Where Does University Need to Focus for IT Students



  • We talk a lot about the problems with university education today, especially how it related to the IT field. But in a more constructive vein, now that we have identified an issue, how do we actually begin to solve this? What should university be doing and offering for IT students to increase its value in real, tangible ways?



  • First, I say lay off of the tech. IT isn't primarily about tech and teaching it like a trade school for vendor certified bench techs will result in uselessness. No other field tries to do this at university, IT should not either. All technical education should be extremely general and fundamental.



  • The biggest focus should be business and liberal arts. I want to see students with accounting, psychology, economics, general business, writing, public speaking and similar training. I can teach the tech that I need, I have to no matter what.



  • @scottalanmiller said in Where Does University Need to Focus for IT Students:

    First, I say lay off of the tech. IT isn't primarily about tech and teaching it like a trade school for vendor certified bench techs will result in uselessness. No other field tries to do this at university, IT should not either. All technical education should be extremely general and fundamental.

    Very much so. Just a quick example, that's not really IT, but closely related. Instead of teaching specific programming languages, I think it really needs to be teaching algorithms and how to use math to come up with new algorithms. Maybe even throw in the basic logic loops. Definitely nothing that would be specific to a programming language.



  • @scottalanmiller said in Where Does University Need to Focus for IT Students:

    The biggest focus should be business and liberal arts. I want to see students with accounting, psychology, economics, general business, writing, public speaking and similar training. I can teach the tech that I need, I have to no matter what.

    This is why I won't teach at a training "school", and it is not simply a technical or vocational school.



  • I think moving IT programs from CS/SE schools into being under a business school makes a lot of sense. IT is 80% business, 20% tech. Of course you need both, but universities are experts at teaching business and liberal arts, this is what they've done for hundreds and years and done well. Teaching tech is not in their traditional mandate and is something they have no historical track record for and little current capacity. Not only is the non-tech stuff dramatically more important, it's where universities have the most skill. Teaching too much tech makes universities almost certainly set up to fail while teaching something that isn't even very useful.



  • @scottalanmiller said in Where Does University Need to Focus for IT Students:

    I think moving IT programs from CS/SE schools into being under a business school makes a lot of sense. IT is 80% business, 20% tech. Of course you need both, but universities are experts at teaching business and liberal arts, this is what they've done for hundreds and years and done well. Teaching tech is not in their traditional mandate and is something they have no historical track record for and little current capacity. Not only is the non-tech stuff dramatically more important, it's where universities have the most skill. Teaching too much tech makes universities almost certainly set up to fail while teaching something that isn't even very useful.

    I completely agree. The business side of my education is what is really valuable today, while any tech things they taught me back then are so far out of date it's a bad joke.

    Also, @scottalanmiller, you're like 20 seconds ahead of me.



  • @travisdh1 said in Where Does University Need to Focus for IT Students:

    @scottalanmiller said in Where Does University Need to Focus for IT Students:

    I think moving IT programs from CS/SE schools into being under a business school makes a lot of sense. IT is 80% business, 20% tech. Of course you need both, but universities are experts at teaching business and liberal arts, this is what they've done for hundreds and years and done well. Teaching tech is not in their traditional mandate and is something they have no historical track record for and little current capacity. Not only is the non-tech stuff dramatically more important, it's where universities have the most skill. Teaching too much tech makes universities almost certainly set up to fail while teaching something that isn't even very useful.

    I completely agree. The business side of my education is what is really valuable today, while any tech things they taught me back then are so far out of date it's a bad joke.

    Also, @scottalanmiller, you're like 20 seconds ahead of me.

    Tech also has to be really focused. You want to get deep on a subject, you have to teach something that the student has an increasingly unlikely chance to ever see in the real world. Doesn't matter what it is, while at uni you are so far from your final field that no matter what you drill down to learn, the chances that that will be what you need to know on the job is very unlikely.



  • @scottalanmiller That is what Universities in the DR do 🙂 a lot of other classes non related to technology but they are needed to use technology.


