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Ask Slashdot: How To Ask College To Change Intro To Computing?

Unknown Lamer posted more than 2 years ago | from the use-the-cluebat-luke dept.

Software 337

First time accepted submitter taz346 writes "I got a Bachelor's degree 30 years ago, but I recently started back to college to get an Associate's degree. Most of the core courses are already covered by my B.A. but one that I didn't take way back when was Introduction to Computing. I am taking that now but have been very disappointed to find that it is really just Introduction to Microsoft Office 2010. That's actually the name of the (very expensive) textbook. It is mindless, boring and pretty useless for someone who's used PCs for about 20 years. But beyond that, why does it have to be all about MS Office and nothing else? Couldn't they just teach people to create documents, etc., and let them use any office software, like Libre Office? It seems to me that would be more useful; students would learn how to actually create things on their computers, not just follow step-by-step commands from a dumbed-down book about one piece of increasingly expensive software. I know doing it the way they do now is easy for the college, but it's not really teaching students much about what they can do with computers. So when the class is over, I plan to write a letter to the college asking them to change the course as I suggested above. I'm not real hopeful, but what the heck. Do folks out there have any good suggestions as to what might be the most persuasive arguments I can make?"

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When I was in high school (4, Insightful)

gagol (583737) | more than 2 years ago | (#41444489)

We learned Claris Works... get the credits and get over it. Your experience is much more valuable than a cheap course, use it.

Re:When I was in high school (2)

gagol (583737) | more than 2 years ago | (#41444501)

Sorry if I sounded harsh, but you must build your self confidence. A paper is not going to make a difference, your skills are...

Re:When I was in high school (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41444567)

Actually a paper (I'm thinking you mean diploma here) is very important. The HR department can't get sued for discriminating on the basis of education/certification - if they can prove (fairly easily) that it is a BFOQ or Bona Fide Occupational Qualification. Get your diploma and tolerate the classes that are dumbed down for the unwashed masses that can't read.

Re:When I was in high school (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41444573)

You say that, but it is increasingly more difficult to even get interviewed without that piece of paper. It doesn't matter what your skills are when your resume is binned without even talking to you.

Re:When I was in high school (4, Informative)

gagol (583737) | more than 2 years ago | (#41444617)

In my experience, I have to disagree. If you got the skills (technical AND interpersonal) you will get ahead no matter what, except maybe (not in my experience) in the big corporation where you are just a number anyway. So it may matters (my experience is somewhat limited and humanity is larger than what I could experience) if you want to be a number...

Re:When I was in high school (3, Informative)

AK Marc (707885) | more than 2 years ago | (#41444731)

In my experience, I have to disagree with you. I have piles of technical qualifications and skills, and an MBA. The combination gets me much more interest than if I didn't have that piece of paper.

Re:When I was in high school (3, Interesting)

gagol (583737) | more than 2 years ago | (#41444823)

As I said, in MY experience, it did not make much difference I got recruited while in college. Obviously the mileage may vary depending on your field/area/company. That is why slashdot is so great, it attracts people from all over to share their piece of humanity.

Obviously you have invested a lot in your education and I respect that a lot. If you ever visit Quebec, I hope we can share a beer.

Re:When I was in high school (2)

gagol (583737) | more than 2 years ago | (#41444839)

And for the record, I am not saying paper is worthless, only other ways are possible. The OP has a lot of experience already that should compensate for lack of paper AND attract attention. The fact many people around here are saying the contrary is deeply disturbing me.

Re:When I was in high school (1)

AK Marc (707885) | more than 2 years ago | (#41445011)

I've done it all, and the education has a disproportionately large effect. One place had an informal "degree required" policy because of the basic well-roundedness that comes from it, and it demonstrates a drive and follow-through. I worked at a place that had educational reimbursement, so I enrolled in the local university for an MBA. Unlike a coworker who was getting a BS from University of Phoenix at the same time. The reality is that the paper is very important to some people, and so it's safer to get it when you can, than hope to find one of the people who doesn't care about it when you need a job. But I'm a firm believer because I've had a CCNA, CCDA and MCSE for about 15 years now, and they did help me get a number of jobs in the past 15 years.

But I'll likely never see myself in Quebec. I have a coworker vacationing there now, but having been to Canada and living so far away now, it's not sufficiently exotic to pass the "wife test" for a destination. I fled the US for a nation "similar" to Canada in that both are Commonwealth, though I'll be less affected when the US collapse comes

Just pass the course and move on (-1, Redundant)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41444505)

Is it worth trying to change the college instead of just passing the course and moving on with your life?

Re:Just pass the course and move on (5, Insightful)

icebike (68054) | more than 2 years ago | (#41444603)

What does a credit hour cost?
How many students are going to be ripped off? What percentage of those already learned this in high school or junior high?

It's institutionalized theft. I'm amazed you are so sanguine about it.

Re:Just pass the course and move on (4, Interesting)

wierd_w (1375923) | more than 2 years ago | (#41444725)

When I was taking courses for my associate degree for information technology, I had to take a similar bullshit course for MS Orifice.. er.. Office.

I asked several of the school administrators why such a clearly nonsense class was required for (what at the time) was a fairly hard-core curriculum featuring CISCO CCNA certification training, A+&Network+ cert training, Novell Netware cert training, Database Programming, and general programming courseware.

The answer, was that they had been pressured into it, because of requirements for in-house tech staff to be more than just proficient with MS's offerings, but be sufficiently fluent in the packages that they can provide quick and rapid responces to support questions from less technical office workers.

Essentially, they need/want you to be able to "help" the vacuous "office marys" out there tha can't quite remember how to use the mail/merge feature, despite using it EVERY SINGLE DAY.

(Compare, that would be like a programmer not remembering how to use a macro, or how to call a library, THAT THEY WROTE, and use every day-- and need a programming specialist to help them debug their output... because of their abysmal level of incompetence.)

Really, in that light, the requirement to have MS's office suite s an intro level class makes sense, in a horrible and twisted way.

More sense would be to have a competency test for office workers, but that would exclude a considerable number of office staff that are employed due to nepotism. Instead, and expensive support network is required to ensure that such employees are halfass productive.

