Beginning Computer Classes Shift to Online Labs

Michael J. Arvizu

Beginning Computer Science and Information Systems classes at Glendale Community College will have a new format of hours that will allow students to spend more time with computers.

For the past decade, CS/IS 101 classes allocated three hours of lecture time with an instructor and two hours of lab time with another instructor. This seemed to work until it was noticed that there was a lack of communication between the lecture and lab instructors.

If the lecture instructor failed to cover a certain chapter in the book, students who were in the lab the remaining days of the week were at a loss because the lab instructor would not know the material was not covered, or if it was covered inadequately.

This lack of communication between instructors was not a problem previously because the labs were treated as a separate part of the course.

“The lecture instructor never knew whether the students were doing the lab work or not, and the lab instructor never knew whether the lecture was being attended by those students,” said CS/IS Assistant Professor Brett Miketta.

To correct this, beginning in the fall, four CS/IS 101 classes will follow a new hourly format that allocates three hours of hands-on instruction and two hours of lab time.

Three hours of hands-on instruction will allow for students to immediately apply what they learn in the classroom by sitting in front of a computer rather than in a lecture hall taking notes.

“We have three chapters in the lecture book on the Internet,” said Miketta. “It’s neat to talk about, but it would be nice if you could actually do it.”

There will also be two hours of online instruction, during which students can work at home or in a lab where a lab instructor can assist them with assignments.

According to Miketta, the change is motivated by the fact that lecturing to students in a lecture hall for three hours is not effective for learning computers. The Internet, for example, is best demonstrated in front of a computer where the student can see the process and apply skills at the same time.

“Whenever you lecture the Internet, you want to get on the Internet,” said Miketta. “When you’re talking about the components of a computer, you want to be able to see them. You don’t want students to sit there and just have to listen to a dry lecture. You kind of like to think of it as directive learning rather than passive learning where they sit and we talk.”

Under the old format, students received only one grade that covered the lecture portion of the course. In the future, students will be graded on both the lecture and lab components, with one teacher covering both elements.

“The four instructors teaching the class are all going to use WebCT the same way,” said Miketta. “We’re not going to go off in our own directions. We’re going to have the same exams, the same projects, the same material, and we’re going to present it in pretty much the same way.”

Previously, students were only able to work on projects with those in their classroom. With the new format, students will be able to work with other students in other classes.

Miketta asserts that, “You’re getting the best of what can go on the Internet on the Internet, and you’re going to get the best of what can go in the classroom in the classroom.”