More Feedback on CompSci Education

I blogged yesterday about feedback related to my July Editor’s Note column. I said more was coming, and here it is.

“Until the last 10 years, most colleges had no idea what they were doing when it came to educating those bound for computer job.  They didn't recognize the distinction between the major career paths of IT and programming, and programming instruction was done using commerically worthless languages like LISP and Scheme.  At my first college, we were expected to program in C in upper-division courses, but had to teach ourselves.  There were no classes on writing Windows GUIs, the NTFS filesystem, DirectX, or driver development. 

Our local community college was better, but it's program was only 2 years.  There is a significant disconnect between the curriculum of software engineering programs and the actual skills you use.  Using technology even only 2 years old leaves a graduate up to six years behind when they graduate.  There is no education on QA, configuration management, virtual machines, installs, patching, or deployment.”

-- David Luxford, Pittsfield Township, MI.

ASG Software

“As a professor, I think the quality of education in the computer science field is not where it needs to be. When I first started teaching, I taught Intro to CS using C++, on average about 10% to 30% of the class would fail; the final project in the class was comparable to a project I had to complete in my 2nd or 3rd week of my Intro class when I was an undergrad (my undergrad class started 30+ students and finished with 6). Obviously a high failure rate doesn't sit well with the powers that be, so the class was dumbed down…

As a senior app developer … my job duties include interviewing prospective employees and mentoring junior developers. So I have the opportunity to interview students ... I have met a few students that seem to know their stuff, but I've also had some frustrating interviews. For example, here is a basic question I've asked, "What can you tell me about a database cursor?", response, "Do you mean the little flashy thing on the screen?"”

-- Anonymous

A professor and professional developer who requested anonymity


“I went back to school and completed a 2nd degree in CIS from Clarke College in Dubuque, IA.  In order to graduate we were required to complete a large scale programming project.  If the program does not work, no degree.  Using VB6 (this was in 2000) my team developed a uniform tracking program for the casino.  I have modified it over the last few years using the advances in VB.”

-- Brian Southwood

Dubuque, Iowa


I’m loving the feedback, folks. Keep it coming!



Keith Ward

MSDN Magazine

Comments (1)

  1. Mark says:

    I do generally feel that CompSci education on the whole has improved in the 15 years since I graduated, but I think the balance still needs to be struck between the more theoretical aspects and prep for commercial development.

    I was fortunate to find an excellent course that put me in good position for my future career, but I'm currently mentoring one recent graduate who knows his way around visual studio brilliantly, but has not been given even the most basic grounding in proper debugging techniques, database design, or performance tuning.

    Hopefully some day soon the colleges and universities will get it right

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