Re:Just pass the course and move on (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41444781)

lol hardcore, CCNA and A+/Network+ do not belong in the same sentence. hooray for being a sysadmin drone, but you knew that going into an 'associate degree' didnt you.

Re:Just pass the course and move on (4, Informative)

wierd_w (1375923) | more than 2 years ago | (#41444867)

Yes, it is less intense than a 4 year CS or Math degree, where you learn things like mathematical theory, and get exposed to much more advanced problems.

Submitter specifically mentioned an associate degree. I took classes in said associate degree not because I wanted the degree, but because I was interested in the cert training. (The school offered discounted cert testing as part of the course.)

The point was that those benchwarmer classes were leaps and bounds moe "technical" than "how to change the font to bold in MS Word."

Specifically, that AS degree was for a computer support role. That's why the intro to computing was more "wordprocessing", and less "computational theory", which would have been more sensible. (You know, things like "introduction to turing machines", and things like the difference between harvard and von-neuman architectures.)

I am pretty sure it was more on topic than your shit smearing attempt. --no offense intended.

Re:Just pass the course and move on (1)

HornWumpus (783565) | more than 2 years ago | (#41444919)

Just get those + certs off your resume. They are fine for a kid who doesn't know better, but if you are over 20 they route your resume to the trash.

Re:Just pass the course and move on (4, Insightful)

wierd_w (1375923) | more than 2 years ago | (#41444979)

... I *was* a kid at the time. That was the point. This was close to 20 years ago, in the 90s. I don't list them, especially now.

I no longer work in any IT related disciplines, I am a CAD draftsman. It ca be dull and drudgery at times, but that is true of any job. Not having to answer questions because "you're a computer guy, right?" Is well worth it, as is the radically reduced levels of stress.

It would be nonsense to claim those certs on a resume.

It wasn't nonsense to claim them when I was 18. For the submitter, who has been in the industry previously, A+, Network+, and CCNA would be wastes of money and time as well, since vocationally he should have become proficient already, and the cert means nothing. They however, less rediculous than the MS office requirement, for exactly the same reasons. Expecting somebody that has likely *already* been supporting office users vocationally to take an intro to office class is not just silly, it is minbogglingly mindshatteringly silly.

I believe that was the submitter's point, in addition to the obvious that computers are not glorified typewriters.

Re:Just pass the course and move on (3, Informative)

LordLimecat (1103839) | more than 2 years ago | (#41445031)

Yes, it is less intense than a 4 year CS or Math degree, where you learn things like mathematical theory, and get exposed to much more advanced problems.

Planning a network out can get pretty darn complicated, precisely because there isnt a single answer that will make all the numbers add up. Theres also a zillion unknowns, and generally incomplete requirements. Its all down to judgement, critical thinking, and how much of the theory you know.

Not a math major, so I cant speak to the issues they have to deal with, but I have a feeling its a different sort of "difficult".

Re:Just pass the course and move on (1)

gagol (583737) | more than 2 years ago | (#41444987)

I have to agree here. Specialisation is for insects!

Re:Just pass the course and move on (1)

LordLimecat (1103839) | more than 2 years ago | (#41445009)

On the list of things worth spending time on, a 100-level course's easy-factor is pretty low.

Re:Just pass the course and move on (1)

MrEricSir (398214) | more than 2 years ago | (#41444611)

Or for that matter, just asking the CS department if you can skip the class because you already know the basics? If you find a prof and can convince him or her that you already know this, you can probably skip the class.

One thing you may find (4, Insightful)

damn_registrars (1103043) | more than 2 years ago | (#41444507)

Is that a lot of CSci depts (particularly at community colleges and other places that have associate's degrees) across the country have received grant money from Microsoft itself. That will, of course, make it much more difficult for you to convince them to stop "teaching" Microsoft Office.

I would highly recommend you look into that possibility before you start writing a letter, because if that is the case at your school then you'll just be tilting at windmills.

Re:One thing you may find (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41444535)

What he said - Follow the money.

Re:One thing you may find (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41444645)

What he said - Follow the money.

Keep your mouth shut, complete the schooling....... then rip into them after you get your papers.
This has nothing to do with computer science..... what a joke.

Re:One thing you may find (2)

gagol (583737) | more than 2 years ago | (#41445013)

Best advice I have read so far. Get your degree, then let loose the activist in you.

Take it in Summer session (1)

bhcompy (1877290) | more than 2 years ago | (#41444511)

Take it in Summer session, online. ~5-8 weeks depending on the school. Easy peasy.

Re:Take it in Summer session (2)

couchslug (175151) | more than 2 years ago | (#41444755)

It's easy enough to take with a full schedule. I'm taking the same course online as it's required. (I need 13 credit hours minimum to collect full G.I.Bill stipend.)

The main annoyance is learning the SAM 2010 environment since it accepts a specific set of answers though there are obviously many ways to use Office.

Learn the SAM "style" and to use D2L if your school uses it then exploit the easy course.

Re:Take it in Summer session (1)

gagol (583737) | more than 2 years ago | (#41445027)

Excuse my french, but what does SAM means?

Get your head out of your ass (2, Insightful)

GeneralTurgidson (2464452) | more than 2 years ago | (#41444513)

For most of the country an intro to Office 2010 is all they need to know about computers. College should prepare them for future employment. If you're complaining about other alternatives, realize the course wasn't targeted at you.

Re:Get your head out of your ass (1)

PRMan (959735) | more than 2 years ago | (#41444541)

This exactly.

Re:Get your head out of your ass (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41444601)

This exactly wrong.

Let's focus on preparing our future workforce to feel accomplished with remedial, increasingly antiquated computer skills. Let's continue down the path where employers can't find people with the skills they need. Let's continue down the path where people can't find themselves a job because they invested in a community college education that still can't help them get many places.

People should be learning Office tools early in high-school.

Re:Get your head out of your ass (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41444717)

Really? High school? When I was in elementary school in the 1990's we had at least some basic introduction to "office" programs. Back then it wasn't called "office" though. Thank god.

Re:Get your head out of your ass (2)

HornWumpus (783565) | more than 2 years ago | (#41444935)

You should, maybe, need a class to teach you how to use your first app at whatever age (early is better). After that you should be capable of self training.

Re:Get your head out of your ass (1)

gagol (583737) | more than 2 years ago | (#41444555)

Sadly, that is true... most people barely use facebook and youtube. An efficient google search is too mush for them...