  • Vendor

    @scottalanmiller said in Where Does University Need to Focus for IT Students:

    I think moving IT programs from CS/SE schools into being under a business school makes a lot of sense. IT is 80% business, 20% tech. Of course you need both, but universities are experts at teaching business and liberal arts, this is what they've done for hundreds and years and done well. Teaching tech is not in their traditional mandate and is something they have no historical track record for and little current capacity. Not only is the non-tech stuff dramatically more important, it's where universities have the most skill. Teaching too much tech makes universities almost certainly set up to fail while teaching something that isn't even very useful.

    At Baylor it was in the business school (Under management information systems). Gave a much more rounded degree than the stuff I've seen put in CS schools.



  • And of course this came up today, most of the info is the polar opposite of what we've been saying here...

    https://community.spiceworks.com/topic/2035978-bachelor-s-degree-in-computer-science



  • @scottalanmiller Yeah, that was on Monday 🙂 My comment was to make sure the OP knew that IT is a business and not just a career but anyway thanks for the feedback on you post to me 🙂



  • @storageninja I went to Baylor and thought they had a good program. It was mostly business with a bit of programming mixed in. I often "had" to help the girls figure out visual c++



  • @jmoore said in Where Does University Need to Focus for IT Students:

    @storageninja I went to Baylor and thought they had a good program. It was mostly business with a bit of programming mixed in. I often "had" to help the girls figure out visual c++

    I was about to make a comment about Visual C++ being really young, and in a way it is. But Visual C++ came out in 1993! I guess that that makes sense, they needed it to build Windows 95 on top of. But still, so long ago.

    We were doing standard ANSI C in college, though.



  • @scottalanmiller Yeah it has been out a really long time. Probably not real useful for IT directly but it helps with problem solving which is more important in my opinion.



  • For a program in IT I am going to have to say business, calculus, and a bit of programming for algorithm analysis and problem solving.



  • @jmoore said in Where Does University Need to Focus for IT Students:

    @scottalanmiller Yeah it has been out a really long time. Probably not real useful for IT directly but it helps with problem solving which is more important in my opinion.

    Python and R are the languages of problem solving.



  • @scottalanmiller I have no real experience in R but python works and is popular these days. Baylor did c and c++ mostly when I was there and those helped my problem solving a lot I felt along with all the calculus I took. I also am of the opinion that those lower level languages help with problem solving better than higher level languages like python. I like python but I just dont feel like it would have helped me as much as c++ in that regard.



  • @jmoore said in Where Does University Need to Focus for IT Students:

    @scottalanmiller I have no real experience in R but python works and is popular these days. Baylor did c and c++ mostly when I was there and those helped my problem solving a lot I felt along with all the calculus I took. I also am of the opinion that those lower level languages help with problem solving better than higher level languages like python. I like python but I just dont feel like it would have helped me as much as c++ in that regard.

    I'd say the opposite, the reason being that when working with C or C++ you are spending your time dealing with the language and not with problem solving. Your time is spent on the infrastructure of coding itself. With high level languages like Python, you have far more time and fewer distractions so that you can focus on actual problem solving.

    It's a lot like how people recommend using a Raspberry Pi to learn Linux. All it really does is make them spend their time learning the Raspberry Pi and they forget what they were actually there to learn in the first place.



  • @scottalanmiller said in Where Does University Need to Focus for IT Students:

    @jmoore said in Where Does University Need to Focus for IT Students:

    @scottalanmiller I have no real experience in R but python works and is popular these days.

    It's a lot like how people recommend using a Raspberry Pi to learn Linux. All it really does is make them spend their time learning the Raspberry Pi and they forget what they were actually there to learn in the first place.

    I would say it makes more sense to use the RPi to learn what nooks and crannies we can stick computers into. Not simply embedded systems, but one that dynamically responds to I/O variances, etc. It's also a pretty good intro Python platform.



  • @worden2 said in Where Does University Need to Focus for IT Students:

    @scottalanmiller said in Where Does University Need to Focus for IT Students:

    @jmoore said in Where Does University Need to Focus for IT Students:

    @scottalanmiller I have no real experience in R but python works and is popular these days.

    It's a lot like how people recommend using a Raspberry Pi to learn Linux. All it really does is make them spend their time learning the Raspberry Pi and they forget what they were actually there to learn in the first place.

