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Ivy League Computer Science Curricula Exposed

timothy posted more than 6 years ago | from the so-you-don't-have-to dept.

Books 312

Doug Treadwell writes "Many people have wondered what the difference is between the Computer Science education given in the average public university versus one given in an Ivy League university (or a top level public university). There have also been discussions here on Slashdot about whether any Computer Science curriculum gives students the knowledge they need for the working world. As a computer science student both questions are very important to me, so I decided to answer them for myself and build a website to share what I found. I was able to find the required reading for hundreds of courses at Stanford, Princeton, Carnegie Mellon, and Berkeley; along with some other institutions. This should also help answer some of those 'What should I read?' questions."

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Interesting project but...do students use books? (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24359823)

Personally I am an Electrical Engineering student at a top-5 public university in the country. Our selection of required course materials in no way reflects the quality/content of our courses, in general.

Re:Interesting project but...do students use books (2, Interesting)

Caelius (1282378) | more than 6 years ago | (#24360151)

Agreed. I did not read a *single* book for a EECS course. In fact, I cannot think of a single CS course that even mandated any reading. I will admit though that one of the more interesting classes I took provided two or three research papers every week. Not mandatory, but they were interesting enough to warrant reading. Stuff like the Niagra papers, Supralinear Speedups using Intel Quadcores, and the Cosmic cube.

Re:Interesting project but...do students use books (5, Informative)

Beetle B. (516615) | more than 6 years ago | (#24360569)

Really good point. Sometimes professors just assign any book and teach out of lecture notes anyway.

Why "need for the working world"? (5, Insightful)

Kupfernigk (1190345) | more than 6 years ago | (#24359839)

To become a professional you do a theoretical degree to give you a toolkit and learn how to find stuff out, then you do your professional training. Works for physicians, lawyers, engineers, accountants. You end up with two or more sets of postnominal letters, one of which is vocational. Why not software designers?

Re:Why "need for the working world"? (3, Interesting)

NewbieProgrammerMan (558327) | more than 6 years ago | (#24360097)

Probably because nobody's seriously talking about creating a regulatory framework for them like physicians, lawyers, engineers, and (IIRC) accountants have. Any software project that is going to fuck up somebody's life or property in a bad way if it fails probably already has a physician, lawyer, engineer or accountant signing off on it so that somebody can officially take the blame if there's a problem.

I suspect we won't see any serious talk of regulating software designers or developers until there's some serious incident that injures or kills a lot of people, but that's just a wild guess. Were there any big events that led to the current forms of licensing of medical practitioners, lawyers, engineers, etc., or did those things just develop gradually over the decades/centuries?

Why not? (1)

Kupfernigk (1190345) | more than 6 years ago | (#24360395)

Here in the UK we have at least two post-nominal letter granting institutions, the British Computer Society and the Institution of Analysts and Programmers. You do not have to belong... in the same way you can call yourself an "accountant" without being the equivalent of a CPS, just so long as you do not try to do an audit. We also have National Vocational Qualifications, for which there are programming qualifications that exactly mirror, say, accounting technician levels.

I can assure you that there are circumstances when we tender for jobs when the client wants to see the CVs and the qualifications of the key project personnel, and the letters BCS and IAP count for a lot more than the odd Java or Oracle certification. But then we design systems, and code and databases are only a small part of the whole.

I don't know the answer to your question but I suspect the answer is yes. The core issue is that our Government systems frequently fail owing to poor specification by unqualified civil servants, but investigators (including MPs like Geoffrey Bacon) run into the Civil Service Mafia and make litle progress. Eventually I suspect some politicians will realise that the potential benefits of getting it right are better than the kickbacks from sucking EDS's or Cap Gemini's bottoms. But, alas, it will be long after I retire.

Re:Why "need for the working world"? (1)

fictionpuss (1136565) | more than 6 years ago | (#24360427)

Probably because nobody's seriously talking about creating a regulatory framework for them like physicians, lawyers, engineers, and (IIRC) accountants have. Any software project that is going to fuck up somebody's life or property in a bad way if it fails probably already has a physician, lawyer, engineer or accountant signing off on it so that somebody can officially take the blame if there's a problem.

I can't help thinking that some IT accountability (or basic professionalism) would have helped the UK Government avoid at least some of it's recent disastrous projects.

I think it's more likely though, that the fields with regulatory frameworks in place, are those fields which have to a large extent finished the rapid phase of their evolution.

Perhaps when we finish with all X-as-a-service and web2.0 style innovations and actually enter a period of relative stability, such a framework will become useful?

Re:Why "need for the working world"? (1)

AndGodSed (968378) | more than 6 years ago | (#24360485)

I'd guess that they developed gradually. From a quick scan of my trivia knowledge I can't remember anything...

Software programming is such a "new" field when taken alongside Engineering, Law and Medical practice.

The question I want to ask though is what good will regulating the field of programming do? I'd wager that if it is handled incorrectly it could seriously stifle innovation.

What will the impact on Open Source software projects be?

And what guise will the regulation take on? Submitting your code for review before it is released? This will be seriously opposed by the larger proprietary software companies, and also will slow down software development to such a point that innovation and tech advances in general will slow down to a crawl.

How long before the US government insists on reviewing code under the guise of "Terrorist Threat Prevention" before allowing it to be released?

