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Ask Slashdot: How To Ask College To Change Intro To Computing? 337

First time accepted submitter taz346 writes "I got a Bachelor's degree 30 years ago, but I recently started back to college to get an Associate's degree. Most of the core courses are already covered by my B.A. but one that I didn't take way back when was Introduction to Computing. I am taking that now but have been very disappointed to find that it is really just Introduction to Microsoft Office 2010. That's actually the name of the (very expensive) textbook. It is mindless, boring and pretty useless for someone who's used PCs for about 20 years. But beyond that, why does it have to be all about MS Office and nothing else? Couldn't they just teach people to create documents, etc., and let them use any office software, like Libre Office? It seems to me that would be more useful; students would learn how to actually create things on their computers, not just follow step-by-step commands from a dumbed-down book about one piece of increasingly expensive software. I know doing it the way they do now is easy for the college, but it's not really teaching students much about what they can do with computers. So when the class is over, I plan to write a letter to the college asking them to change the course as I suggested above. I'm not real hopeful, but what the heck. Do folks out there have any good suggestions as to what might be the most persuasive arguments I can make?"
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Ask Slashdot: How To Ask College To Change Intro To Computing?

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  • by gagol ( 583737 ) on Monday September 24, 2012 @08:03PM (#41444489)
    We learned Claris Works... get the credits and get over it. Your experience is much more valuable than a cheap course, use it.
    • by gagol ( 583737 )
      Sorry if I sounded harsh, but you must build your self confidence. A paper is not going to make a difference, your skills are...
      • by Anonymous Coward on Monday September 24, 2012 @08:14PM (#41444573)

        You say that, but it is increasingly more difficult to even get interviewed without that piece of paper. It doesn't matter what your skills are when your resume is binned without even talking to you.

        • by gagol ( 583737 ) on Monday September 24, 2012 @08:18PM (#41444617)
          In my experience, I have to disagree. If you got the skills (technical AND interpersonal) you will get ahead no matter what, except maybe (not in my experience) in the big corporation where you are just a number anyway. So it may matters (my experience is somewhat limited and humanity is larger than what I could experience) if you want to be a number...
          • by AK Marc ( 707885 ) on Monday September 24, 2012 @08:34PM (#41444731)
            In my experience, I have to disagree with you. I have piles of technical qualifications and skills, and an MBA. The combination gets me much more interest than if I didn't have that piece of paper.
            • by gagol ( 583737 ) on Monday September 24, 2012 @08:44PM (#41444823)

              As I said, in MY experience, it did not make much difference I got recruited while in college. Obviously the mileage may vary depending on your field/area/company. That is why slashdot is so great, it attracts people from all over to share their piece of humanity.

              Obviously you have invested a lot in your education and I respect that a lot. If you ever visit Quebec, I hope we can share a beer.

            • by gagol ( 583737 )
              And for the record, I am not saying paper is worthless, only other ways are possible. The OP has a lot of experience already that should compensate for lack of paper AND attract attention. The fact many people around here are saying the contrary is deeply disturbing me.
              • by AK Marc ( 707885 )
                I've done it all, and the education has a disproportionately large effect. One place had an informal "degree required" policy because of the basic well-roundedness that comes from it, and it demonstrates a drive and follow-through. I worked at a place that had educational reimbursement, so I enrolled in the local university for an MBA. Unlike a coworker who was getting a BS from University of Phoenix at the same time. The reality is that the paper is very important to some people, and so it's safer to g
            • by pspahn ( 1175617 )

              Well of course you do. The paper only really means something once you do have the skills to compete with those who chose to forego school and just start piling on the skills, experience, and ladder climbing.

              If you're right out of school, it's going to be tough to compete with some of the others who have loads of experience. Of course, these two types of individuals seem less likely to be competing for the same positions.

              Back to the submitter's question, you're going to find a difficult time adjusting to t

              • by penix1 ( 722987 )

                There is a way to get a degree from real world experience. It is called a Regent's Degree. Most if not all universities offer them. You get credits for real life experience that is substituted for school credits in a given field. Of course it is a Bachelor of Arts degree but it is still a degree.

                • by niado ( 1650369 )

                  There is a way to get a degree from real world experience. It is called a Regent's Degree. Most if not all universities offer them.

                  Most universities do not offer Regent's Degrees...

                  I had never heard the term "Regent's Degree" until now, though I am familiar with the 'experience for credits' degree model (rarely offered by legitimate institutions) so I did some quick poking around...

