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Computer Science department changes degree requirements

Alterations to simplify course selection, students mostly unconcerned by modifications

Contributing Writer
Monday, October 23, 2017

The Department of Computer Science announced changes to the requirements for the Bachelor of Arts and Bachelor of Science computer science degrees Oct. 11 in an email to computer science concentrators. The new requirements create pathways within computer science focused on sub-disciplines, such as artificial intelligence and machine learning, systems, software principles, data, theory, security, visual computing, computer architecture, computational biology and design.

“The main reason (for the changes) was to structure (the concentrations) better, so that it’s easier for people to find their way through the curriculum,” said Thomas Doeppner, associate research professor of computer science and vice chair of the department. “In terms of what courses are necessary to complete the concentration, it’s not that big of a change.”

The current structure has students take pairs of related courses, which requires students to use a complicated table to determine which courses are related, Doeppner said.

In contrast, the new pathways will help guide students through areas that may interest them using a sequence of introductory, intermediate and 1000-level courses that are divided into core courses and related courses. Bachelor of Arts concentrators must complete one of these pathways and Bachelor of Science concentrators must complete two in order to earn a degree. “The total number of courses needed to complete a concentration is unchanged; it’s just how we’ve structured things,” Doeppner said.

Overall, the pathway structure aims to simplify the course selection process while providing guidance to students interested in certain areas of study, Doeppner said. “We’re really hopeful that this is going to make it easier for students to try to figure out early on what courses they’re going to be taking.”

Though the restructuring of the computer science concentrations was only enacted this year, the process of developing these changes stretches back three years. “We have a working concentration, so we didn’t want to do anything major to it unless we could really get consensus on it,” Doeppner said. “We presented a preliminary version of this to our concentrators last April. People had a few issues (with) it, but I think we responded to them. There’s a fair amount of work in just putting together all of the supporting documentation … (in addition to) putting together what we call a concentration handbook that gives advice to our faculty advisors.”

These changes were presented to current and prospective computer science concentrators in a meeting Oct. 18. During this event, students were given the chance to ask Doeppner questions about the new requirements and express their opinions about the changes made. Many students seemed relatively unconcerned about the new requirements and liked the pathway structure.

“I like the changes,” said Claire Chen ’20, a prospective computer science concentrator. “Because of my previous course load, these requirements are easier for me to fulfill. … Before, it seemed like there wasn’t enough freedom, (and) this way seems much freer.”

“I looked at the requirements that they had when I was doing the intro track last year, and they seemed much more convoluted than this,” said Harold Triedman ’20, a prospective computer science concentrator. “At least with these requirements, they give you a clear pathway to (get) from starting to learn computer science to knowing one sub-discipline.”

“The changes really aren’t affecting me in any way,” said Anina Hitt ’20, president of the computer science departmental undergraduate group. “Everyone already kind of has their favorite area and this just kind of defines them. … The changes to the intermediate requirements give more flexibility. I’m happy about that.”