Nope, the negative implications of this makes my gut reaction say "steer clear."

Re:Why "need for the working world"? (4, Insightful)

ColdWetDog (752185) | more than 6 years ago | (#24360493)

Were there any big events that led to the current forms of licensing of medical practitioners, lawyers, engineers, etc., or did those things just develop gradually over the decades/centuries?

At least for physicians (and I am one), much of the impetus for licensing came from very dis separate views on what training was appropriate [wikipedia.org] coupled with distinct themes of limiting the number of practitioners and therefore increasing the value of the "license". The underlying paternalistic concept being that patients could not evaluate how good / bad a physician was therefore the state needed to intervene.

So yes, general and specific failures of medical practice has led to a very structured regulatory framework with some clear indication that it has protected the general populace (and created a whole new class of problems, natch).

So, can you create a reasonable analogy using software - probably not. You can argue that anyone hiring a 'software practitioner' IS in the position to be able to evaluate their competence - the state need not step in. You can further argue that in most cases software threatens neither life nor property. However, in some cases that is clearly not the case. So it's a mixed bag in that respect.

The other requirement for a rational state-sponsored license would be if one could create clear guidelines as to what 'programming' actually entailed and that one could create a framework that would be able to delineate "good" programmers from "bad" ones. That would be pretty tough.

Re:Why "need for the working world"? (2, Insightful)

blahplusplus (757119) | more than 6 years ago | (#24360265)

"To become a professional you do a theoretical degree to give you a toolkit and learn how to find stuff out, then you do your professional training. Works for physicians, lawyers, engineers, accountants. You end up with two or more sets of postnominal letters, one of which is vocational. Why not software designers?"

Computer science is really an information science, or what I like to call a "Hub science". It ranks up their with physics IMHO as one of foundational disciplines. Since one will need some education in it as a pre-requisite to actually function in the future in many jobs just because information technology will be everywhere.

The problem is the industry moves very fast and the need to solve problems (which is creating new discplines on the fly faster then academica can catch up) is far out-stripping academia's ability to keep their curriculum updated from 'research in the field' (i.e. in the workplace), since computer science is becoming very broad very fast and there is no way for academics by themselves keep on top of the explosion of information.

In fact, I'm surprised academics have not moved (even tentatively) to what I call the "wiki-pedia, professional / expert model" of education. It's an idea I've had brewing in my mind for some time now, where industry, academia, and professionals in the field have a wiki-like forum. Specifically where workers and industry share feedback about better engineering practices. And they come up with this wiki-like software, in which they can edit courses and curriculum, textbooks, and whatnot in real time with a feedback / comments section for every page in these (online) wiki-able electronic notes / lectures, and textbooks, and then one can use this kind of software as a base and have them go to print textbooks, etc, when necessary.

The idea that a group of experts in academia can possibly do a better job then everyone else who's working in industry I think is an idea past it's time. Wikipedia has shown that many experts, academics (and non-experts) alike all hammering away at a problem will catch things that one organization or institution can't by itself simply out of mere time constraints. No one has enough time in the day, that can compensate for others who do have the time (retired professionals, scientists, professors, bright students, etc).

"Computer science", today, is really vast subject and if we really get down to it. It's a huge field that is really in it's infancy still. In the games industry, just doing graphical special effects, particles, water simulation, and shaders, etc, is becoming a discipline unto itself. New disciplines are being created via cross polination of many other disciplines constantly that haven't totally shaken out yet.

Another real problem is that programming is really a subet of mathematics and physics to some extent, and our teaching of math and physics is really not that great in many schools at the public/highschool level. As a personal note: I've found myself borrowing a lot of concepts and methodologies from physics and whatnot when working on things. There is an enormous amount of cross polination, because in comp sci, many of the things you can do are effectivelly only limited by your imagination.

Damn near anything and everything can be converted to abstract representations, reconceptualizaed, etc, to be better understood. I think the real problem though is that programming right now lacks visualization tools, and that much 'code' and compiler tools are not really that developed yet, I've been thinking about what I call 'virtual engineering', where mathematical statements are converted to visual representation geometry (i.e. visual signs, etc, to stand in for how something the programmer doesn't see actually behaves as if it were a visualizable mechanical system in the real world). Although this is really basic, it does give you some idea of what I'm talking about.

I think that programming was really born out by mathematicians, especially, the type I like to call symbolicists. But truthfully, the real world is a 3D place, math is merely a kind of abstract representational system to calculate the various geometries and their relationships we deal with in the real world.

See video:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FjetHe-DTVs [youtube.com]

Comapany:
http://www.piclens.com/ [piclens.com]

slashdoted (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24359843)

slashdoted already

Re:slashdoted (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24359925)

350 unique visitors to this page in the last 24 hours.

must be very old hardware if it cant take that load

Re:slashdoted (4, Funny)

mjpaci (33725) | more than 6 years ago | (#24360107)

an ivy league kid would've known to put the sight on better hardware...

Re:slashdoted (3, Funny)

jlarocco (851450) | more than 6 years ago | (#24360175)

an ivy league kid would've known to put the sight on better hardware...

An ivy league kid would have known it was spelled "site"...

Re:slashdoted (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24360269)

Mod parent insiteful

Re:slashdoted (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24360357)

No, you misspelled it. Its Inspiteful.

