Computer science is a vast field, and it’s in constant flux. Computers and programming conventions will almost certainly change radically over the next 10 years. Today’s innovative ideas will soon become industry norms. It’s not easy to design a curriculum for such a dynamic field. Some computer curricula fail because they succumb to one or more of these four common pitfalls.
- Focusing on exciting innovations versus fundamentals. It may be tempting to try to engage students with the most exciting new technologies. The reality, however, is that “new” technology may be outdated within just a year or two. Meanwhile, however, every student will need to understand the fundamentals of computer science in order to excel.
- Trying to teach everything to every student. Computer science is a large and growing field, with a wide range of different specialties and applications. Content development for a computer science curriculum should include segments focusing on a wide range of topics. Possibilities range from programming to networking to graphics. Curricula should not, however, stress one element over all others. Students will find the area that interests them the most. Allowing room in the curriculum for students to pursue their topics of interest is one way to avoid the pitfall of teaching everything to all students.
- Attempting to create a curriculum that can be used for decades. Any computer science curriculum written today will need to be updated regularly to encompass new innovations, challenges, and methods. It’s best to focus a curriculum on the history of computing and the current state of the field. Additional content should include some predictions about the future. Course developers should understand that some sections will need to be evaluated and updated on a regular basis.
- Stressing theory versus practice (or vice versa). Students learn differently, and it’s important to provide for different learning styles in a computer science curriculum. While theory is important, hands-on practical learning is equally significant. Students should have the opportunity to put their conceptual knowledge to work.
Keep these potential pitfalls in mind as you plan computer science curricula. Avoiding them will help you to create curricula that are current, thorough, and appropriate for a wide range of learners.
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