March 27, 2020
March 27, 2020
March 28, 2020
With computing impacting most every professional field, it has become essential to provide pathways for students other than those majoring in computer science to acquire computing knowledge and skills. Virtually all employers and graduate and professional schools seek these skills in their employees or students, regardless of discipline. Academia currently leans towards approaches such as double majors or combined majors between computer science and other non-CS disciplines, commonly referred to as “CS+X” programs. These programs tend to require rigorous courses gleaned from the institutions’ courses for computer science majors. Thus, they may not meet the needs of majors in disciplines such as the social and biological sciences, humanities, and others.
The University of Maryland, Baltimore County (UMBC) is taking an approach more suitably termed “X+CS” to fulfill the computing needs of non-CS majors. As part of a National Science Foundation (NSF) grant, we are developing a “computing” minor specifically to meet their needs. To date, we have piloted the first two of the minor’s approximately six courses. The first is a variation on the existing Computer Science I course required for majors but restricted to non-majors. Both versions of the course use the Python language and cover the same programming content, but with the non-majors assigned projects with relevance to non-CS disciplines. We use the same student assessment measures of homework, projects, and examinations for both courses. After four semesters, results show that non-CS majors perform comparably to majors. Students also express increased interest in computing and satisfaction with being part of a non-CS major cohort.
The second course was piloted in fall 2019. It is a new course intended to enhance and hone programming skills and introduce topics such as web scraping, HTML and CSS, web application development, data formats, and database use. Students again express increased interest in computing and were already beginning to apply the computing skills that they were learning to their non-CS courses.
As a welcome side effect, we experienced a significant increase in the number of women and under-represented minorities (URMs) in these two courses when compared with CS-major-specific courses. Overall, women comprised 52% of the population, with URMs following a similar upward trend.
We are currently developing the third course in the computing minor and exploring options for the remaining three. Possibilities include electives from our Information Systems major. We will also be working with our science, social science, and humanities departments to utilize existing courses in those disciplines that apply computing. The student response that we have received thus far provides us with evidence that our computing minor will be popular among UMBC’s non-CS population, providing them with a more suitable and positive computing education than existing CS+X efforts.
Mitchell, S., & Cole, K., & Joshi, A. (2020, March), X+CS: A Computing Pathway for Non-Computer Science Majors Paper presented at 2020 Mid-Atlantic Spring Conference, Baltimore, Maryland. https://peer.asee.org/33941
ASEE holds the copyright on this document. It may be read by the public free of charge. Authors may archive their work on personal websites or in institutional repositories with the following citation: © 2020 American Society for Engineering Education. Other scholars may excerpt or quote from these materials with the same citation. When excerpting or quoting from Conference Proceedings, authors should, in addition to noting the ASEE copyright, list all the original authors and their institutions and name the host city of the conference. - Last updated April 1, 2015