Re:slashdoted (2, Informative)

fosterNutrition (953798) | more than 6 years ago | (#24360359)

He also would have known it's "curricula," not "curriculums."

(Yes, the summary gets it right, but not the "sight" itself)

Re:slashdoted [sic] (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24360733)

so would your typical high school drop out.

Re:slashdoted (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24360179)

Yeah this guy is epic fail.

Worthless (5, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24359859)

The website provided is worthless with regards to its content and appears to be little better than poorly wrought blogspam.

Re:Worthless (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24360537)

Seconded.

Looks horrible (0, Offtopic)

Aminion (896851) | more than 6 years ago | (#24359883)

Please Mac web designers, stop using Helvetica on the web. It looks absolutely dreadful [imageshack.us] on Windows, hundred times worse than Arial.

Re:Looks horrible (0, Troll)

phantomfive (622387) | more than 6 years ago | (#24359945)

Heh.....the very sad truth of the matter is that NO font looks good on windows. I say this as a windows user.....every day I come in and look at the text on my screen and feel sad thinking what it could be. And that's to say nothing of the hideous color scheme (Fischer Price blue and green....what were they thinking? It is bold, I will give them that)

Re:Looks horrible (1)

AdamHaun (43173) | more than 6 years ago | (#24360123)

I'm on Windows and my text looks nothing like that. What did you do to make that happen?

Re:Looks horrible (0, Offtopic)

negRo_slim (636783) | more than 6 years ago | (#24360227)

That's IE. I have IE8 installed and I've noticed a dramatic difference in the way it renders fonts as opposed to Firefox. Someone got a little AA happy I suppose.

Re:Looks horrible (0, Redundant)

negRo_slim (636783) | more than 6 years ago | (#24360237)

Either that or he has altered the text size... CTRL+0 on FF..

Re:Looks horrible (1)

Aminion (896851) | more than 6 years ago | (#24360749)

I have Helvetica on my computer but, obviously, it renders very differently than on a Mac.

Re:Looks horrible (1)

Jeremy Erwin (2054) | more than 6 years ago | (#24360161)

Complain to the makers of Windows, then.

Re:Looks horrible (1)

colinrichardday (768814) | more than 6 years ago | (#24360613)

Why do web designers feel the need to pick a particular font in the first place?

The REAL Ivy League... (5, Informative)

Adreno (1320303) | more than 6 years ago | (#24359889)

"Stanford, Princeton, Carnegie Mellon, and Berkeley"... only Princeton is a member of the Ivy League. Brown, Columbia, Cornell, Dartmouth, Harvard, UPenn, and Yale are the others. I can speak from experience in the Dartmouth CS program, that while you have an excellent networking opportunity and grant money is fairly available as a result of the school's renown, more tech-minded schools have superior programs for instruction in CS. Maybe the other Ivys are different though...

Re:The REAL Ivy League... (2, Interesting)

kazem (205448) | more than 6 years ago | (#24359921)

Yeah, I hate how people tend to think that any good school in the North is "Ivy". MIT isn't IVY, for example.

Re:The REAL Ivy League... (1)

DeadDecoy (877617) | more than 6 years ago | (#24359963)

I'm pretty sure Stanford and Berkeley are to the West...
T hat is unless you live in Southern California.

Re:The REAL Ivy League... (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24359971)

That's true, MIT is much better than Ivy.

Re:The REAL Ivy League... (1)

lantastik (877247) | more than 6 years ago | (#24360539)

Those aren't all Ivy League, but they are all certainly Tier 1 schools. Maybe the OA should draw his comparisons from Tier 1 schools.

This topic is a little late for me, but I went to a state university and would be interested to see how my curriculum stacked up against a Tier 1 curriculum. Granted, I have been out of school for close to 10 years now so I am sure it is different regardless.

Re:The REAL Ivy League... (1)

phantomfive (622387) | more than 6 years ago | (#24360035)

No, the best is in the middle, where it mentions the "World renown Indian Institute of Technology!" Not any other university gets such a well mentioned honor. I'll bet I can guess which school the author of this website went to.

Re:The REAL Ivy League... (1)

HungWeiLo (250320) | more than 6 years ago | (#24360653)

The evening online program at the Illinois Institute of Technology is quite popular with Indians. One of our high-ranking executives in India lists "IIT" on his resume. A quick Google search shows him asking for help on a IllinoisIT homework website.

Re:The REAL Ivy League... (1)

DNS-and-BIND (461968) | more than 6 years ago | (#24360051)

They're just using it to mean "university that I could never afford". It's not really relevant, anyway - to put it into context, an Ivy league student probably doesn't know the difference between the Universities of Iowa and Illinois. It's all flyover territory, anyway, an irrelevance of life. What difference does it make if you get it wrong?

Re:The REAL Ivy League... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24360385)

an Ivy league student probably doesn't know the difference between the Universities of Iowa and Illinois.
I can't tell the difference either, and I grew up in Illinois...

Re:The REAL Ivy League... (1)

torstenvl (769732) | more than 6 years ago | (#24360397)

You know, some of us Midwesterners DO occasionally get into Ivy schools... UIUC is not in flyover territory by being in the Midwest (now, by being in U-C, that's a different story).

Some of my coworkers at a major company you've all heard of went to UIUC.

