Teaching CS

March 7, 2022

in which we start to think about redeveloping our programmes

Back in early 2020 we had plans. Big plans. We were going to look ahead, far ahead, and think about what Computer Science education really was, what it meant, and how it might change over the next decade. I was planning to scope out a project that enabled us to go and visit people, people wiser than us (like we did at TuE), and see what they thought about it, and how they did it, and then we were going to synthesise all that into a plan for the next decade of how we were going to teach Computer Science.

Then there was the small matter of a global pandemic, and instead of spending a couple of years looking at what might change in teaching over the next decade we instead implemented a decades worth of change in teaching in six months. The last two years have seen an unprecedented shift in how we deliver CS education, compressing the changes we could barely see on the horizon and only had the beginnings of thought within our plans into six months, and slow, planned cautious rollout became a fast, reactive and dynamic launch. We went from ‘the old way’ to entirely online to blended learning in the space of two academic years, and now it is time to reflect on those changes and decide what they mean for the future.

At the same time, this is cs that we’re talking about, that ever-shifting, always-developing, forever-moving subject with its tentacles firmly embedded in all of modern society and its boundaries constantly blurring as it impacts on disciplines that previously had nothing to do with computers and computing. Our student intakes become more familiar with computational thinking, with algorithms, with data structures, with programming, with technology, and the places they will go after us become ever more many and varied.

So the review of how and what we teach, delayed for 2 years, is back on.

There’s a lot of drivers and inputs in this review. Not just the changes to teaching in the last two years, and the pace of change within the subject. The School itself has changed, growing in size, shifting in research focus. We’re doing a wider strategy review in the School at the same time, which is also looking at the future of CS teaching. The University itself has changed, with new support for teaching development, and further changes on the horizon. The school is due for academic revalidation of everything we do in a couple of years, and there’s no harm getting a head start on that. QAA are about to publish new benchmark statements for the subject, accreditation criteria have been revised, and there’s a significant amount of learning from our involvement in projects like the IoC to put into practice.

I’m planning to do this in as open a way as possible. I’ll be sharing plans, outputs and thinking as we go. As I said in my invite to the first staff teaching workshop as part of this review, this could be a car crash, but lets see what happens anyway…

Next: Programme Review

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