October 05, 2004

Keen Students

There were some nice students that I met during their first week of studying computing. They were keen to program, and hoped that there would be some challenging programming assignments set during the year. I realised, to my dismay, that I was surprised.

You see, we don't get many students who are keen to program. Not many students, I hear you ask? Surely they have chosen to study for a computing degree, and if they didn't like programming, they would have chosen a different degree? Apparently not. We get a lot of students who don't want to program, and who actively avoid courses with a heavy programming component. From what I can tell, we aren't alone in finding this with students - many universities all over the UK find this as well.

It's pretty depressing, getting students who aren't interested in the core component of their degree. Why do such students choose to study computing? Maybe they think that they will get a better job? Maybe they think that computing is all about using computers, and they expect to study stuff like "Advanced Microsoft Word" or "Excel for the Modern Business"?

But it gets worse! Not only do students who misunderstand what computing is all about come to study it, but we also lose out on the students who would really enjoy the subject, but are put off because they think computing is all about acquiring IT skills, which they find boring. They'd much rather put their brain to use solving problems, and they don't realise that computing offers that in spades.

I think we're still in the process of reaching equilibrium. From the early start of computing as a minority subject, numbers swelled as undergraduates looked at the multitude of jobs in the expanding computing market, and it was new and sexy and exciting. Now the jobs are thinner on the ground, let's hope the numbers shrink a little bit, so that students study computing because they are interested in it. Some better marketing to school children of computing as a degree subject wouldn't hurt either.


At 1:52 pm, Blogger pogo said...

It's ridiculous, isn't it? I interviewed a bunch of graddies a few years back - only one of the ten or so of them was actually interested in the subject he'd just got a degree in. The others obviously just "learned" their stuff parrot-fashion. Sure, they had promising-looking CVs with all the right IT buzzwords, but they were basically clueless. One kid even pointed us to his website, where he'd put a load of Java applets... in the interview he pretty rapidly admitted they were "his" inasmuch as he'd copied them from other websites. Sheesh. No wonder the IT industry's falling to bits.


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