Re:The REAL Ivy League... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24360055)

Most of the Ivy Leagues are stronger in the liberal arts than the applied sciences like CS, but there are a still some good programs. UPenn has a long CS history, as does Princeton, and from experience Columbia's isn't bad.

That said, most Ivy League CS programs grow out of strong applied maths departments, and so tend to be much more theoretical than some of the other obvious names to come to mind (i.e. MIT, Caltech, etc.) My experience has been that older programs tend towards math related theoretical specialties (crypto, algorithms, learning systems, computation theory, etc.) whereas the newer programs and more tech-oriented schools tend to be more applied CS (networking, hardware design, graphics, systems, etc.)

Re:The REAL Ivy League... (1)

TerranFury (726743) | more than 6 years ago | (#24360293)

I can speak from experience in the Dartmouth CS program, [...] more tech-minded schools have superior programs for instruction in CS.

I think "superior" is off the mark. Computer Science at Dartmouth has close ties (historically) to its math department, so the curriculum emphasizes theory rather than "how do I get XYZ done in language Q." It is very good at the former, and not so hot with the latter -- but I'd always considered the latter to be Software Engineering rather than real computer science, anyway.

I speak as a Dartmouth grad who is now at the "real" engineering school Georgia Tech, and I have to say that, compared to Dartmouth, I have been surprised and unimpressed by the undergraduate-level instruction that I've seen here. There are a lot of opportunities for PhD students here, but I really think that the undergrads at Dartmouth learn a lot more.

Re:The REAL Ivy League... (1)

TheChuckster (936994) | more than 6 years ago | (#24360683)

What about Cornell University? I'm surprised that one of the most highly ranked engineering Ivies was overlooked by the author. U.S. News: Computer Science 1. Berkeley 1. CMU 1. MIT 1. Stanford 5. Cornell Even though controversy exists over assigning rankings to colleges, the data shows that Cornell is fairly reputable in comparison to the other schools. I'm just wondering why it wasn't mentioned.

Re:The REAL Ivy League... (2, Informative)

John Whitley (6067) | more than 6 years ago | (#24360771)

Speaking only to the Ivy schools listed, Brown is known for having a consistently outstanding CS program. Their undergraduate CS education in particular is reknowned. They were one of the pioneers in creating a first year program that taught using OO design from the ground up, and were great at engaging the students with interesting problems. I haven't tracked the evolution of their undergrad CS program for years, but I gather via the grapevine that it's still quite strong.

[Ob. Disclaimer: I have no personal association with Brown. I studied their CS education model back in the day, when I was in academia.]

Give me a break (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24359939)

This is ridiculously spammy, and I don't know how this got to the front page. This dude just went to the online course catalogs for these universities and copied the course descriptions and text books, and then put them up with amazon referral links. There is no insight, no comparison between universities, no analysis of difficulty level, no breakdown between theory and software development, and no firsthand accounts. Just lists of textbooks.

Re:Give me a break (4, Insightful)

hansraj (458504) | more than 6 years ago | (#24360005)

Also, what's up with that "exposed" in the subject of the story? I don't see any sort of conclusion about the quality of curriculum (good or bad) to justify that sensational title.

The only thing "exposed" here are slashdot editors napping while selecting what "stories" go on the front page!

Re:Give me a break (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24360131)

I agree, it's terrible. The kind of article you'd expect from someone who went to Yale.

(for any Yale alumni in the audience, s/Yale/Harvard/ )

Re:Give me a break (1)

torstenvl (769732) | more than 6 years ago | (#24360517)

As painful as it is to admit it, Yale has a pretty good CS program.

Joel Spolsky [joelonsoftware.com] went there.

Pathetic Ham (5, Insightful)

shaitand (626655) | more than 6 years ago | (#24359973)

This site is nothing more than a list of recommended list of books with a pointer to them on amazon using his affiliate link!

I can't believe slashdot posted this. I like robots,

It's hard to capture professor differences (2, Insightful)

davidwr (791652) | more than 6 years ago | (#24360003)

Two classes using the same book, similar assignments, and similar equipment can vary widely because of things like the professor's attitude, the lab- and teaching-assistants' attitudes, the overall attitude of the college or university to allowing and encouraging thinking beyond what is in the syllabus, and a host of other factors that are very hard to capture without actually being there.

Almost every university has at least one professor students are dying to take even if it means they will get a lower grade, they will have to work harder or longer, or they will have to wait to take his class. Everything else being equal, the more professors a university has like this, the better.

The value of an ivy league education (5, Interesting)

joeflies (529536) | more than 6 years ago | (#24360013)

is not the education itself, but the doors it opens (because people see the name brand), and the connections you make (by knowing lots of other people who have open doors).

That's not to say that you can't get these things in other ways. But it is easier to get it in that manner.

My education at state college didn't open many doors, but I don't think that on average, the ivy league graduate has that many legs up on me.

Re:The value of an ivy league education (2, Interesting)

mjpaci (33725) | more than 6 years ago | (#24360177)

is not the education itself, but the doors it opens (because people see the name brand), and the connections you make (by knowing lots of other people who have open doors)

Thank you!

The people who wind up at Ivy League Schools (after the kids whose parents went there) are the ones that want it. Cost means nothing because they want the ivy degree so badly they will figure out how to get there. Now, these are the people you want to be around. They're motivated, smart, and will go on to do big things more often than those who didn't go to a high-caliber school.