Re:Get your head out of your ass (3, Funny)

AK Marc (707885) | more than 2 years ago | (#41444747)

I try to never mush my google.

Re:Get your head out of your ass (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41444577)

college is not a trade school. It should be doing more than train you for employment.

Re:Get your head out of your ass (2)

jrumney (197329) | more than 2 years ago | (#41445091)

The original poster said he is doing an Associate Degree. So yes, it is a trade school.

Re:Get your head out of your ass (1)

six025 (714064) | more than 2 years ago | (#41444653)

For most of the country an intro to Office 2010 is all they need to know about computers. College should prepare them for future employment. If you're complaining about other alternatives, realize the course wasn't targeted at you.

Considering that most users don't know how to use the find command [] , the above observation is spot on.

When I first attended college the requisite "Intro to Computing" course was mind numbingly basic and dull. But this also serves a purpose - those who are truly interested will persevere and see their way through to the advanced courses.


Re:Get your head out of your ass (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41444757)

You make a pretty good point, that really is the first thing you give to a beginner, and it is the defacto standard at most companies. And the ones that use Libre Office, are usually OK with you knowing the MS Suite, and might need a day to get used to Libre.

Re:Get your head out of your ass (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41444871)

Learning general office productivity concepts does not contradict the goal of training folks for employment, even if that employer uses MS Office rather than any other alternative.

On the other hand, if a company wants a flexible employee, that company is going to be disappointed in hiring the worker trained via recipes to use only one brand of software of one particular version.

We see this at my employer, where staff has to be re-trained every time a new version of MS Office is adopted. This is stupid.

Re:Get your head out of your ass (5, Insightful)

steelfood (895457) | more than 2 years ago | (#41444903)

College should prepare them for future employment.

Wrong. That's the job of a vocational school. Granted, submitter's getting an associates, so it's closer to a career-oriented degree than not. Irrespective, two or four years should merely be differenciated by the depth of knowledge in a particular field, not the breadth of knowledge overall.

College is about education. Education does not have a pure application, in the same sense that abstract mathematics and partical physics don't have pure applications. In fact, it should not. Education begins with the fundamentals. Fundamentals don't change no matter what the application. They're the default information, the fallback, safe knowledge, when there's no additional information known. Then, it's learning about the exceptions to the fundamentals, where the fundamentals don't apply, or don't necessarily apply. Finally, it's learning about the unresolved exceptions, and approaches of resolving them. The area of unresolved exceptions is the limits of knowledge, and where the old knowledge ends and new knowledge will be created. Examples should be used only to illustrate the concepts taught. Examples should never be the knowledge being taught.

Teaching MS Office is not intro to computers. Teaching the difference between a spreadsheet and a database, a text editor and a word processor, is. Teaching what a program is, what it means to install a program versus what it means to run a program (without or after installing) is.

Teaching the concept of a shortcut or link is. How to use MS Office is more appropriate for one of their career-based, continuing education-type classes. It's like teaching how to use a Canon 5D Mk III with a 14mm F2.8 prime, instead of what is the field of view or what the F-stop means. Or for a car analogy, it's teaching how to change the motor oil of a 1996 Honda Accord instead of what motor oil actually does and why it needs to be changed at all. Those kinds of classes don't belong in a degree program.

That having been said, any respectable institution has ways to test out of prerequisites. Otherwise, it's just a scam to make you pay more tuition. This wouldn't happen to be the University of Phoenix or some other for-profit, would it?

Re:Get your head out of your ass (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41444953)

You're so right! How dare he expect more for his money! College should teach you how to be a good little worker bee, accept what you're given and do your job [] .

Teach critical thinking and problem solving skills in college? Psh. That just ain't right thinkin'! What a complete asshole this guy!

Re:Get your head out of your ass (1)

Chuck Chunder (21021) | more than 2 years ago | (#41445041)

It's not just about preparing them for future employment but also about preparing them for the rest of the college.
I dunno about the content of this particular course but there is a difference between having vague knowledge of (for example) Word and knowing how to use it properly.

I did a Chemical Engineering degree and just muddled through with Word (aside from teaching myself how to drive equation editor from the keyboard). Only afterwards when changing career paths and doing a "bullshit" computer course did I learn how to use styles properly and so forth, knowledge that would have saved me no end of time during my degree.

In fact that information is probably more useful during your course when you are working largely on your own. In the real world almost no-one uses Word properly so any document that involves collaboration will inevitably be a clusterfuck.

Re:Get your head out of your ass (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41445049)

Hoo boy. A failure if there ever was one. You're thinking of "an introduction to office producitivity in the average enterprise".

If you're talking computing, then that's not about pottering about with word processors. It's about how to get things done using computers. It should tell you what can and cannot be achieved with computers. Lay out the field, provide plenty of pointers where to look for help with various classes of problems.

That should include some office productivity (but not nailed down to just the one vendor no matter how dominant. instead it should explain how to solve interop problems and getting things done regardless of brand), but far more importantly, some basic scripting (repetition computers are much better at than we are), scientific computing (first taste of number crunching, yum!), a bit about file organisations (how to use file folders effectively; sadly this is needed), something about databases and why it's important to understand how they work if you need to use them, a touch of what cryptography can do and where it does and doesn't help, writing emails (properly: no top-posting, doofus), a bit about the internet and what lurks within, some "webforums" etiquette maybe, and so on, and so forth. And of course it should touch on information security and code and data vulnerability. Explain how viruses are possible and how to recover from them, why backups are important and how to take simple precautions there, why privacy is important and where not to stick all that personal info, that sort of thing.

If you're claiming to be talking about computing then do talk about computing. And no, "fscking around with proprietary office suites" isn't even close. Thus, the course title is a misnomer. It doesn't matter that for some, "office 2010" will be all they need (until the next release, way to keep'em coming back for more courses). Be honest and name that course "microsoft office 2010 indoctrination".

College should be about more than learning how to act by rote. The rote bit is what we should make the computers do, so we can free ourselves for whatever else we'd like to do. Thus, an "introduction to computing" should be about teaching what we can make computers do. Not learn how to act like one in front of one.

One is enough (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41444517)

If you can do it in MS Office you learned enough to be able to do in Libre.