                  Wikipedia [wikipedia.org] doesn't seem to have any information on the term.

                  It does seem that the US state of West Virginia has an initiative called "RBA Today" where several universities (Marshall, WVU, Western Liberty, Shepard's, etc.) there are offering RBA (Reg

            • by chmod a+x mojo ( 965286 ) on Monday September 24, 2012 @10:14PM (#41445459)

              Well, in my case I would have to disagree with your disagreement. I got a longish term contract over all the people with B.S. degrees simply because I had 8+ years experience doing what the job required. I didn't even bother getting a single certification, just have owned my own successful consulting business since late 1998-99. You would be surprised at how many places are more interested in actual results rather than a piece of paper that says you can regurgitate what your professors want to hear.

              That said, if it was me against say someone with a B.S. or M.S. + 10+ years experience and lots of proven project leads ETC. it would be stupid to think they would not consider the other person first. Then again, maybe I would interview better or have better interpersonal skills honed since I own my own business too... HR looks at tons of things other than JUST "degree, yes - interview or degree, no - toss application".

      • by Gerzel ( 240421 )

        Yeah but you won't get to use those skills without that paper in many cases.

        • by Aryden ( 1872756 ) on Tuesday September 25, 2012 @02:18AM (#41446851)
          I am finding that more jobs come from the networking you do as opposed to general submissions of resumes. Most of the people that work in my IT organization in a top 20 fortune 400 company, have their jobs because they know each other from other environments. College being one of them. To make the most of your college education, you have to get on the networking grind. The paper, even experience, can only get you so far. It's the people you have to know.
    • by Anonymous Coward on Monday September 24, 2012 @09:41PM (#41445233)

      When I went back to grad school, I had a similar experience...I knew WAY more than my professor. I discussed the curriculum IN the class, which was in keeping with the type of class it was. We ended up changing 2/3 rds of the course that semester. I got an A, and the rest of the students benefited. Fortunately, the professor was interested in us all learning, not just doing the fastest and easiest job he could. (It was a night time class, all adults.) If it's in front of kids, or if the prof is trying to look good, you might want to speak with him privately, so he doesn't lose face. You can offer an outline of what he might want to add, like LibreOffice, or whatever. Be sure to also suggest materials he could use as text, or links to the program and information. If nothing else, it would be useful for the other students. If he decides against it, THEN write your letter AFTER the semester.

  • by damn_registrars ( 1103043 ) <damn.registrars@gmail.com> on Monday September 24, 2012 @08:05PM (#41444507) Homepage Journal
    Is that a lot of CSci depts (particularly at community colleges and other places that have associate's degrees) across the country have received grant money from Microsoft itself. That will, of course, make it much more difficult for you to convince them to stop "teaching" Microsoft Office.

    I would highly recommend you look into that possibility before you start writing a letter, because if that is the case at your school then you'll just be tilting at windmills.
    • by fermion ( 181285 )
      If they school runs MS Windows, they probably do have a site license with many restrictions. Furthermore, running OpenOffice should be simple, but I have seen IT people choke on it. Finding people to teach it and support it may not going to be as cheap as just using MS products. They are a dime a dozen.

      I would write the letter asking for a more diverse and rigorous education. It does not hurt to ask. But then I would go out and look for it. I cannot imagine why a CS department is wasting it's time o

    • by Seraphim_72 ( 622457 ) on Monday September 24, 2012 @11:48PM (#41446067)

      "Is that a lot of CSci depts (particularly at community colleges and other places that have associate's degrees) across the country have received grant money from Microsoft itself."

      [Citation Needed]

      That is not true in any of the 28 Community colleges I am associated with, so that is an entire state that says you are wrong.

    • Is that a lot of CSci depts (particularly at community colleges and other places that have associate's degrees) across the country have received grant money from Microsoft itself. That will, of course, make it much more difficult for you to convince them to stop "teaching" Microsoft Office.

      That plus the fact that many students *want* to be using the tools that are used in the workplace. As long as MS Office dominates the workplace many students will want to use it in college.

      The same is true for operating systems to a degree. During the 90s at a state university it was a common request that more classes allow assignments be done is a MS Windows environment. Many students wanted to do their projects using the same operating system and development tools as was commonly used in industry.