--Mike

Re:The value of an ivy league education (1)

Skye16 (685048) | more than 6 years ago | (#24360181)

Did you mean "at a state college, or at State College [statecollege.com] , (in other words) where Penn State Main is?

Re:The value of an ivy league education (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24360223)

I agree with the "opening doors" idea, but in my experience it was more like "when everything's covered in S#$?, it's really easy to see the bright shiny coin."

Re:The value of an ivy league education (1)

jellomizer (103300) | more than 6 years ago | (#24360309)

But it is worth the costs. Having a Harvard or MIT may help however it could hurt too. I've seen places that actually avoid hiring new grads from Ivy League schools unless they can really prove themselves. The problem is they mold them to be Grad Students and PHD's but if they get their B.S. they feel like they are hot shots who know it all and quickly get dissatisfied that they are regulated to drudge work like the rest and not placed in R&D were the PHD are. The reason why they are not hired because they are so insulted by this they don't do the work. So they are better off getting a guy from ITT Tech who grew up in the gutters. As they see it as an opportunity to grow and expend themselves and less of work that is below them.

Re:The value of an ivy league education (1)

gregbot9000 (1293772) | more than 6 years ago | (#24360367)

Yes, the only difference between a diploma from a state, and from an ivy league is the name at the top.

I personally just opted to get my diploma from the Wizard of Oz.

Re:The value of an ivy league education (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24360413)

I am currently a rising junior at Cornell (in ECE), and I'd definitely second this. There are plenty of ways to prove you are smart, and going to a top school is only one of them. There were some 270+ employers at our career fair last fall (the doors were open), but you still have to take the initiative and walk through them (and that doesn't mean the doors are closed to people at lesser-known schools, only that they are harder to find). I think the most telling way to prove this is that top grad schools take kids from all sorts of undergrad schools, meaning they've clearly found that smart and motivated people will succeed no matter where they go to college.

Re:The value of an ivy league education (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24360449)

I've interviewed two developers with Yale CS degrees, and both failed to exhibit basic programming skills. They may have been really strong on theory, but they didn't make it that far in the process.

The Yale physics guy we brought in was pretty smart, though.

You appear to equate "Ivy League" with "top level" (4, Informative)

John Hasler (414242) | more than 6 years ago | (#24360019)

Hint: MIT, Stanford, and Caltech are not "Ivy League".

Re:You appear to equate "Ivy League" with "top lev (1)

Tablizer (95088) | more than 6 years ago | (#24360201)

We need a new metric: CMH: degree "costs more than a house".

Re:You appear to equate "Ivy League" with "top lev (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24360323)

or AFB-MBTDPA

Awful Football, Marching Band Too Drunk to Perform Adequately

The Ivy League (5, Insightful)

coaxial (28297) | more than 6 years ago | (#24360029)

I've met several CS grads and grad students from the Ivy League, and have to say I'm not impressed. For all the hooplah around the Ivy League, there isn't a bit a difference between them and any other CS department.

The Ivy League is just a brand, and a brand that is much more valuable in the liberal arts, not the sciences.

Same thing pretty much is tru

Re:The Ivy League (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24360603)

He wasn't a CS major, but you don't have to look any farther than the White House to realize this may apply to other majors as well.

Major Difference (2, Insightful)

warrior_s (881715) | more than 6 years ago | (#24360045)

One of the major points that differentiate a good school from an average is the quality of teachers teaching the subjects and performing research.
Even if exact same books and syllabus is used, students will learn material differently from different teachers.

... the quality of the students ... (1)

PolygamousRanchKid (1290638) | more than 6 years ago | (#24360275)

I would say that the quality of the students is more important than the quality of the teachers. One of my profs once quipped:

"Most students get the most out of this course from the lab exercises. Actually, they get the most out of their lab partners."

The best researchers are not always the best teachers.

Attending a highly selective university means that you are surrounded by other students who are a lot smarter than you are :-).

My 2c (0, Redundant)

SirShmoopie (1333857) | more than 6 years ago | (#24360047)

I went from my undergrad CS degree straight into a Ph.D, and then on to research.

Friends who took exactly the same choices as I went into telecoms, web design, databases and airlines (piloting, beats me what the connect was, but he did it).

Bottom line is, in my opinion, its more about how well you study, and how much time you spend just exploring each of the subjects covered in your own time.
A wide ranging understanding of the topics in computer science is important. You can then pick a decent final year dissertation to put the required polish on your academic record.

This can be achieved at any university, not just an Ivy League one. If you're geared to succeed, all you need is a decent library and a course that covers things your interested in.

Harvard (1)

markov_chain (202465) | more than 6 years ago | (#24360075)

Used to be they beat up the freshmen with assembler, C, and vi, and they liked it. Not sure if they pussified the curriculum since then...

Re:Harvard (1)

tyrione (134248) | more than 6 years ago | (#24360617)

Used to be they beat up the freshmen with assembler, C, and vi, and they liked it. Not sure if they pussified the curriculum since then...

If that's the qualities of being a tough curriculum then any PAC-10 University does that and much more.

Here's the deal. (5, Informative)

Yaztromo (655250) | more than 6 years ago | (#24360081)

Okay -- here's the deal with Computer Science, coming from someone who is a Computer Scientist (in training if not always in profession, although at the moment I can speak as someone who teaches upper-year undergraduate courses at a moderately sized University).

