The institution of college was implemented to develop students’ minds and further enhance their skills in their fields of study. But, on rare occasion, students come across what is known to be called as an “easy class,” which forces the college to re-examine its curriculum.
In response to this, the computer science department is making some key changes to Comp 100, an introductory computer course that teaches the basic functions of four Microsoft Office programs: Word, Excel, PowerPoint and Access.
In the course description, the class is labeled a “new experimental pilot version” of Comp 100. It is the product of a survey of 100 randomly selected students, department heads from all over campus, and various universities around the country conducted to determine the relevancy of various computer-related issues to education and daily life. The changes made, however, are not all that drastic.
Professor Lucy Parker is a part-time lecturer and the Comp 100 coordinator. Parker collaborated with another part-time lecturer in the department, Cecile Bendavid, to recreate the Comp 100 program.
The new program will include a series of assessments from the Skills Assessment Manager. The first assessment, which is given about two weeks into the semester, will give students an idea of how much they actually know about Microsoft Office.
“It’s really just a gauge to see where the student is standing,” Parker said. She added that most students enter the class claiming to know Microsoft Office, but when assessed they usually display lower scores than they expected.
At the end of the semester, the same assessment is given to highlight each student’s improvements in Office. Neither of these is graded, but Parker said it’s a major confidence boost for the students to see how their scores have risen by the end of the course.
There are also assessments given for each program, which determine the type of assignments each student will be given. The workload varies depending on the level of familiarity each student already has with those programs.
Parker said this type of assessment is necessary so that professors can customize their teaching to meet the needs of 30 students, all of whom possess varying levels of computer knowledge.
“You have a mixture of students with a variety of backgrounds and knowledge,” Parker said. “You get two or three students who haven’t done anything and on the other hand you have a freshman who is a wiz kid.”
Bendavid said the new Comp 100 SAM assessment set “tells us where the students are when they start and where they are when they finish so we can tailor the course to the individual student ? As students come in, they know more and more and we want to accommodate them.”
Many students say that the existing Comp 100 course only helped them become a little more proficient at programs they already knew.
Junior business real estate major Matt Lachat, 29, said the class has been pretty good so far. He’s only been in it since the semester started six weeks ago and he now knows more details about Microsoft Word that he isn’t sure he would have discovered on his own.
“I was familiar with Microsoft Word, but I wasn’t proficient at it,” Lachat said. “It helps to know the ins and outs of what’s going on.”
On the other hand, Lachat does admit that some of the course work is below the level that it should be.
“It’s like coming out of school and learning one plus one. You know, we’re past that,” Lachat said.
Phillip Pham, 20, liberal studies major, took Comp 100 last semester and said he already knew how to use Word and Access, but learned Excel and PowerPoint in the class. He had no strong opinions about whether or not Comp 100 was too easy or not, but he did say it was informative.
“I learned a few things on the programs,” Pham said.
On the other hand, deaf studies major Ashley Boss, 21, thought the class was not challenging enough at all.
“I didn’t think it was challenging because I already knew all the programs going in except one, and I haven’t used it since,” Boss said.
She was referring to Microsoft Access, a data-managing program used for creating databases using a Windows interface. This program, however, is being cut from the curriculum of the modified Comp 100 and will be added to a new course, Comp 196, which will be available in spring.
Comp 196, also deemed an “experimental course,” will cover the same programs as Comp 100: Word, Excel and PowerPoint. However, each program will be taught at a more advanced level.
Parker predicts that because “students (are) coming in with more (and) better knowledge” of computers, there will be a shift over the next five years of “Comp 100 becoming a skinny class and Comp 196 growing.” In addition to assessment-based custom teaching practices and the removal of Microsoft Access from the curriculum, Comp 100 will also be introducing a new set of “student learning outcomes,” otherwise known as specific class goals for student development that vary by university.
The new Comp 100 will require students to demonstrate time management skills, learn how to access information using Oviatt Library resources, demonstrate proficiency in Windows XP and MS-Office Suite, acquire a better computer vocabulary, learn about various computer security issues in order to protect themselves from attacks and identity theft, learn about ethical issues regarding computer and Internet usage, safeguard against health hazards associated with computer use, and understand the impact of computer waste on the environment.
These student learning outcomes are based off of the syllabus for Parker’s existing Comp 100 class, which she says reflects how the other Comp 100 classes will be taught in the future.
Bendavid says the new version of the class is expected to be more project-oriented, and designed “for students who know the basics, but want to know advanced concepts.” She says the course will start with teaching students to develop templates and move on to more advanced skills as the semester progresses.
While Parker and Bendavid have already been teaching their classes this new way since last semester, they plan to make the changes apply to all Comp 100 classes by Fall 2007.
This, Parker admits, is not going to be an easy task because “there’s nothing harder than getting professors to try something new.”