  • Take it in Summer session, online. ~5-8 weeks depending on the school. Easy peasy.
  • by GeneralTurgidson ( 2464452 ) on Monday September 24, 2012 @08:06PM (#41444513)
    For most of the country an intro to Office 2010 is all they need to know about computers. College should prepare them for future employment. If you're complaining about other alternatives, realize the course wasn't targeted at you.
    • by PRMan ( 959735 )
      This exactly.
    • by gagol ( 583737 )
      Sadly, that is true... most people barely use facebook and youtube. An efficient google search is too mush for them...
    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward

      college is not a trade school. It should be doing more than train you for employment.

    • by six025 ( 714064 )

      For most of the country an intro to Office 2010 is all they need to know about computers. College should prepare them for future employment. If you're complaining about other alternatives, realize the course wasn't targeted at you.

      Considering that most users don't know how to use the find command [slashdot.org], the above observation is spot on.

      When I first attended college the requisite "Intro to Computing" course was mind numbingly basic and dull. But this also serves a purpose - those who are truly interested will persevere and see their way through to the advanced courses.


    • by steelfood ( 895457 ) on Monday September 24, 2012 @08:54PM (#41444903)

      College should prepare them for future employment.

      Wrong. That's the job of a vocational school. Granted, submitter's getting an associates, so it's closer to a career-oriented degree than not. Irrespective, two or four years should merely be differenciated by the depth of knowledge in a particular field, not the breadth of knowledge overall.

      College is about education. Education does not have a pure application, in the same sense that abstract mathematics and partical physics don't have pure applications. In fact, it should not. Education begins with the fundamentals. Fundamentals don't change no matter what the application. They're the default information, the fallback, safe knowledge, when there's no additional information known. Then, it's learning about the exceptions to the fundamentals, where the fundamentals don't apply, or don't necessarily apply. Finally, it's learning about the unresolved exceptions, and approaches of resolving them. The area of unresolved exceptions is the limits of knowledge, and where the old knowledge ends and new knowledge will be created. Examples should be used only to illustrate the concepts taught. Examples should never be the knowledge being taught.

      Teaching MS Office is not intro to computers. Teaching the difference between a spreadsheet and a database, a text editor and a word processor, is. Teaching what a program is, what it means to install a program versus what it means to run a program (without or after installing) is.

      Teaching the concept of a shortcut or link is. How to use MS Office is more appropriate for one of their career-based, continuing education-type classes. It's like teaching how to use a Canon 5D Mk III with a 14mm F2.8 prime, instead of what is the field of view or what the F-stop means. Or for a car analogy, it's teaching how to change the motor oil of a 1996 Honda Accord instead of what motor oil actually does and why it needs to be changed at all. Those kinds of classes don't belong in a degree program.

      That having been said, any respectable institution has ways to test out of prerequisites. Otherwise, it's just a scam to make you pay more tuition. This wouldn't happen to be the University of Phoenix or some other for-profit, would it?

      • by Obfuscant ( 592200 ) on Monday September 24, 2012 @09:20PM (#41445127)

        Teaching MS Office is not intro to computers.

        For people who haven't used them before, it is.

        It's nice to argue about the purpose of a college education, but sadly most colleges have had to start offering classes in how to learn and how to do classwork just so the students they enroll have a fighting chance of succeeding. They aren't teaching this class (just) to be a vocational school, they're probably teaching it because they found out a lot of their incoming students were deficient in skills that would allow them to write papers or lab reports for other classes they need to take.

        That's the reason many colleges offer remedial math and remedial english classes, too. I was dumbstruck to wander through the college bookstore here and see a PICTURE DICTIONARY on the shelves as a mandatory book for a low level class. It wasn't a class intended for foreign students, either.

        Intro classes are almost always intended for many colleges, not just the one where it is offered. It is almost certain that a University curriculum committee of some kind has determined there is a need for this kind of instruction, and changing it will be a lot harder than getting different classes at a more advanced level created.

        That said, yes, if you have a BA already, then there should be some way to get credit for the class.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        I couldn't disagree with you more. This is not a computer science vs programming school debate like we always have here on slashdot. This is about employment as well as surviving 4 years of college. I wish highschools taught kids how to use margins, insert footnotes, or do formulas and pivot tables, but they do not. So college needs to pick up. This is something all students need to know if they want to take any courses.

        Kids out of highschool today may know how to type well and use a good browser unlike the

      • Education does not have a pure application, in the same sense that abstract mathematics and partical physics don't have pure applications. In fact, it should not.

        Often you need to learn the practical before you can get to the abstract. If this class didn't teach them how to use Microsoft Office, the job would fall on the first teacher who asked them to write an essay, taking time out of a more important class.

