriculum. A very small university has been awarded a substantial grant based on a proposal to dramatically revise an introductory computer science course and expand the computer laboratory at Furman University (city not cited).

Furman University applied for NSF grant money and posted related information to the web for others to evaluate and use. Based on a need for new curriculum development in the area of computer science, Furman computer science faculty purposed that the Introduction to Computing course (CS16) begin to combine and process various media. There are many remarkable advances in the performance of computer hardware and software. Personal computers are now capable of not only producing vast amounts of information, but also can enhance our intellectual abilities. Because of this dynamic new interconnected paradigm, Furman University has documented relevant and substantial changes for both their CS16 course, and also a new computer lab structure. This article specifically addresses the need for curriculum development in computer science because of the continual and rapid changes in technology.

The project would drastically set new standards for a wide audience of students. Students from all disciplines would take the course, not just computer science and math majors. The introductory course in computer technology would begin to have integration of multimedia and data visualization as the main component of the course. In education and in the marketplace, new standards for computer literacy will soon emerge. Computer literate people will not be just programmers, or the technology specialists. In the very new future students across the nation will need more than just word processing and spreadsheet skills. Furman projects that new computer literacy "will mean understanding the nature of digital media, both its capabilities and its limits." New literacy skills will include applying multimedia-computing solutions to specific tasks and problems (1). Furman University addressed their assumptions in their proposal and are now in the process of modifying the Furman computer science curriculum. Topics for this revised course will include: multimedia documents and presentations, integrated multimedia databases for informational storage and retrieval, hypertext, visualization for modeling complex systems, video imaging, processing sound for voice and music, cooperative computing in the workplace, networking for communication and information exchange, and social and ethical issues.

The National Research Council report, Computing the Future, recommends that undergraduate computer science education be strengthened with a broadening of the field to contain contact with other disciplines and problem domains. The project at Furman directly addresses this very issue. It is essential that all community colleges, technical colleges, and universities also assess their present computer science curriculum to evaluate the "new definition of computer literacy". Technology changes continually. Institutions need to make sure that they are educating students to understand the concepts and techniques for significant problem solving, not just use it as a processing tool. It is crucial that colleges and universities have intrinsic motivation that prods administration and faculty to strive for program and curriculum development in the area of computer science.

The field of computer science is one of the fastest, if not the fastest, growing fields of study in the nation. Information technologists are drastically needed and institutions of higher learning cannot produce workers fast enough for industry. It is because of this that colleges and universities need to assess their current computer science curriculum and look to new and innovative programs to attract students and also train them in the areas that they will need most.

Where the debate comes in is how can these institutions continue to budget for new technology and staffing? Small institutions will have significant difficulty in paying for hardware and software that will be needed for new courses and programs. In areas such as International Falls, the Iron Range cities, and Ely, it is difficult to recruit students and also faculty and staff. Another concern of mine is the surge of change in curriculum and computer related programs. A timeline with clearly defined expectations must be laid out. Furman University documented a two-year projected time frame in which effective and interactive course and laboratory materials were created and implemented. I believe that this is a realistic projection. It gives the faculty time to pilot a project, assess the labs and course work, and also survey students.

As I begin to research curriculum development in computer science I find that there are many universities and institutions of higher learning that have new and innovative ideas, but very little funding to make sure they are implemented. Will schools have to rely on private money and grants to be marketable and competitive? My assumption is yes. But with funding and diligent work, institutions of higher learning will have programs and courses that meet the needs of students both personally and professionally.

REFERENCE: http://s9000.furman.edu/NSFILI/background.html

-- Anonymous, May 18, 1999

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