In need of a reboot?

CSC 101, a required general education class for all students, is starting to show its age, as students on campus continue to question the effectiveness of the occasionally redundant program.

The class, which is meant to "address the use of computers as problem-solving and information processing tools," has mostly split the student body between those who feel the class still has some educational value, and those who feel like the curriculum has become stale.

"I do not think I am getting anything out of this except credits, which I could get taking something else," said undeclared sophomore Katie Mazuchowski.

With students coming in with different levels of computer skills, finding a curriculum that puts everyone on the same level has become difficult, and has left some wondering why the class even exists.

Meanwhile, professors see this course as a way to expose students to software and online services, such as Google Docs and Microsoft Office. Professor Jim Patridge, who oversees the CSC program, said the main goal for the course is to "make sure everyone has a core understanding of computer literacy." The course is supposed to show the goals of specific programs, such as Google Applications and photo editing.

"I hope they see some new stuff they did not know existed," Patridge said.

"It is learning to use information; gather information," said Susan Camp, chair of Faculty Assembly. "Not garbage information, but real information,".

Students are supposed to come out of the class knowing what the state and campus deems important. However, this leads to a somewhat limited flexibility in what professors can choose to teach.

Some students already have experience with the different programs and lessons showcased throughout the course.

But that may not be as pressing of a problem as students think, said Douglas Lea, who teaches CSC101. Lea said professors expect students to know computer literacy before taking CSC101, but they often find students who aren’t.

"We expect it, but are not finding it," Lea said.

Professors say they understand that students have little interest in the course, and they encourage students to take the waiver exam instead. If passed, the exam will eliminate the CSC 101 requirement for a student.

"We hope that students take the waiver exam," Lea said.

Patridge admitted that the course can be redundant depending on what level the students are on, but also noted that the course can still be beneficial for many.

"Students get different things out of it…We try to provide for every student" Patridge said.

"If you pay attention it is not a hard general education at all," junior psychology major, Regina Wilson said.

But concentrating in class can be a challenged. Students complain that it’s hard to pay attention in class because the course covers a broad array of topic and can be vague

"It would be easier to take if it was more focused on one topic," Wilson said.

That’s why the class includes labs, letting students learn hands-on. The labs are more project-based, teaching students about Microsoft Word, Excel, and PowerPoint. Professors are looking for mastery level in the labs, allowing students the full semester to complete the eight labs and also allowing them to retake them as many times as they wish. Most labs are shifting from ten question quizzes to a more hands-on method in order to reach a complete level of understanding.

"You have to sit down and do it yourself in order to learn it," Patridge said. "I encounter students, that as long as the computer is running they know how to work it, but once something goes wrong, they do not know what to do."

Although the labs are supposed to teach students about different programs, students have displayed mixed feelings about them.

"Labs are pointless, we all know how to use Microsoft word and PowerPoint," Katie Mazuchowski said.

Still, others find them useful. "You learn a lot from the labs," Wilson said.

In an effort to try to teach topics that are pressing to the current technological climate, professors have started teaching students about protecting their privacy and try to stress to students that the information they put on the Internet can affect them later on.

"You have to use your head about putting information out there," Patridge said.

With the ever-changing tech world, Partridge said it’s hard to choose what should be taught in the class. What’s more, students say the cost of the CSC101 textbook is a burden. CSC101 professors have often struggled with finding books that have some shelf life because of their high costs. As a consequence, there have been two different books throughout the existence of the course. This year’s book, The Pearson Custom Program for CIS, has been custom made specifically for Oswego State’s computer science department.

"The custom book is cheaper," Patridge said.

Professors try to adapt to the continuously changing environment.

"I try every semester to bring in new things," Patridge said. He noted that he introduces new technology and new software to his classes in order to get them acquainted with the world of computer science. New material is integrated into the course as the semester goes on through the use of websites, magazines, and videos.

Students who want to opt out of CSC101 can satisfy their computer literacy requirement with classes in information science. Those classes focus on information management, databases, and security policies.

Though, Lea said that information science is not for everyone.

"Usually people who are interested in one are not interested in the other," said Lea, concerning the choice between CSC and ISC.

CSC classes are going as planned so far, Patridge said. He hopes that the students get more information out of the class then they knew prior to it.

CSC 101 will continue to be a general education course in order to inform students of computer literacy, privacy protection, and expose students to different software.

The general education committee made CSC 101 a requirement in 1998 due to the needs expressed by other departments in order to get students on board with different skills. All SUNY colleges are required to meet some minimum requirement in computer literacy.

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