I'm sure everyone has heard the mantra that University isn't intended to prepare you for the working world. To a certain extent this is true, however in order to build partnerships and gain additional sources of funding in Computer Science, this view is generally skewed in practise, with the end result that Computer Science doesn't always appear to be a scientific field of endeavour.

So here's the issue: if what you're looking to do is get a good paying high-tech programming job, should you study Computer Science?

In my opinion, no.

Thirty-plus years ago, Computer Science was generally taught as a science. It was generally about algorithms and theory, and in many cases how they can be applied to science. Courses on things like computer simulation certainly weren't unheard of.

Along the way, as corporations picked up the pace at which they adopted computers as general-purpose and problem-solving tools, and as the software industry exploded, Universities in general started getting the message that their graduates weren't well suited to software development tasks, and as such they started requiring more courses on software development methods, and "how to program" and "how to create software" -- which by-and-large, isn't really about science or the scientific method, but a problem of engineering.

Fortunately, as the field continues to mature, some Universities are starting to "see the light", and are offering programs in Software Engineering. Based on my educational and industry experience, software engineers are exactly what most corporations are looking for when it comes to low and intermediate level software developers, and the good programmes emphasize the design of software, while only giving what background is needed into the science behind it all.

This is how things should be. We don't send physicists out to build bridges, but instead use physicists to come up with the core science, and than have engineers apply it to build the bridge. Software should be no different. At the risk of being labelled a heretic, we need a lot less Computer Scientists, and a lot more Software Engineers.

Note that this isn't to say that Computer Scientists don't have a role to play; theoretical Computer Scientists still have a significant role to play in determining what is possible, and in the creation of new algorithms to solve problems in the field, and practical Computer Scientists (of which I count myself a member) are needed to design solutions to complex real-world problems, the designs of which can be passed down to software engineers for actual implementation. Plus, both types of Computer Scientist are needed to train future generations in the field, both at the University level, and as general mentors.

Unfortunately, education hasn't quite caught up with this ideal yet, but it appears to be getting there. Larger schools are starting to provide both types of program, reducing the software development courses in their core Computer Science departments and moving them to Software Engineering departments (with the courses cross-listed between departments, or at the very least allowing students in the one to take courses in the other to supplement their degrees). Smaller schools, however, continue to muddle the two topics into a single programme, which causes the type of confusion often seen here when discussion "Computer Science vs. The Working World".

So there you have it. All the other sciences have a differentiation between the "science" and the "engineering" aspects, and Computer Science is no different. Eventually I predict this separation of concerns will be the norm, and we'll be all the better for it.

The conclusion here is, if you just want to get out into the working world and code, and want a University education behind you, go out and get a Software Engineering degree. The University of Victoria (where I currently teach a fourth-year Software Engineering course) has an excellent programme, as do other Universities. If you decide to go the Computer Science route, get into it for the love of science, and for no other reason.

Yaz.

Re:Here's the deal. (1)

story645 (1278106) | more than 6 years ago | (#24360267)

Smaller schools, however, continue to muddle the two topics into a single programme, which causes the type of confusion often seen here when discussion "Computer Science vs. The Working World".

Or causes most of the students to have no interest in theory courses, which is what happens at my school. We have a total mishmash of pure theory and applied (like software design and databases) and end up producing a lot of very muddled code monkeys 'cause just about the entire curriculum is electives past sophomore year. (And that's just comp sci, compE is even worse 'cause it's a semi-random assortment of CS and EE courses.)

Part of the mess is that the staff is heavily theory people, so they don't seem all that interested in teaching the more practical courses, and when they do the students just want to write whatever code will get them out of it. I've had all of one class where software/implementation had to be thought about, and most people in the class left it to one person in the group and maybe provided some help (and I happen to love group work 'cause it's important and all, but man does it let people get away with not learning anything). Even capstones tend to be spoonfed and watered down individual projects that can require very little thought.

At my school, software engineering is one of the most hated CS courses (I think the most hated once professors are taken out of the equation.) It's seen too much like management or a liberal arts class or whatever else, and this is by people who don't like theory and just want to get out their and work. It's a problem of too much theory being taught and not explained/applied right away, so students don't learn why it's important.

Re:Here's the deal. (3, Interesting)

Tony Hoyle (11698) | more than 6 years ago | (#24360445)

We have a total mishmash of pure theory and applied (like software design and databases) and end up producing a lot of very muddled code monkeys

CS hasn't changed then. When I did it (1991) they made us learn Ada, 68k machine code, Pascal, Statistics and Double Entry Bookeeping - that the was supposed to make us into 'Software Engineers'.

When I'm looking to recruit I actually prefer people who've worked their way up than those with CS degrees for this very reason.

Re:Here's the deal. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24360345)

"This is how things should be. We don't send physicists out to build bridges, but instead use physicists to come up with the core science, and than have engineers apply it to build the bridge. Software should be no different."

This is where we part ways, physicists don't build bridges, but the do a heck of a lot of engineering, especially on the cutting edge. Many scientific disciplines need or have some kind of engineering component. You couldn't do science without engineering, the idea that the two are seperate is an artifact of language, not one of reason.

Re:Here's the deal. (1)

epee1221 (873140) | more than 6 years ago | (#24360725)

I don't think GP was suggesting that computer scientists needn't know how to make software.