I know the feel. (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41444527)

My district does this, and the case is that their computer-sciency A.S. degree is called Computer and Information Science, meaning that there's a lot of business(management)-centric bullshit like accounting and communications which is required as well as the programming part. Making fancy colored charts is part of any PHB's repertoire, and Libre Office can't do half the shit that excel can. Manipulating tables in Access is also a good precursor to working with real SQL.

That being said, there are likely a multitude of decent, real programming classes which only require high school-level algebra as a prerequisite. Try taking scientific computing or numerical methods classes if offered.

-- Ethanol-fueled

Re:I know the feel. (1)

jedidiah (1196) | more than 2 years ago | (#41444613)

> Manipulating tables in Access is also a good precursor to working with real SQL.

Your entire response was just so full of fail but this one especially takes the cake.

Re:I know the feel. (3, Insightful)

espiesp (1251084) | more than 2 years ago | (#41444791)

Explain how this is false?

I get it, 4 digit UID, you must be a database god.

But lets be real here. You didn't jump straight out of the womb into calculus. You stepped on stones to get where you are. For many, Access is that stone that introduces them to databases and SQL. For better or worse, it is one of the most accessible database tools around.

Prior learning assessment (5, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41444529)

My college has "Prior Learning Assessment". If you already know the stuff, they will test you and you can be exempted from taking the class.

Don't waste your time on a worthless class if you can avoid it.

Some charge fees for that too. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41444923)

My college has "Prior Learning Assessment". If you already know the stuff, they will test you and you can be exempted from taking the class.

Don't waste your time on a worthless class if you can avoid it.

YMMV, but many schools charge a hefty percentage of the tuition of the class to test out of it.

The cost of higher education in the US is really starting to surpass the benefits. Sure go ahead and post a cite about how the more education you have, the more money you make. But let's consider two things:

1. When are those stats from?

2. How much of that extra income is really worth it when you consider the loans and opportunity costs?

And to head off the "education is more than about a pay check", I agree whole heatedly! Maybe have Liberal Arts and Social and Natural Sciences (Not CS), at least at the undergraduate level, be free or at least at a very steep discount?

Why Liberal Arts and Sciences? Because an undergraduate degree of those degrees aren't worth much and they enrich folks for a better society.

Also, if you don't have a Liberal Arts or Science degree, you have really have vocational degree - you're not educated.

Let's face it: Engineering, CS, Business, and later on Medicine and Law degrees are trade degrees.

Don't waste your Time (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41444551)

I just graduated with an associates degree last year, and the way I see it is if you're going to anything but a proper university, none of the courses will have any real merit to them. College has become a shitty business, more or less, and you're very unlikely to get anything out of it that you couldn't have done on your own. Particularly when it comes to computers.

Challenge the course, or suck it up and get the A (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41444563)

Your choices for the moment are either challenge the course, and get an easy credit by exam so you can take something else (and therefore get your degree faster), or suck it up, work hard to get the easy A, and pad your GPA so it doesn't suffer so much when you get to the actual hard stuff.

I strongly agree that other things should be taught, but the point of most "intro to computers" courses at this point is to prepare people to use basic productivity software to complete the rest of their coursework. The name of the course is very misleading, but that's the state of things, and as far as preparing people for the "real world", Microsoft Office is what's still in use in most businesses, so it's more a practical decision than a conspiracy.

Re:Challenge the course, or suck it up and get the (1)

couchslug (175151) | more than 2 years ago | (#41444705)

"but the point of most "intro to computers" courses at this point is to prepare people to use basic productivity software to complete the rest of their coursework."

Bingo! We have an Insightful winner.

Re:Challenge the course, or suck it up and get the (1)

michael_cain (66650) | more than 2 years ago | (#41444965)

but the point of most "intro to computers" courses at this point is to prepare people to use basic productivity software to complete the rest of their coursework.

This. If you have to write, the profs will expect real Word files (and while things have improved, .doc files exported from Libre Office or other word processors still manage to screw up the formatting sometimes). If you have to submit supporting calculations, the profs will expect real Excel files (possibly including VBA macros that they provide). If you have to do presentations, the profs will expect real Powerpoint files. I'm somewhat surprised that there's no way to test out, but the real purpose of the class is to try to make sure that everyone has some basic competency with the tools that are required by the school.

It's what you need at a Temp Agency for testing! (2)

jaskelling (1927116) | more than 2 years ago | (#41444583)

If you go to a temp agency these days, you'll learn exactly how poorly trained many people still are in computer skills. When I took the test on Excel, Beginner level was "Launch Excel, create a new document, save it, close Excel." Because I knew how to do a =SUM formula, I was automatically considered expert. I'd never used Access in my life, but because I knew how to alt+tab out of the test & use the help file in the actual program on the testing machine, I was told that I "already surpassed the skills being tested." As someone who has been in the IT workforce 20 years already, the Intro to Computing course isn't targeted at you. At all. It's meant for the idiots just out of high school who can barely spell or have paid their smart friends to do their word processing for them. Also, "intro" classes of any kind are not the classes that are designed to teach you to think. They're the ones designed to brute force feed you a truckload of information that you build on in the 200 level class next semester - and with computing classes, it's intended to teach you what programs you'll have freely available on campus in the labs or be required to use in classrooms.

Re:It's what you need at a Temp Agency for testing (1)

JoeMerchant (803320) | more than 2 years ago | (#41444765)

If you go to a temp agency these days, you'll discover how many people are poorly trained in: expressing coherent thought in writing, basic arithmetic, and professional interpersonal interaction. Partly, that's why they're at a temp agency, partly, it's the old George Carlin line:

Think about somebody you know who has an IQ of 100. Now, realize that 50% of the world is dumber than this person.

Computing is in everything (3, Insightful)

Narrowband (2602733) | more than 2 years ago | (#41444589)

One argument is that since there's now a computer in everything, a modern intro to computers class should probably be diversified to cover a lot more than using a PC. It could almost be an "intro to modern life" class. Some topics for the syllabus might be:

Setting up a home network, including a FIOS/DSL router or a cable modem and a Tivo/DVR with a a cable card. Options for mobile computing/e-mail. Password strategies. Controlling what you share on social networks. Transferring files around between PC/smart phone/tablet/digital camera/etc. Keeping an offsite backup of important data. etc. etc.

