Students at the University of New England get teamwork sorted earlier, helping them to get real-world experience of how computer science works.
Computer science is not just about sitting in a room by yourself writing code,” says Dr Mitch Welch, a computer science lecturer at the University of New England (UNE).
Computer scientists solve real-world problems and need to collaborate with other people to get results, he adds.
“They need to collaborate to develop solutions, but also to have the communications skills to be able to approach non-technical people,” Mitch says (pictured above left with Will Billingsley).
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Redesigning the course
UNE recently redesigned its computer science degree so it now includes studio teaching styles – where learning is focused on the creative process and assessment is project-based.
Dr Will Billingsley, a lecturer at UNE, is a huge fan of studio teaching styles when it comes to a computer science degree.
“It reflects more closely what software development is like, being a professional programmer and seeing all of the different issues,” he says, adding that it gets everyone, on or off-campus, involved in one project and lets them see what their classmates are doing.
In-class gaming and collaboration
Last year, second-year students collaborated on an open world game, with some working on the chat systems and others working on monsters. Students received an initial description of the project, then it was turned over to them.
“Suddenly the whole class starts talking, really early on, because they need to negotiate with each other,” Will says. “So the level of interactivity in the class is enormous.”
Problem-solving skill sets
In third year, students take the skills they have learned and collaborate on projects for a client from another discipline, such as exercise science or agriculture, making a device or designing a system to solve a problem.
Most projects focus on science and technology: for example, designing software and sensors for a system for allied health students to help monitor the elderly, so they can better understand how to improve their quality of life.
Mitch says working with students from different disciplines is really important.
“This collaboration theme is all about preparing students for the workforce. It demonstrates to employers that they can undertake a software development task by working with others.”
– Laura Boness