Re:Here's the deal. (1)

yttrstein (891553) | more than 6 years ago | (#24360547)

What you see as "the deal" is nowhere near my experience.

I was a comp sci major for a little while at UPenn, then I changed to something a bit less unrewarding. At UPenn in the late 80s and early 90s, Comp Sci sucked as much as it did nearly anywhere (but not everywhere) else. And yes, we learned all about algorithms and theory and stuff.

Just like they do *right now* at any comp sci school worth its salt, and I'm talking about places like Stanford, Carnegie Mellon, Ga. Tech, NYU, Caltech, MIT, etc. They all have wonderful comp sci departments, they all treat it like a science, and they are all well funded and have faculty who are actually active in research.

I don't know what you're basing your information on, but if it's a school, its a crappy one.

Re:Here's the deal. (1)

tyrione (134248) | more than 6 years ago | (#24360639)

As a Mechanical Engineer who went on to do Computer Science I can assure you it's nothing like Engineering and thus nothing like an Applied Pure Science; and nor has it ever been.

It's still too much of an Art and if your curriculum is encumbered by the talent on the staff who aren't current with both Theory and Practical you haven't a chance at working for Apple, Sun, IBM, et.al,, within their Core Engineering groups, unless you naturally have the ability to be both adept at socializing and technically quick on your feet.

RTFA, it's an ad (5, Informative)

AdamHaun (43173) | more than 6 years ago | (#24360091)

The linked site doesn't have any actual comparisons of the programs, just a list of textbooks with Amazon affiliate links. It's a scam -- this story should be deleted ASAP.

Underpants gnomes (5, Informative)

SoapBox17 (1020345) | more than 6 years ago | (#24360111)

1) Make simple web page linking (with your Amazon affiliate account) to CS books used by several big name schools. 2) Post story on /. making your web page sound interesting or useful even if it isn't. 3) Profit!

What a waste of someone's time (1)

damn_registrars (1103043) | more than 6 years ago | (#24360139)

It appears that the author of the website gathered a >very minimal set of data on a few different programs for around a dozen different schools. And as has already been pointed out, it is mostly just which courses use which books.

I hope the author didn't use too much time that could have otherwise been spent learning actual science (including computer science) on that exercise.

ooops (1)

damn_registrars (1103043) | more than 6 years ago | (#24360149)

I guess even with the preview button that we have to click before submitting a comment, we still don't catch all of our own typos.

YIOU fAIL IT?! (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24360159)

numbers cOntinue [goat.cx]

Tuition ? (2, Funny)

karvind (833059) | more than 6 years ago | (#24360163)

Many people have wondered what the difference is between the Computer Science education given in the average public university versus one given in an Ivy League university.

Tuition for sure :)

Re:Tuition ? (1)

torstenvl (769732) | more than 6 years ago | (#24360621)

Definitely agree with you. Tuition paid out-of-pocket at state schools is a hell of a lot higher.

Re:Tuition ? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24360735)

Yes. In my case, it was actually cheaper for me to attend an Ivy League university than my state university, which stopped offering academic scholarships to incoming freshmen.

If you leave this story up -- (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24360167)

-- make sure to get a cut of his Amazon revenues.

Different Goals (3, Interesting)

Tablizer (95088) | more than 6 years ago | (#24360185)

Big-Name universities have nearly a single goal in mind: Published Papers. This is what fuels their reputation. This tilts their approach toward high-risk-high-reward research. However, 99% of all graduates will need real-world skills for the here-and-now at non-R&D places, and this may be where State-U excels, or at least even.

Most State-U's generally have given up on the "research run", freeing them to focus on marketable skills. Big-name U's still struggle with this balance.
   

Re:Different Goals (1)

cdw38 (1001587) | more than 6 years ago | (#24360511)

I disagree. College is about learning how to learn - it's not trade school. You suffer through an intense, largely-theoretical (but definitely not entirely) curriculum and come out confident that you've "learned how to learn" and can quickly pick up the latest programming language at your next job. The top software companies (or any tech company, really) hire tons of people from top schools not because they want to go around bragging to other companies that they hire exclusively from Stanford, MIT, Carnegie Mellon and Cornell, but because they've consistently found that students from schools like that are (1) smart and (2) get things done. That doesn't mean people from state school X aren't smart, or don't get things done, but it definitely also doesn't mean that employers somehow knock big-name schools for heavily emphasizing theoretical instruction.

this was a big surprise (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24360233)

The site was slashdotted, but I'll summarize what I got from the clickthru.

I would've thought that the top schools in the country would've given their undergrads a heavy dose of reading published by their own professors: Knuth, Hennesey and Pattersen, Horowitz and Hill, Abelson and Sussman. Instead, it's all "Ajax for Dummies", "Learn JavaScript in 21 Days", "Master PhotoShop Step by Step", stuff like that.

The real difference (1, Troll)

ChromeAeonium (1026952) | more than 6 years ago | (#24360271)

What's the real difference between an Ivy League degree and a state school degree? A shitload of money and some elitism. If you're looking for a practical difference, you should spend your time looking for something more probable, like a bigfoot.

Re:The real difference (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24360557)

What's the real difference between an Ivy League degree and a state school degree?

One comes from a crappy football conference and the other probably from a really good football conference???

