Tag Archives: online classes

Undergraduate algorithms study guide

A year ago, I was just finishing putting together materials for the new online version of our undergraduate algorithms course.  I’ve finally compiled all that material into one webpage: available here. There are a few things not yet posted, but this is essentially the content of our undergraduate algorithms course less the assignments and exams. As when I teach the on-site course, I relied heavily on material from others, notably:

Though the “interactive questions” were written by me, they were not implemented by me.  I have to thank Oregon State University’s eCampus group for that.

Hopefully this will be helpful to others, though it assumes the particular prerequisites of our program …

The $17,500 computer science degree

Update: the tuition for this program has been changed and now amounts to about $30,000.  Sadly.

Our department has announced a new, entirely online, bachelor’s degree in computer science which can be completed in one year.  Given that we are a public university, this translates to a $17,500 degree*.

I will admit, when I first heard the idea I did not have very good thoughts about it.  My negative thoughts included

  • one year? yeah right!
  • what about programming languages, theory of computation, AI, etc.?
  • are we designing ourselves out of jobs? (courses will be administered by non-tenure-track instructors)
  • how will standards be maintained?

But then, I got to hear the details.  First, it is a post-baccalaureate degree.  So, students will already have a bachelor’s degree, and will have need to meet OSU’s post-baccalaureate admissions standards.  They will likely be more mature and perhaps working as they study.  I’m also glad to see that they are cautioning that completing the degree in one year would be a very intensive, full-time schedule and include two and three-year plans of study.  The degree is intended as a second degree, so all optional classes in CS are not mandatory.  Of course, this must ruffle some feathers as many courses that are required for graduation in our regular 4-year, first-degree program are not required by this post-bacc degree.  (I’m glad algorithms made the cut.)  As a post-bacc degree, we will still  have the usual cohort of students seeking a CS degree straight out of high-school.  Finally, it seems there is a consensus to require 2 proctored exams per course and, at least for the first few years, the assignments and exams will be the same as in the on-site classes.

I’ve been thinking more generally about online classes and online degrees and their social implications.  One commenter, pointed out some very valid points of the benefits of online education, that I have to agree with.  This degree provides an opportunity for the un- or under-employed to retrain for less than the cost of a new car.  The flexible schedule and location of the online classes will allow non-traditional students to study when they can, at the pace that they can.  I’m excited to see who will complete this program and from where they study.  I’d like to see a concerted effort to recruit women to complete this degree to perhaps counter the gender imbalance in our on-site program.

So, this coming fall, I will be converting my undergraduate algorithms class into an online class in time for a Winter 2013 release.  I’m excited to do this** and I’m sure I will have plenty to say about it in the fall.

* ~$15,000 for tuition (in- or out-of-state) plus additional expenses, such as textbooks (~$50 per course), a compatible laptop or computer (~$600), graduation fee ($300) and 2 proctored exams per course (~$30 each).

** And very glad that my department treats this course development as one class-worth of teaching assignment.

*** If you have questions about the program, please contact the program director directly at PostBacCS-online@oregonstate.edu.

Student depression, large classes and online classes

Last quarter, three students I was teaching spoke with me about their depression.  Three of the 160 or so students I was teaching. This was the first time a student had spoken with me about their mental health.  I was happy that these students felt that they could approach me.  I was uncertain of what to say, beyond what I would say to a friend in the same situation.  I was happy that these students assured me they had people (professional or not) to speak with. I was worried about the 157 other students.  How many of them were struggling with depression and distress?  These students who approached me were probably more likely to be seeking counselling – if they were comfortable speaking with me about their problems, they probably were alright with speaking to others.

However, most may not be.  As classes get bigger and move online, the sense of community at a university will degrade.  I won’t know my students.  They won’t know me.  They may not even know their fellow students.  Is this an advised model of education for our youth as they become adults?