    • It's not just about preparing them for future employment but also about preparing them for the rest of the college.
      I dunno about the content of this particular course but there is a difference between having vague knowledge of (for example) Word and knowing how to use it properly.

      I did a Chemical Engineering degree and just muddled through with Word (aside from teaching myself how to drive equation editor from the keyboard). Only afterwards when changing career paths and doing a "bullshit" computer course
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday September 24, 2012 @08:08PM (#41444529)

    My college has "Prior Learning Assessment". If you already know the stuff, they will test you and you can be exempted from taking the class.

    Don't waste your time on a worthless class if you can avoid it.

  • by jaskelling ( 1927116 ) on Monday September 24, 2012 @08:15PM (#41444583)
    If you go to a temp agency these days, you'll learn exactly how poorly trained many people still are in computer skills. When I took the test on Excel, Beginner level was "Launch Excel, create a new document, save it, close Excel." Because I knew how to do a =SUM formula, I was automatically considered expert. I'd never used Access in my life, but because I knew how to alt+tab out of the test & use the help file in the actual program on the testing machine, I was told that I "already surpassed the skills being tested." As someone who has been in the IT workforce 20 years already, the Intro to Computing course isn't targeted at you. At all. It's meant for the idiots just out of high school who can barely spell or have paid their smart friends to do their word processing for them. Also, "intro" classes of any kind are not the classes that are designed to teach you to think. They're the ones designed to brute force feed you a truckload of information that you build on in the 200 level class next semester - and with computing classes, it's intended to teach you what programs you'll have freely available on campus in the labs or be required to use in classrooms.
    • If you go to a temp agency these days, you'll discover how many people are poorly trained in: expressing coherent thought in writing, basic arithmetic, and professional interpersonal interaction. Partly, that's why they're at a temp agency, partly, it's the old George Carlin line:

      Think about somebody you know who has an IQ of 100. Now, realize that 50% of the world is dumber than this person.

  • by Narrowband ( 2602733 ) on Monday September 24, 2012 @08:15PM (#41444589)
    One argument is that since there's now a computer in everything, a modern intro to computers class should probably be diversified to cover a lot more than using a PC. It could almost be an "intro to modern life" class. Some topics for the syllabus might be:

    Setting up a home network, including a FIOS/DSL router or a cable modem and a Tivo/DVR with a a cable card. Options for mobile computing/e-mail. Password strategies. Controlling what you share on social networks. Transferring files around between PC/smart phone/tablet/digital camera/etc. Keeping an offsite backup of important data. etc. etc.
    • This is a 100 level course. As such, it is probably required by many different colleges/departments. It has probably been designed to serve the need of those other colleges/departments just as much, if not more than, for the computer science department. It's probably set at that level to prepare general students who have no or little computer backgound so they can do their homework.

      It's a computer science class because, well, it's computers.

      Trying to make it into a more advanced networking or whatever cla

  • by drkim ( 1559875 ) on Monday September 24, 2012 @08:15PM (#41444591)

    As other posts mentioned, this course was not aimed at you. Just try to get what you can out of it.

    I have to agree with the school on this one; this sounds like a useful course for the person with no computer skills, who will not be going into I.T.

    Teaching "Libre Office" would not be as useful to the majority of people who may be going into a professional office job where they will most likely be using MS, not Libre, Office. Likewise, this is more practical than a course that taught the history of computing, or "ones and zeros," for people actually looking for work.

    Finally, re. the "...expensive textbook..."
    They're all expensive. Welcome to college!

    • by jedidiah ( 1196 )

      If you can use one word processor, you should be able to use any of them.

      This isn't the era of Word Perfect for DOS when secretaries were expected to type 60 WPM and know the keyboard shortcuts and understand the markup language.

      Besides, even the monopoly product is not a constant. So creating a course based on chasing the monopoly product doesn't make sense base on your rationale either.

      • by drkim ( 1559875 )

        If you can use one word processor, you should be able to use any of them.

        Not the point.
        As I said "...more practical...for people actually looking for work."

        Most HR people would understand if your resume said you know "MS Office."

        When they have to pick between the resume that says "I learned Libre Office, but I'm sure I could learn something else." and the resume that says "I already know MS Office." ...who do you think they will hire?

        I agree with the OP it's just "one piece of increasingly expensive software" but the company pays for it, and it's cheaper for them to buy MS Offic

  • Sure, smart people listen to positive suggestions. Explain to them how most businesses now use non microsoft products. err, wait.