Re:Computing is in everything (1)

Obfuscant (592200) | more than 2 years ago | (#41444837)

This is a 100 level course. As such, it is probably required by many different colleges/departments. It has probably been designed to serve the need of those other colleges/departments just as much, if not more than, for the computer science department. It's probably set at that level to prepare general students who have no or little computer backgound so they can do their homework.

It's a computer science class because, well, it's computers.

Trying to make it into a more advanced networking or whatever class would make it less usefull to the general student body, who just needs something so they can do their homework. Most people don't need to know how to set up a FIOS router (I certainly don't) or a TIVO, so those people would be the ones complaining about having to learn useless stuff if you forced it into an introduction class.

Have to go with the college on this one... (2)

drkim (1559875) | more than 2 years ago | (#41444591)

As other posts mentioned, this course was not aimed at you. Just try to get what you can out of it.

I have to agree with the school on this one; this sounds like a useful course for the person with no computer skills, who will not be going into I.T.

Teaching "Libre Office" would not be as useful to the majority of people who may be going into a professional office job where they will most likely be using MS, not Libre, Office. Likewise, this is more practical than a course that taught the history of computing, or "ones and zeros," for people actually looking for work.

Finally, re. the "...expensive textbook..."
They're all expensive. Welcome to college!

Re:Have to go with the college on this one... (1)

jedidiah (1196) | more than 2 years ago | (#41444649)

If you can use one word processor, you should be able to use any of them.

This isn't the era of Word Perfect for DOS when secretaries were expected to type 60 WPM and know the keyboard shortcuts and understand the markup language.

Besides, even the monopoly product is not a constant. So creating a course based on chasing the monopoly product doesn't make sense base on your rationale either.

Re:Have to go with the college on this one... (1)

drkim (1559875) | more than 2 years ago | (#41444989)

If you can use one word processor, you should be able to use any of them.

Not the point.
As I said "...more practical...for people actually looking for work."

Most HR people would understand if your resume said you know "MS Office."

When they have to pick between the resume that says "I learned Libre Office, but I'm sure I could learn something else." and the resume that says "I already know MS Office." ...who do you think they will hire?

I agree with the OP it's just "one piece of increasingly expensive software" but the company pays for it, and it's cheaper for them to buy MS Office, then send everyone out for custom training in something else.

Impossible (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41444607)

One does not simply walk into the Dean's office and request changes.
One must contribute a building....or something.

Test Out (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41444615)

When I was supposed to take that class (10 years ago), we were given the option to "test out" and forgo the expense of the class and textbook.

Use logic (1)

Spiked_Three (626260) | more than 2 years ago | (#41444619)

Sure, smart people listen to positive suggestions. Explain to them how most businesses now use non microsoft products. err, wait.

Try to explain how Linux will become the desktop of the future, as it is a new movement just started. err, wait.

Try to explain how Apple Mac products will save them a ton of money by providing less expensive hardware choices that can be easily upgraded. Err, wait.

Ok, try this; threaten them.

Why bother? Working as intended. (1)

Revotron (1115029) | more than 2 years ago | (#41444623)

Your university teaches MS Office because that's what the businesses that hire their students want them to teach. What you're suggesting would be like a company coming to the school and saying "We want graduates that can program fluent Java" and the school gives them graduates who only write C#. Sure, they're very similar languages and they do the same thing, have the same general set of features, but the implementation is different and when those graduates get to their new job, surprise surprise, they need to learn a different syntax and discover the little differences between both languages that they weren't taught in class.

Be grateful that you're smart enough to go out there and experience the alternatives. Some people will do the bare minimum to get by - learn Office, pass the test, and forget it all. They'll have trouble when they get out into the job world and are faced with some new feature in Office they didn't learn, or get sat down in front of a whole new office suite and not know where to start.

However, it seems that you may also mean "change the course to not just be about office suites". In that case, by all means, propose that they rename the course and/or restructure it to focus more on the concepts surrounding general computing. Either they'll accept your suggestion or they won't. It doesn't hurt to try.

well... (1)

buddyglass (925859) | more than 2 years ago | (#41444631)

Ridiculous troll post is ridiculous.

"...the most persuasive arguments..." (1)

John Hasler (414242) | more than 2 years ago | (#41444643)

Money. Become a wealthy alumnus and, when contacted about a donation, bring up your criticism of this course.

Sure, Just Compare Them to UK High Schools (5, Interesting)

eldavojohn (898314) | more than 2 years ago | (#41444661)

I'd simply point out that UK high schools have surpassed their intro course [] and ask them at what point they plan to give you a better education in computers than a foreign government can give its kids.

If you really wanted to go the extra mile and spend a little bit of money on this "letter" you could buy a small SD flash card and spend $25 on a Raspberry Pi and work through this tutorial as you work through your intro course [] . Then when you're done you can get the Raspberry Pi to start and have the sole purpose be to display your letter to the staff. Just mail them the Raspberry Pi, the flash card, a USB to USB Micro cord and a short HDMI cable. Just write instructions to plug it into a USB port and monitor then in the letter explain how you used the GNU Toolchain and wrote the rest of this code yourself. It might be too much for some of the other students but it was cheaper than the textbook. If you can do it then your once great alma mater is selling its students short.

A letter can be crumpled up and thrown away. A Raspberry Pi can as well but I guarantee it's going to hurt like hell ;-)

Re:Sure, Just Compare Them to UK High Schools (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41444975)

Lost in trans-Atlantic translation: he is going for an A.S. degree which means this is at a community/technical college. Most of these colleges teach trades and what most colleges whose graduates know the meaning of "alma mater" would consider remedial core coursework - the math(s) typically goes from high school freshman level through Calculus II or if ambitious, maybe Differential Equations.

The comedian Chris Rock should help put things in perspective: "Community college is like a disco with books: 'Here's ten dollars; let me get my learn on!'"

Are you at RIT? (2)

spooje (582773) | more than 2 years ago | (#41444665)

A bajillion years ago when I went to college we had an intro to computer course that was the same kind of thing. How to send e-mail, use word and maybe something else like that. I ended up failing the class because I was so bored I never went.