I have a lot of those books (1)

story645 (1278106) | more than 6 years ago | (#24360325)

and I go to a public college in New York. Lots of the ones I have aren't very good, and one of my best books is a "Data Structures in C++" book that's not on the list at one (or more, 'could only get to a few pages) of these schools. Book lists don't tell a thing, 'cept maybe what's the flavor of the semester for a certain professor (as he's the one who determines which book to use.)

I'm much more interested in how the entire curricula is structured, 'cause that's what's really important. What are freshman courses, sophmore courses, etc.? And by the way, that info is actually probably public and really easy to find. When I was looking at schools, a lot of 'em published their curriculum on their prospective students page (we even do it in a nice grid format). My school puts it in our bulletin, which is also public, as are many other schools.

MIT curriculum already online (4, Informative)

pz (113803) | more than 6 years ago | (#24360495)

The OP forgot that the MIT curriculum -- the lectures themselves -- are already largely available. The course materials for nearly two thousand courses at MIT are available here:
http://ocw.mit.edu/OcwWeb/web/home/home/index.htm [mit.edu]

So are all of the lectures from an experiment in Computer Science education that predates MIT's open courseware, http://aduni.org/ [aduni.org] .

First line gives it all away (5, Insightful)

devnullkac (223246) | more than 6 years ago | (#24360525)

Discover what many people have spent tens of thousands of dollars to learn, FREE!

Any time any web site claims to save you money using the word "free" in all caps, run!

YOU FAIL IT? (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24360563)

BOO! Crass Commercialism (3, Insightful)

Pvt_Waldo (459439) | more than 6 years ago | (#24360623)

Already been posted, but what a load of commercial, not very useful crap.

Editors, why not create a new "Commercial" category for this kind of stuff? It's not the first time we've seen commercialism slip through. Or why not let us readers vote on stories even once posted? "Duplicate", "Useful", "Commercialism", etc.

Timothy (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24360625)

Timothy is the new KDawson!

Writing software != Computer Science. (1)

Cerebus (10185) | more than 6 years ago | (#24360671)

Keep this in mind and all will become clear.

If all you want is a job, then CS isn't for you. If what you want is to study and understand *computation*, then CS is for you.

Unfortunately, a lot of schools muddy the waters by wrapping up a technical training program and call it CS. It isn't.

The Debate Continues (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24360691)

This debate is not new; my father participated in it in the mid 1960's. As the retired Executive VP of World Wide Operations for a Fortune 10 company he and I talk about it often (I am a senior manager for a consulting firm). People with degrees focused on the theortical end of the spectrum do great in big thinking, research roles but often struggle in delivery roles. People with degrees focused on application tend to do well at task management and delivery but struggle to see the bigger picture and how seemingly unrelated things are involved. In both types of schools what is taught is a microcosm of what people need to be successful. For CS in particular things such as project management, estimation, architecture and design, financials, people leadership, requirements determination, and diversity training should be woven into the class work but rarely are. My degree, as my father's, is in Computer Engineering. We both went to a top 5 engineering school however I converted from EE and in doing so moved to a smaller, application focused school so I've seen both ends. It is the combination of the two backgrounds and viewpoints that has put me in a leadership role over both. There is no right or wrong answer. The proof of success is who focuses on filling in the gap so they cover the entire spectrum. I have learned to seek out both types for my programs.

It's not the books that make the classes... (2)

koko775 (617640) | more than 6 years ago | (#24360701)

...it's the instruction. The book lists say nothing of the focuses the classes take or the background the classes give.

As an educator and an undergraduate student at UC Berkeley, many classes make ill use of the books. In fact, in CS164 last semester, NO textbook was used -- at all! In fact, for all of the CS classes I've taken so far, I have not needed to read the associated book at all.

The strong point of these institutions (or, at least, Berkeley) is the legacy of good materials and resources that instructors leave behind, and the active monetary and personal investment of all the faculty in improving things for the next generation of students.

Books are the LEAST influential element in making a good CS program. This site might be totally serious in comparing the curriculum, but it completely misses the point.

Academics vs. Vocation (1)

BrainInAJar (584756) | more than 6 years ago | (#24360767)

"There have also been discussions here on Slashdot about whether any Computer Science curriculum gives students the knowledge they need for the working world."

Should it? I'd feel shortchanged if my university gave me some vocational training rather than bringing me up to speed in the academic discipline of "Computer Science". If I want some vocational training I can go to the local college and take the "Be a programmer in 6 months!" program

Math != accounting, Biology != how to run a PCR machine, CS != how to program.

I agree with TFA (3, Funny)

ndogg (158021) | more than 6 years ago | (#24360775)

The best text book I had to read in college was, "503 Service Temporarily Unavailable." I don't remember what that one was about though...

Look More At The Projects (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24360785)

First of all, I hate that the CS classes are all now about writing business software. IMO, CS should be about chip design, power controls, logic and how to build the proverbial better mousetrap.

That said, I tend to hire CS grads because I manage software geeks and that is the degree with which most graduate. The problem I see all around - whether from Stanford, UCLA or CSU Fullerton - is a lack of cohesive project experience. I would really like to see a multi-semester/quarter project from these folks that shows the entire software lifecycle from beginning to completion then through iterative changes.

I find my senior staff spend much of their time introducing the newbies to these concepts, while 80% of what was learned goes out the window.
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