    Try to explain how Linux will become the desktop of the future, as it is a new movement just started. err, wait.

    Try to explain how Apple Mac products will save them a ton of money by providing less expensive hardware choices that can be easily upgraded. Err, wait.

    Ok, try this; threaten them.
    • "Use Logic ... Explain to them how most businesses now use non microsoft products. err, wait. ... Try to explain how Linux will become the desktop of the future, as it is a new movement just started. err, wait. ..."

      Or you could try to explain to them that the class isn't called "Intro to Word Processing". As a side note, you (SpikedThree) could use a course called "Intro to Logic".

  • Your university teaches MS Office because that's what the businesses that hire their students want them to teach. What you're suggesting would be like a company coming to the school and saying "We want graduates that can program fluent Java" and the school gives them graduates who only write C#. Sure, they're very similar languages and they do the same thing, have the same general set of features, but the implementation is different and when those graduates get to their new job, surprise surprise, they ne
  • Ridiculous troll post is ridiculous.
  • Money. Become a wealthy alumnus and, when contacted about a donation, bring up your criticism of this course.

  • by eldavojohn ( 898314 ) * <eldavojohn AT gmail DOT com> on Monday September 24, 2012 @08:23PM (#41444661) Journal
    I'd simply point out that UK high schools have surpassed their intro course [guardian.co.uk] and ask them at what point they plan to give you a better education in computers than a foreign government can give its kids.

    If you really wanted to go the extra mile and spend a little bit of money on this "letter" you could buy a small SD flash card and spend $25 on a Raspberry Pi and work through this tutorial as you work through your intro course [cam.ac.uk]. Then when you're done you can get the Raspberry Pi to start and have the sole purpose be to display your letter to the staff. Just mail them the Raspberry Pi, the flash card, a USB to USB Micro cord and a short HDMI cable. Just write instructions to plug it into a USB port and monitor then in the letter explain how you used the GNU Toolchain and wrote the rest of this code yourself. It might be too much for some of the other students but it was cheaper than the textbook. If you can do it then your once great alma mater is selling its students short.

    A letter can be crumpled up and thrown away. A Raspberry Pi can as well but I guarantee it's going to hurt like hell ;-)
  • by spooje ( 582773 ) <spoojeNO@SPAMhotmail.com> on Monday September 24, 2012 @08:24PM (#41444665) Homepage

    A bajillion years ago when I went to college we had an intro to computer course that was the same kind of thing. How to send e-mail, use word and maybe something else like that. I ended up failing the class because I was so bored I never went.

    I went to the head of my department, explained what happened and asked if I could take a higher level course and count that as the Intro to Computing credits. He took a look at the course description of the new class I wanted to take, he approved it, I got an A, credits satisfied, case closed.

  • by chrismcb ( 983081 ) on Monday September 24, 2012 @08:24PM (#41444669) Homepage

    Couldn't they just teach people to create documents, etc., and let them use any office software, like Libre Office?

    In a word, not really. They COULD teach you to create documents in Libre Office. Or they could teach you to create them in Word, in Notepad, in vi, or any other random product. BUT I would expect they don't really have time to teach you how to "create documents, etc" and then let you use ANYTHING. Because you know, all those different products work differently.
    The teacher needs to take something, and teach you how to use that. The teacher doesn't have time to teach you the same thing in other products. Teaching one of the most widely used pieces of software in an "Intro" course seems like a pretty good thing to do.
    Can you ask them to change it? Sure. But you need to be much more descriptive on how they can change it, and make sure you understand what the average person, who doesn't know anything about computers, should learn.
    Also keep in mind that Office is the currently the #1 word processing software out there. Most people will end up using that in the workforce. But if they don't they'll use a product that copies Office.

  • by Greyfox ( 87712 ) on Monday September 24, 2012 @08:24PM (#41444673) Homepage Journal
    30 years later you're still willing to accept a course that has no value to you, for what? I'm sure you could have tested out of something that basic. Ultimately YOU are responsible for your education, and YOU choose what you get out of it! You're the one paying for it! If you feel they're wasting your time with the course, don't take the course!

    Of course, you could use it as an excuse to hit on girls who are 30 years younger than you...

