Course Development in Computer Science Design

Allen Klinger


This paper concerns new procedures devised to stimulate creative accomplishment by undergraduate students. The methods employed involve a wide range of educational technologies, and include flexibility for participant choices. Almost all students in the twelve offerings to date have been seniors in computer science. Thirty-five individuals completed team projects in one class. Typically from six to twenty students take this course.

The course has objectives of furthering participant ability to communicate. Students gain experience with presentations, composing visuals, dealing with questions, participating in discussions, and in developing technical report writing skills. I lead them to inquire and reach out by library, inter-net, and personal interaction means. (Both with potential users of products they design, and authors of material they read on current computer technology). The methods discussed in the talk include ways to foster group interaction.

Students are subtly encouraged to regard the class as an entity. This is done by the instructor adopting a 'guide on the side' stance, no grade being assigned to oral exposition, and giving only feedback-grades to written work prior to the submission of the team project.

Some of the techniques used rely on electronic mail, complex use of the world-wide-web, availability in the university library of volumes compiled from professional and student work by the instructor, and multiple surveys of class participants. These means foster student cooperation and generate a sustainable noncompetitive dynamic. Forms and methods presented show what has been done over the past four years at UCLA.

2/2/00 Version

Conf. Proc., Frontiers in Education 99


This paper concerns a four-year process of devising new instructional methods in an undergraduate course where students work in teams on computer design projects. Many of these methods used the computer, for example by prompt electronic mail interactions, posting course forms to a world-wide-web site, etc. Others involved developing and teaching procedures to record/describe work product. Ways to overcome self-imposed limits ("outside the box" thinking), to facilitate brainstorming, to create a consensus through negotiation techniques, and to sustain effort, became fundamental through new material developed for the class. The following sections document the effort.

The group project course at the undergraduate level responded to an accreditation visit comment regarding student proficiencies/deficiencies. Engineers in industry increasingly believe of computer science graduates: "they know a lot of programming languages but can't talk to each other"; "they aren't able to speak about what they've worked on." (I've heard it within the past six months. But I took on this teaching role after others set up the course…and my first time as instructor was in Spring 1995.) The design course was to enable communication by requiring team effort. My two relevant background experiences for becoming instructor were: having taken many design courses as an undergraduate in electrical engineering; and years as instructor in junior- senior-level data structures and algorithms computer science classes.

Selected Web References

Course Objectives

Sample Paper

Sources: Emerson, Einstein, Other Inspirational

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