I went to the head of my department, explained what happened and asked if I could take a higher level course and count that as the Intro to Computing credits. He took a look at the course description of the new class I wanted to take, he approved it, I got an A, credits satisfied, case closed.

They have to teach something (2)

chrismcb (983081) | more than 2 years ago | (#41444669)

Couldn't they just teach people to create documents, etc., and let them use any office software, like Libre Office?

In a word, not really. They COULD teach you to create documents in Libre Office. Or they could teach you to create them in Word, in Notepad, in vi, or any other random product. BUT I would expect they don't really have time to teach you how to "create documents, etc" and then let you use ANYTHING. Because you know, all those different products work differently.
The teacher needs to take something, and teach you how to use that. The teacher doesn't have time to teach you the same thing in other products. Teaching one of the most widely used pieces of software in an "Intro" course seems like a pretty good thing to do.
Can you ask them to change it? Sure. But you need to be much more descriptive on how they can change it, and make sure you understand what the average person, who doesn't know anything about computers, should learn.
Also keep in mind that Office is the currently the #1 word processing software out there. Most people will end up using that in the workforce. But if they don't they'll use a product that copies Office.

Heh (2)

Greyfox (87712) | more than 2 years ago | (#41444673)

30 years later you're still willing to accept a course that has no value to you, for what? I'm sure you could have tested out of something that basic. Ultimately YOU are responsible for your education, and YOU choose what you get out of it! You're the one paying for it! If you feel they're wasting your time with the course, don't take the course!

Of course, you could use it as an excuse to hit on girls who are 30 years younger than you...

Re:Heh (1)

AK Marc (707885) | more than 2 years ago | (#41444891)

I walked into the dean and asked him if I could teach one of my required courses. He said no, but told me that if I got permission from the instructor, I could waive the class and take something else. I talked to the instrucctor. Turns out one of my coworkers was a friend of his. I told him what I do and for whom, and he gave me a waiver out of intro to networking. At the time, I was the Network Architect for the 3rd largest ISP in the state. I took a GIS class instead. I've never used GIS, but it was so much more interesting than sleeping through an easy A.

Me too.. (1)

naelurec (552384) | more than 2 years ago | (#41444675)

I had the same thought when going through the same class. I was hoping to simply test out of it -- ended up compromising with the professor and was able to get all of the class material ahead of time (finished it within two days) but had to take the tests on test days (which I assume is understandable to minimize cheating).

A prior learning assessment would have been nice but atleast it got me out of having to attend every class session.

For your goal on attempting to change the course contents -- yah, good luck .. I'm assuming Microsoft is still pouring a LOT of $$$ into the colleges to make sure their software is being used -- definitely very annoying as other software choices are more than adequate and would require learning concepts vs following step-by-step directions (nothing more frustrating than watching someone pull out a step-by-step instruction sheet and have absolutely NO clue what is actually happening within the program to give them their results).

Should not be about software (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41444679)

Course should really be about hardware. They can then build up to software. Knowing how memory works, device drivers, etc. would be good. A+ certification for new IT students, who should later move on to servers and networking, IMHO.

Why not start with the basics? (2)

Ichijo (607641) | more than 2 years ago | (#41444689)

I would think an "introduction to computing" course would start with the basics, such as how to use the mouse, how to double-click, how to right click, how to select and drag, how to copy and paste, how the filesystem works (and where files go when you download them, please not the desktop), and so on.

Follow that with how create and unpack compressed archives, how to copy files, how to burn a CD, how to backup and restore, and how and why to avoid logging in as administrator. It's unfortunate that these are considered to be advanced topics, when they really ought to be taught early.

Once you've learned all that, then you can progress on to task-specific software, such as MS-Office.

One reason people have so many problems with computers and they ask us for help is because they don't learn these things in the right order.

Re:Why not start with the basics? (1)

the_B0fh (208483) | more than 2 years ago | (#41444783)

For one whole semester? Seriously?

Microsoft Owns College (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41444691)

I hate to say it, but going to college for CS these days is akin to attending a 4 year long Microsoft sales seminar.

The purpose of most PCs is to... (1)

couchslug (175151) | more than 2 years ago | (#41444693)

...communicate with other Windows PC using Microsoft Office.
That sucks but it's the truth. Teaching anything different to MOST students wouldn't be productive use of THEIR time.

That lovely Cengage book with the expensive SAM code and annoying "read the book do book exercises do SAM 2010 exercises then test" could have been reduced to a less-profitable DVD and SAM 2010 access for tests only, but such is life.

Take the course online, get the credit, move on with life. Student aid is paying my way so a fuck I do not give. Office 2010 and Windows 7 run fine in Virtualbox (if you want audio on a Linux host use a 64-bit host with appropriate Virtualbox version) so no problem.

Test out of it (if you can) (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41444709)

My funds were pretty limited when I was in college so luckily I was allowed to test out of the Intro to Computing class (which, like yours, was basically an Office primer stretched to fill a semester). It cost far less, got me full credit for the course, and I didn't have to blow $100+ on books.

Depends on Discipline (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41444721)

Lookup E115 at NC State University for Engineering Students: []

1 credit hour course with pass / fail option. Students who have the knowledge can take the exam at the beginning of their first semester and skip the course entirely. Other groups (Physical and Mathematical Sciences, Agricultural and Life Sciences, etc.) offer a similar course tailored for their students. Textbook was custom-made and cost less than $20.

In short, you won't win the argument to have an "introduction to computing" class any less generalized. You can, however, recommend significant improvements in course material based on what peer colleges/universities are doing. AND, further, if you want to DESIGN said courses tailored to a diverse student population and each populations unique requirements, I don't see a Dean turning down the opportunity to at least listen to somebody who is passionate about their coursework and can offer constructive feedback.

Best of luck if you decide to pursue it that far.

The problem's the program, not the class. (3)

goodmanj (234846) | more than 2 years ago | (#41444739)

The Slashdot crowd is going to rave that this course should be about hardware, or computer fundamentals, or at least include open-source alternatives. But I disagree: this class does need to exist, so the elderly, the disadvantaged, and the recently immigrated can get some basic workplace skills. It could use a different name, but the content is important. And yes, it does have to be Office. Teaching anything else would be like teaching typing on Dvorak keyboards.

