Wither Computer Science?

An article by Brock Read in The Wired Campus entitled ‘Is “Computer Science” an Outdated Term?‘. It is noted that many universities, faced with still declining student numbers, are rebranding computer science degrees. A favoured name is ‘media computation’ which uses the web and digital media route to understanding and gaining expertise in computing, not traditional programming. Other routes being tried that avoid the ‘prime number’ syndrome are via robotics and bioengineering.

This triggered my own musing on what might be an attractive route to the students born since the Internet revolution began in the public imagination (~1995). I would offer up Web 2.0 and the exciting developments happening with Rich Internet Applications (RIAs) and interactive, media-intensive web applications. A Bachelor of Web 2.0 would obviously not be title useful in the long term but maybe a Bachelor of Web User Experience may make sense for a decade or two.

The idea would be to badge the degree and curriculum on the flavour-of-the-moment technologies and tools the incoming students believe is relevant. The basic computer science (programming, information architecture, networking and user experience) we all know is still essential for all information technology would be taught in just-in-time mode. These basic terms would just not appear in degree, major or subject titles.

This year a six-semester sequence might be:

  1. Static web pages and web server (XHTML, CSS, HTTP networking, web server IA, XML, early digital media)
  2. Social Media Systems Technology (email, PIMs, blogs, wikis, groups, personal web pages, widgets, microformats and JavaScript)
  3. Dynamic web sites (Ajax user experience, advanced digital media, Ruby on Rails, simple databases, commercial applications, Ruby programming)
  4. Rich Internet Applications (visual programming with C#, web services, mashups, ASP.NET or equivalent)
  5. *nix Platform (open source programming, *nix administration, security)
  6. Vertical Application Case Studies (choose from mobility, advance software engineering, deep networking, commercial web applications, data mining, business intelligence, …)

Throughout we would inculcate best practice algorithm design, program development, information architecure, security and software engineering concepts.

We have spent considerable effort in ensuring our current information technology degrees meet the requirements of the Australian Computer Society (ACS). Taking a radically new approach may mean giving away ACS accreditation if the ACS does not change to a similar direction. However weight of student numbers may eventually dictate the teaching direction for us.

Published with Word 2007.

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About Michael Rees
Academic in IT interested in Web 2.0 and social media

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