    I would say it makes more sense to use the RPi to learn what nooks and crannies we can stick computers into. Not simply embedded systems, but one that dynamically responds to I/O variances, etc. It's also a pretty good intro Python platform.

    They are handy for helping people to understand what is a "computer" and what is a "PC". Breaking people of hardware dependencies or assumptions. But I dislike using them to teach anything else because they are so distracting. People struggle to figure out where the RP ends and the "fill in the blank with what they are trying to learn" begins. People end up associating aspects of ARM platforms or RP design or embedded systems with the thing they only see there.



  • I can see your point about the language but if that was the case then it did not last long. The fundamentals of the language are easily learned and after that it was just problem solving. Thats how my classes went. We would pick up enough language as we needed and then concentrated on problems. I was also doing calculus and physics at same time and those were harder than computer science.



  • @jmoore said in Where Does University Need to Focus for IT Students:

    I can see your point about the language but if that was the case then it did not last long. The fundamentals of the language are easily learned and after that it was just problem solving. Thats how my classes went. We would pick up enough language as we needed and then concentrated on problems. I was also doing calculus and physics at same time and those were harder than computer science.

    Then you weren't getting real computer science 🙂 I've done all three, they are very similar. Real CS is hard stuff. Lots of schools slap CS labels on anything they can find, though, to save money.



  • @scottalanmiller You dont think Baylor's cs program was real cs? We did problem solving with c++, algorithm analysis, data structures, assembler x86, operating system design, 3 levels of calculus, linear algebra, advanced calculus, ordinary differential equations, and partial differential equations. I did physics as second major but those dont really contribute to this discussion.



  • @jmoore said in Where Does University Need to Focus for IT Students:

    @scottalanmiller You dont think Baylor's cs program was real cs? We did problem solving with c++, algorithm analysis, data structures, assembler x86, operating system design, 3 levels of calculus, linear algebra, advanced calculus, ordinary differential equations, and partial differential equations. I did physics as second major but those dont really contribute to this discussion.

    Not if it wasn't challenging 🙂

    SUNY requires (or required in the 1990s) making virtualization as part of the freshman coursework for CS at the community college level. Real CS is HARD stuff. All that calc, diffy Q, C and so forth are required for non-software, non-CS workloads, too. CS would be all above and beyond that.



  • OS design, DB design, that stuff is CS. But data structures, for example, is second semester freshman software engineering. It's good stuff to have, but it's not CS. It's foundational.



  • @scottalanmiller I never said it was not challenging, you just have to be dedicated. I just felt that computational physics, astrophysics, plasmas, and solid state physics were harder for me. I dont feel that cs at the undergraduate level is above the higher level math and physics



  • @jmoore said in Where Does University Need to Focus for IT Students:

    I dont feel that cs at the undergraduate level is above the higher level math and physics

    Not above, but should be on par.



  • @scottalanmiller I would agree with it being on par. I know data structures is taken early however I was just giving examples of classes I could remember.


  • Vendor

    @jmoore said in Where Does University Need to Focus for IT Students:

    @storageninja I went to Baylor and thought they had a good program. It was mostly business with a bit of programming mixed in. I often "had" to help the girls figure out visual c++

    I didn't say Baylor's CS was a bad program, just for working in IT infrastructure management, the MIS program was a bitter better rounded. If I wanted to do software engineering obviously MIS is a crap degree compared to CS. My personal issue with Baylor's CS program was that they had a lot of brilliant CS people, but beyond Bill Booth (Who had a master on the side in education) very few were good teachers. This isn't unique to Baylor and is a common issue in an engineering discipline at research universities where it is graduate students who do most of the actual education. Ultimately I wandered out of CS wasn't grades (made A's in my intro classes) it was because I watched office space, and visited a development office that seemed terribly similar and realized I didn't want to do that with my life.

    I ended up with a really broad/rounded education (International Studies, minor business, Honors College (Baylor Interdisciplinary Core) that has served me well for my pursuits.

    If I had my way, it would be impossible to graduate college without taking ancient and modern rhetoric. So many people in IT (and everywhere) make awful arguments.


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