The problem isn't the class, it's that the submitter is required to take it. He/she should be able to get out of it by talking to an advisor, or taking a placement test, or something. Shame on his/her school for being so inflexible.

Go to another college, and tell them why. (1)

the_B0fh (208483) | more than 2 years ago | (#41444771)

This is not an Intro to computer class. This is an Intro to Microsoft Office class.


No computers when I went to college... (1)

mspohr (589790) | more than 2 years ago | (#41444777)

When I went to college, there were no computers. Well, no personal computers. We had a "computer center" where we could submit Fortran programs on punched cards.
Anyway, I found a few odd room sized computers tucked away in various corners (IBM 1620 and DEC PDP-8) and used these as personal computers to learn to program.
Word processing, spreadsheets, etc. all came later and I just learned these as they came along.
The point... if you have to take an introductory course in how to use MS Office, they are wasting your time.

Here's the Real Question (1)

fm6 (162816) | more than 2 years ago | (#41444795)

Q: Whoever wrote the syllabus for this class is a total idiot who has no idea what "Introduction to Computing" should be about. What can I do about it?

A. LOL. If you have that kind of messiah complex, I suggest you start with something easy, like ending world hunger.

Try another school... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41444817)

At my school, the introduction to computer science course is essentially an introduction to the computer science curriculum: mathematical logic, computer programming, computer architecture, and a bit of theoretical computer science (discrete mathematics and computability). In addition to this course, there are several 1-credit courses (usually each course is 3 credits) that cover specific languages -- everything from C to Javascript. The school recently switched from Java to Python as an introductory language, but the higher-level courses frequently choose languages that are suitable to the subject -- software engineering is taught in Java to teach object-oriented design principles while courses like parallel programming are taught in IBM's X10 programming language since it is developed specifically for writing distributed software. So my advice is not to try to convince the school to do something different -- each school, after all, caters to its student population -- but rather to do a little research into the curriculum of the school and make that the basis for choosing which to attend.

have you looked around that class? (1)

modmans2ndcoming (929661) | more than 2 years ago | (#41444819)

There are people who ACTUALLY do not know how to turn on them choice of software is not the primary concern, nor is teaching office the primary is learning to use a PC by way of using a meaningful software product to prepare them for collage work.

Re:have you looked around that class? (1)

EmagGeek (574360) | more than 2 years ago | (#41444927)

I would think collage work would only require some construction paper, glue sticks, scissors, and imagination?

Service courses. (2)

Yaztromo (655250) | more than 2 years ago | (#41444821)

Most colleges and universities offer these sorts of "service courses"; a sort of out-sourcing of expertise from one (or more) department(s) to another.

They are often required by students of non-CompSci degrees in order to become familiar with the basic software in use by their respective departments, in order to permit those departments to focus more time on teaching the material, and not the software.

Many faculties/departments have very exacting standards for how reports are formatted (i.e.: APA formatting and citations), or require Excel and/or Access experience due to their use in their faculties for data retention/organization/statistical analysis. Never mind that computing may have better solutions for these -- many of the professors in these departments aren't interested in computing, have a good knowledge of MS Office, and use it as a golden hammer to fit all their needs. They're interested in furthering their research, and not learning other toolsets. They want the students working under them to have a basic knowledge of the same tools as again, their purpose isn't to teach general purpose computing, but to get those students up and running quickly to further their own areas of research.

When I was doing my graduate work, I had several occasions to teach classes such as this (and several that were significantly more advanced). For some of them, we taught basically MS Office, a bit of RDBMS, and a little bit of scripting (Perl). We had other courses teaching C and FORTRAN to students studying other sciences (Physics, Chemistry, etc.). Typically, such courses are restricted such that CS students (and those in related fields of study) are disallowed from taking them, seeing as how they're considered far too basic.

Fortunately, most good schools (particularly if they have a COmputer Science department) do offer more advanced courses which you can take if you so desire. If you already have sufficient expertise in the area at hand, talk to a student advisor about an exemption (many of these courses, where they are mandatory, can be skipped if you can show sufficient proficiency in the subject matter at hand).


No (2)

jayhawk88 (160512) | more than 2 years ago | (#41444849)

Look, the school get Office for basically nothing thanks to their campus agreement. They can easily push it out/update it/manage it with software they already have. Why should the put Libra or whatever on there and make the grad students teaching that intro course deal with more things than they need to?

Oh and BTW, yes they need to spend most of the time teaching Office because that the skill 90% of the people in that class need. Maybe the Bohemian Design Studio in Palo Alto won't let filthy Microsoft software touch their hard drives, but most of the people in this course aren't going to have any say in what they're expected to use (nor are they going to give two shits), and it's going to be Office. That's reality.

The real question is, what the fuck are you doing in CS 101? Go talk to your instructor for God's sake and test out of that bitch already. Or at least just show up for the tests.

Its what employers want (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41444859)

Since college is just about getting a non burger flipper job they need to train students so the college looks better to HR.

I see nothing wrong with this as its a valuable lesson. What you need to do is gain exception for this. I showed my dean my resume and he laughed and said do not worry about it.

Replace it! (1)

rueger (210566) | more than 2 years ago | (#41444873)

Simple, create a new version of the course, with a textbook that offers 97% PROFIT instead the usual textbook mark up of 95%. They'll flock to it in droves. Especially if the book retails for $200+.

You're in the wrong course, the course isn't wrong (5, Insightful)

Sir_Sri (199544) | more than 2 years ago | (#41444901)

But beyond that, why does it have to be all about MS Office and nothing else? Couldn't they just teach people to create documents, etc., and let them use any office software, like Libre Office?

We tried this at the last school I was at. If by the time you get to university you can't create a document in word, you're not going to learn to use libre office in 12 weeks. We have to teach behaviours before we can expect much understanding, and a course textbook that is about MS office is decidedly at the level of giving basic behaviours without underlying principles.

The problem with people who are completely computer illiterate is that high minded ideas about teaching them 'principles' is a step ahead of them, at least by the time they're university or college age. They're scared of breaking anything, and you're jumping the gun asking for more than that.

I know doing it the way they do now is easy for the college, but it's not really teaching students much about what they can do with computers.

Nor is that the point. If the course is a book in Office the class is targeted at people who know next to nothing and trying to get them to the point of accomplishing basic tasks that will be useful in university.

