TITLE: Sometimes a Fantasy
AUTHOR: Eugene Wallingford
DATE: March 08, 2014 10:18 AM
This week I saw a link to
The Turing School of Software & Design,
"a seven-month, full-time program for people who want to become
professional developers". It reminded me of Neumont University,
a ten-year-old school that offers a B.S. degree program in
Computer science that students can complete in two and a half
While riding the bike, I occasionally fantasize about doing
something like this. With the economics of universities
changing so quickly [
], there is an opportunity for a new kind of higher education.
And there's something appealing about being able to work
closely with a cadre of motivated students on the full
spectrum of computer science and software development.
This could be an accelerated form of traditional CS instruction,
without the distractions of other things, or it could be
something different. Traditional university courses are pretty
confining. "This course is about algorithms.
That one is about programming languages." It would be
fun to run a studio in which students serve as apprentices
making real stuff, all of us learning as we go along.
A few years ago, one of our ChiliPLoP hot topic groups
conducted a greenfield thought experiment
to design an undergrad CS program outside of the constraints of
any existing university structure. Student advancement was
based on demonstrating professional competencies, not completing
packaged courses. It was such an appealing idea! Of course,
there was a lot of hard work to be done working out the details.
My view of university is still romantic, though. I like the
idea of students engaging the great ideas of humanity that lie
outside their major. These days, I think it's conceivable to
include the humanities and other disciplines in a new kind of CS
education. In a recent blog entry, Hollis Robbins floats the
for the first year of a liberal arts education. The premise is
that there are "thousands of qualified, trained, energetic, and
underemployed Ph.D.s [...] struggling to find stable teaching
jobs". Hiring a well-rounded tutor could be a lot less
expensive than a year at a private college, and more lucrative
for the tutor than adjuncting.
Maybe a new educational venture could offer more than targeted
professional development in computing or software. Include a
couple of humanities profs, maybe some a social scientist, and
it could offer a more complete undergraduate education --
one that is economical both in time and money.
But the core of my dream is going broad and deep in CS without
the baggage of a university. Sometimes a fantasy is all you
need. Other times...