Computer Science Changes Curriculum

Michael J. Arvizu
El Vaquero Staff Writer

Computer Science and Information Systems 101 classes at Glendale College will follow a new format of hours that will allow students to spend more time with computers and give instructors more flexibility in their curriculum.

The plan for students to spend more hands-on time with computers began in the spring.

For more than a decade, computer classes allocated three hours of lecture time with an instructor to two hours of lab time with another instructor. This seemed to work until it became clear that there was a lack of communication between the lecture and lab instructors.

“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 professor Brett Miketta in a spring interview about the change in hours.

The new hourly format will merge both the lecture and lab components of the class and shrink the number of hours in the classroom to three (thus eliminating the need for students to sign up for both sections of the class). Earlier plans called for each class to be taught in five hours – three hours of hands-on instruction and two hours of lecture time. And since the lab and lecture components of the class will be combined, it will allow for each class to be taught by one instructor rather than by two.

It will give students more flexibility in completing assignments since there is no specific number of hours that a student needs to fulfill in the lab. If the student wishes, he or she may do their work off campus.

“There is no real lecture/lab distinction anymore,” said professor Lawrence Hitterdale. “What the instructor wants to do is going to be in that room with computers during those three hours.”

It will be at the instructor’s discretion whether or not he or she will lecture during the entire class period or for only part of it and allow students to apply what they have learned on their computers. Software has even been installed that gives the instructor control over every student’s computer, allowing for remote control of what is displayed on the screen and even whether or not the computer can be turned on.

“If the instructor wants to demonstrate something, in addition to putting it on the projected screen, the instructor can put it front of every student’s screen,” said Hitterdale. “The instructor can turn off the students’ computers, talk for a while, and then turn them back on and say, ‘OK, I’ve talked about this, now I am going to turn this on, now you do this.'”

Many of these changes were made to update the curriculum, allowing for students in a computer class to spend more time in front of a computer.

“You don’t want students to sit there and just have to listen to a dry lecture,” said Miketta. “You kind of like to think of it as directive learning rather than passive learning where they sit and we talk.”

Remote controls were added to the classroom computers as the curriculum was updated.

WebCT will also be an option as another teaching tool. However, unlike previous plans to include WebCT in each class, where each instructor would use WebCT in the same way, instructors will now have the option of using it in ways appropriate to the subject matter.

“The instructors each have their own areas in WebCT and each have their own classes,” said Hitterdale. “What they want to share is up to them. Instructors will set up their own areas of WebCT and set up their own requirements.”

Currently, the only class in which the number of classroom hours has been reduced is CS/IS 101, Introduction to Computer Systems. Since this is the first semester in which this is being done, Hitterdale says it depends on what kind of feedback is received, which additionally will determine whether or not to expand this new hourly format to other classes as well.