So when the class is over, I plan to write a letter to the college asking them to change the course as I suggested above. I'm not real hopeful

Nor should you be. It's not a good idea. We can seat 400 kids in a class about how to use MS word whereas the next largest CS course is 120, with an entrance class in science of about 6000. Exceptionally basic classes are popular because so many students know next to nothing. The Deans office likes these classes because they put seats in chairs, the other science departments like us because their TA's don't have to cover basic things like how to do bullet points in a document, etc. It's sad, but this is the reality of computer literacy. Complaining to the dean is just going to make you unpopular with the department because you're trying to make people look bad, when absolutely everyone knows how pathetic it is that this is required. But you can't control worldwide highschool curriculum.

Look, I realize you're trying to help. But you're not. You're in the wrong class. It's that simple. If your university/college has an actual computer science programme absolutely no one in that department, who is running the course, thinks this is the level we really want students to be at. But you have to realize we still get foreign students who've never lived with regular electricity, and most of the domestic ones basically open word and start mashing buttons to type, they don't actually know anything. These are exceptionally basic courses because the people coming in are at an exceptionally basic level, and that's the market that needs to be served. It shouldn't be a university level credit, but no one would take it if we only gave a college level credit for it (they have other things to spend time on), and that means it attracts people looking for some free easy marks, there's no way to avoid that, but for the people who actually need this level of material (which is a lot of students, and a lot more who don't even realize they need this level of material) what you're suggesting is completely disconnected from their reality.

Do folks out there have any good suggestions as to what might be the most persuasive arguments I can make?"

Literally the only argument is that students shouldn't need this in the first place, which isn't even true. Everything else is you just living in a bubble of 'first world problems' so to speak.

We, I kid you not, have students majoring in computer science and electrical engineering where I am that grew up without electricity, and their first plane flight was to come here. It's mostly a India/China/Africa thing, but it's rare that someone from China or india hasn't had at least some exposure to computers or electricity by now. The students who are domestic have been saddled with this (completely wrongheaded) idea that 'oh kids all understand computers' or 'kids understand computers better than the teachers in highschool (which sadly, is on average true)', so no one ever taught them how to do basic things, like do a presentation with powerpoint, graph things in excel or write a document properly in word with page numbers, expecting them to grasp a concept like a 'file folder' or a 'file is a document that can be opened' is far too advanced to open up with. A course like this has to be task focused - how to accomplish basic computing tasks they will need in the next 4 years. We hope to not scare them off so they can learn something more theoretical in a year or two, but usually this type of thing is enough.

For reference, the class averages in such basic 'make a word document' type courses at the last two universities I've been at have been in the reasonable 70's range. That tells you a lot about the computer literacy of entering students.

Re:You're in the wrong course, the course isn't wr (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41444997)

This is pretty much the only correct answer under the article.

College: The New Remedial High School (1)

fast turtle (1118037) | more than 2 years ago | (#41444907)

that's right, College isn't geared for people trying to learn something useful. Instead it's become the place where people go to learn what they should have in High School instead of screwing around with drugs or playing WoW. My College has a required test that if you pass, you don't need to take the Intro to Computers class as it's geared for those that have limited/no access to a computer. Another issue is that college is where folks go to learn job skills instead of the critical thinking skills you need for a PHD/Masters program. The BS/BA has become a joke in this country as it now takes 6 years to complete due to how poor our schools are preparing folks for University and Critical Thinking. Thank you PC folks. Everyone is no longer responsible for their own fate and should look to the "Fatherland" to support and correct them.

MS Office (2)

erp_consultant (2614861) | more than 2 years ago | (#41444911)

Perhaps they are teaching MS Office because people are very likely to use it in whatever office environment they might work in. We can debate the virtues of MS Office vs Libre Office but what is certain is that MS Office is far and away the most popular office package on the market. Maybe MS donated a bunch of software to the university and in return they are teaching courses on it. Who knows? Personally, I'd just take the course credit and move on. Sometimes you've just got to pick your battles ;-)

Depends (1)

evil_aaronm (671521) | more than 2 years ago | (#41444921)

Not the "adult diaper" sort. If it's a university, or maybe a college, then this is inappropriate: one would think that the purpose of these institutions is to teach a higher form of abstract thinking. I stress, "one would think." If it's a trade school, then you're expected to know how to function in a typical working environment when you leave. This means, for better or (mostly) worse, MS Office.

I don't know if you can fix it. You can talk with your dean of CS, or the closest approximation, and share your concerns, but he or she probably feels the course content is appropriate. It was selected for some reason.

Like others have said, either test out or take the class and get the easy grade, and then bitch about it. You can always spread word amongst your associates that Podunk U. is not a quality education.

Don'tHigh Schools these days do the same thing? (1)

prehistoricman5 (1539099) | more than 2 years ago | (#41444925)

The High School that I went to had something like this. I never had to take it however because I was in the magnet program and they shoehorned the test into the first week of the intro CS course.

Talk to the Department Head (1)

tcort (538018) | more than 2 years ago | (#41444955)

Writing a letter "to the college" usually has little impact. The suggestions usually don't filter down to the right people. From my experience (4 years in University, 3 years in College), the right person to talk to is the department head. While the course professor has some flexibility, he or she isn't likely to be able to change a "How to use MS Office" course into an actual computing course. The department head can instigate broader course changes, with the proper approval from stakeholders and higher ups. Also, I'd suggest talking to the department head if possible instead of writing a letter.

Take the life-preparation approach (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41445029)

In my opinion, the only approach that's likely to have purchase with anyone in power is simply to be upfront. Don't talk about LibreOffice or Linux or anything; the specific tools that are taught are and should be up to the professor. But explain that simply learning how to use an office software suite is very narrow. Say, "Based on my experience working in an office, I think this course material is very shallow and incomplete. I think it could be improved by covering a more varied range of software and going into more depth on computer basics. After all, most people will use more than just an office suite in their jobs, and would benefit from a deeper understanding of computers in general."

If you like, emphasize that just office-suite knowledge would have been fine some years ago, but nowadays office workers are expected to use software to do pretty much everything, not just create documents. You may also mention that most students are already at least somewhat familiar with office software (everybody who graduates nowadays had to use it in high school), but may not have a good understanding of *computers*, in a general sense.

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