    • by AK Marc ( 707885 )
      I walked into the dean and asked him if I could teach one of my required courses. He said no, but told me that if I got permission from the instructor, I could waive the class and take something else. I talked to the instrucctor. Turns out one of my coworkers was a friend of his. I told him what I do and for whom, and he gave me a waiver out of intro to networking. At the time, I was the Network Architect for the 3rd largest ISP in the state. I took a GIS class instead. I've never used GIS, but it wa
  • I had the same thought when going through the same class. I was hoping to simply test out of it -- ended up compromising with the professor and was able to get all of the class material ahead of time (finished it within two days) but had to take the tests on test days (which I assume is understandable to minimize cheating).

    A prior learning assessment would have been nice but atleast it got me out of having to attend every class session.

    For your goal on attempting to change the course contents -- yah, good l

  • by Ichijo ( 607641 ) on Monday September 24, 2012 @08:28PM (#41444689) Journal

    I would think an "introduction to computing" course would start with the basics, such as how to use the mouse, how to double-click, how to right click, how to select and drag, how to copy and paste, how the filesystem works (and where files go when you download them, please not the desktop), and so on.

    Follow that with how create and unpack compressed archives, how to copy files, how to burn a CD, how to backup and restore, and how and why to avoid logging in as administrator. It's unfortunate that these are considered to be advanced topics, when they really ought to be taught early.

    Once you've learned all that, then you can progress on to task-specific software, such as MS-Office.

    One reason people have so many problems with computers and they ask us for help is because they don't learn these things in the right order.

  • ...communicate with other Windows PC using Microsoft Office.
    That sucks but it's the truth. Teaching anything different to MOST students wouldn't be productive use of THEIR time.

    That lovely Cengage book with the expensive SAM code and annoying "read the book do book exercises do SAM 2010 exercises then test" could have been reduced to a less-profitable DVD and SAM 2010 access for tests only, but such is life.

    Take the course online, get the credit, move on with life. Student aid is paying my way so a fuck I d

  • by goodmanj ( 234846 ) on Monday September 24, 2012 @08:35PM (#41444739)

    The Slashdot crowd is going to rave that this course should be about hardware, or computer fundamentals, or at least include open-source alternatives. But I disagree: this class does need to exist, so the elderly, the disadvantaged, and the recently immigrated can get some basic workplace skills. It could use a different name, but the content is important. And yes, it does have to be Office. Teaching anything else would be like teaching typing on Dvorak keyboards.

    The problem isn't the class, it's that the submitter is required to take it. He/she should be able to get out of it by talking to an advisor, or taking a placement test, or something. Shame on his/her school for being so inflexible.

  • When I went to college, there were no computers. Well, no personal computers. We had a "computer center" where we could submit Fortran programs on punched cards.
    Anyway, I found a few odd room sized computers tucked away in various corners (IBM 1620 and DEC PDP-8) and used these as personal computers to learn to program.
    Word processing, spreadsheets, etc. all came later and I just learned these as they came along.
    The point... if you have to take an introductory course in how to use MS Office, they are wast

  • Q: Whoever wrote the syllabus for this class is a total idiot who has no idea what "Introduction to Computing" should be about. What can I do about it?

    A. LOL. If you have that kind of messiah complex, I suggest you start with something easy, like ending world hunger.

  • There are people who ACTUALLY do not know how to turn on PCs....giving them choice of software is not the primary concern, nor is teaching office the primary goal...it is learning to use a PC by way of using a meaningful software product to prepare them for collage work.

  • by Yaztromo ( 655250 ) on Monday September 24, 2012 @08:44PM (#41444821) Homepage Journal

    Most colleges and universities offer these sorts of "service courses"; a sort of out-sourcing of expertise from one (or more) department(s) to another.

    They are often required by students of non-CompSci degrees in order to become familiar with the basic software in use by their respective departments, in order to permit those departments to focus more time on teaching the material, and not the software.

    Many faculties/departments have very exacting standards for how reports are formatted (i.e.: APA formatting and citations), or require Excel and/or Access experience due to their use in their faculties for data retention/organization/statistical analysis. Never mind that computing may have better solutions for these -- many of the professors in these departments aren't interested in computing, have a good knowledge of MS Office, and use it as a golden hammer to fit all their needs. They're interested in furthering their research, and not learning other toolsets. They want the students working under them to have a basic knowledge of the same tools as again, their purpose isn't to teach general purpose computing, but to get those students up and running quickly to further their own areas of research.

    When I was doing my graduate work, I had several occasions to teach classes such as this (and several that were significantly more advanced). For some of them, we taught basically MS Office, a bit of RDBMS, and a little bit of scripting (Perl). We had other courses teaching C and FORTRAN to students studying other sciences (Physics, Chemistry, etc.). Typically, such courses are restricted such that CS students (and those in related fields of study) are disallowed from taking them, seeing as how they're considered far too basic.

    Fortunately, most good schools (particularly if they have a COmputer Science department) do offer more advanced courses which you can take if you so desire. If you already have sufficient expertise in the area at hand, talk to a student advisor about an exemption (many of these courses, where they are mandatory, can be skipped if you can show sufficient proficiency in the subject matter at hand).


  • by jayhawk88 ( 160512 ) <jayhawk88@gmail.com> on Monday September 24, 2012 @08:48PM (#41444849)

    Look, the school get Office for basically nothing thanks to their campus agreement. They can easily push it out/update it/manage it with software they already have. Why should the put Libra or whatever on there and make the grad students teaching that intro course deal with more things than they need to?

    Oh and BTW, yes they need to spend most of the time teaching Office because that the skill 90% of the people in that class need. Maybe the Bohemian Design Studio in Palo Alto won't let filthy Microsoft software touch their hard drives, but most of the people in this course aren't going to have any say in what they're expected to use (nor are they going to give two shits), and it's going to be Office. That's reality.

    The real question is, what the fuck are you doing in CS 101? Go talk to your instructor for God's sake and test out of that bitch already. Or at least just show up for the tests.

  • Simple, create a new version of the course, with a textbook that offers 97% PROFIT instead the usual textbook mark up of 95%. They'll flock to it in droves. Especially if the book retails for $200+.
  • by Sir_Sri ( 199544 ) on Monday September 24, 2012 @08:54PM (#41444901)

    But beyond that, why does it have to be all about MS Office and nothing else? Couldn't they just teach people to create documents, etc., and let them use any office software, like Libre Office?

    We tried this at the last school I was at. If by the time you get to university you can't create a document in word, you're not going to learn to use libre office in 12 weeks. We have to teach behaviours before we can expect much understanding, and a course textbook that is about MS office is decidedly at the level of giving basic behaviours without underlying principles.

    The problem with people who are completely computer illiterate is that high minded ideas about teaching them 'principles' is a step ahead of them, at least by the time they're university or college age. They're scared of breaking anything, and you're jumping the gun asking for more than that.

    I know doing it the way they do now is easy for the college, but it's not really teaching students much about what they can do with computers.

    Nor is that the point. If the course is a book in Office the class is targeted at people who know next to nothing and trying to get them to the point of accomplishing basic tasks that will be useful in university.

    So when the class is over, I plan to write a letter to the college asking them to change the course as I suggested above. I'm not real hopeful

    Nor should you be. It's not a good idea. We can seat 400 kids in a class about how to use MS word whereas the next largest CS course is 120, with an entrance class in science of about 6000. Exceptionally basic classes are popular because so many students know next to nothing. The Deans office likes these classes because they put seats in chairs, the other science departments like us because their TA's don't have to cover basic things like how to do bullet points in a document, etc. It's sad, but this is the reality of computer literacy. Complaining to the dean is just going to make you unpopular with the department because you're trying to make people look bad, when absolutely everyone knows how pathetic it is that this is required. But you can't control worldwide highschool curriculum.

    Look, I realize you're trying to help. But you're not. You're in the wrong class. It's that simple. If your university/college has an actual computer science programme absolutely no one in that department, who is running the course, thinks this is the level we really want students to be at. But you have to realize we still get foreign students who've never lived with regular electricity, and most of the domestic ones basically open word and start mashing buttons to type, they don't actually know anything. These are exceptionally basic courses because the people coming in are at an exceptionally basic level, and that's the market that needs to be served. It shouldn't be a university level credit, but no one would take it if we only gave a college level credit for it (they have other things to spend time on), and that means it attracts people looking for some free easy marks, there's no way to avoid that, but for the people who actually need this level of material (which is a lot of students, and a lot more who don't even realize they need this level of material) what you're suggesting is completely disconnected from their reality.

    Do folks out there have any good suggestions as to what might be the most persuasive arguments I can make?"

    Literally the only argument is that students shouldn't need this in the first place, which isn't even true. Everything else is you just living in a bubble of 'first world problems' so to speak.

    We, I kid you not, have students majoring in computer science and electrical engineering where I am that grew up without electricity, and their first plane flight was to come here. It's mostly a India/China/Africa thing, but it's rare that someone from China or india hasn't had at le

  • that's right, College isn't geared for people trying to learn something useful. Instead it's become the place where people go to learn what they should have in High School instead of screwing around with drugs or playing WoW. My College has a required test that if you pass, you don't need to take the Intro to Computers class as it's geared for those that have limited/no access to a computer. Another issue is that college is where folks go to learn job skills instead of the critical thinking skills you need

  • by erp_consultant ( 2614861 ) on Monday September 24, 2012 @08:55PM (#41444911)

    Perhaps they are teaching MS Office because people are very likely to use it in whatever office environment they might work in. We can debate the virtues of MS Office vs Libre Office but what is certain is that MS Office is far and away the most popular office package on the market. Maybe MS donated a bunch of software to the university and in return they are teaching courses on it. Who knows? Personally, I'd just take the course credit and move on. Sometimes you've just got to pick your battles ;-)

  • Not the "adult diaper" sort. If it's a university, or maybe a college, then this is inappropriate: one would think that the purpose of these institutions is to teach a higher form of abstract thinking. I stress, "one would think." If it's a trade school, then you're expected to know how to function in a typical working environment when you leave. This means, for better or (mostly) worse, MS Office.

    I don't know if you can fix it. You can talk with your dean of CS, or the closest approximation, and sha
  • The High School that I went to had something like this. I never had to take it however because I was in the magnet program and they shoehorned the test into the first week of the intro CS course.

  • If you have any sort of documentation of an industry certification, you might be able to skip some classes. In my case, I had an A+ cert that I had simply taken on my own before attending a community college. Having that allowed me to skip 3 mindless classes. Best $300 I ever spent.
  • by satch89450 ( 186046 ) on Monday September 24, 2012 @10:11PM (#41445437) Homepage

    Way back when, while attending the University of Illinois (major: Computing Engineering), I wanted to take a junior-level CS course as a freshman. (CS306, to be exact, taught by Gillies.) In order to take the course, I had to satisfy the prerequisites. So I took the exams for the FORTRAN and ASSEMBLER courses. My advisor encouraged me to blow through the two lower courses: "I don't want you getting bored." Both exams were a piece of cake because I had been programming in both languages, plus PL/I, for two years in high school. (Funny story: for the ASSEMBLER course, the final exam was prepared by the professor, and the teaching assistants took the test with the students, to help set the curve. I missed one question, the TAs missed the same question plus one additional question, so I ended up setting the curve. The other members of the class were not amused.)

    I was accepted into the CS306 class, and ended up teaching the first two weeks, because I was the only person in the classroom -- the teaching assistants included -- who knew PL/I cold, and PL/I was the languages used for the machine simulator. I also helped debug the simulator. I also was a "group of one" (the standard was to have three-people teams for the term project) because the professor thought that anyone who was on my team would not benefit. So I ran solo. And freely consulted to the other teams, with the professor's blessing and strict limitations on the kind of help I could provide.

    (Calculus proved to be my downfall. Long story. Even the Dean of Engineering became involved, but the damage had been done. After working for a corporation for two years, I used the corporate tuition reimbursement program and went to junior college -- and aced all four calculus courses, all the way through Differential Equations. I just needed the right preparation.)

  • I've Taught It (Score:4, Insightful)

    by dcollins ( 135727 ) on Monday September 24, 2012 @10:47PM (#41445673) Homepage

    And OMG it's my single least favorite class to teach. Here's reason #1: even concentrating solely on MS products, with step-by-step instructions and illustrated UI tutorials, most of the class (associate's degree program at a community college) finds it basically impossible to follow along. Ask them a conceptual question on a test and they go semi-beserk. Ask them to compute a number of bytes in something as an exercise and they groan in despair. Give an assignment in Excel and the whole class copies the file from the one guy who figured it out (frequently not even changing his name).

    The level of skill in a class like that is so low that you probably wouldn't believe it. Suggested starting point for your project -- Ask 3 random fellow students to show you their work for the next assignment. Having considered their output, ask yourself honestly if they will be capable of a higher level of abstraction with a different application and a different UI. Hint: These will be the same people who can't pass a rudimentary algebra course, because they can't wrap their head around "x" being an abstraction for a number (this being about half of all students in community colleges in the U.S.).

    I've been told that the school I'm at will be simply dropping the course entirely at some point in the future, which I think is probably great because it's irredeemable. In any case, at least I don't teach it anymore which solves the #1 pain my ass in my teaching position in the last few years. Good riddance. There is absolutely, positively no way you can make any suggestion for change in the direction you suggest and have it be taken up.

Things equal to nothing else are equal to each other.