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UNC Charlotte Computer Science Program Review

04 Nov

I am going to review the UNCC computer science program from a parent prospective.  I have not been the one who sits in the classes, I only get to hear about what my son has experienced while on campus but I think this perspective is still important as parents consider programs for their children.  I am a former college professor so I know the value of a good school and the inner workings of colleges and universities (to some extent, every school is VERY different), however, with this additional experience it can give prospective parents and students things to consider.

The first question I ask myself when considering a program at a college/university (from now on I will just write college since it is shorter, but I mean college or university) is “How good is the program/major that my child is interested in?”  Related to that question are some sub-questions, “What is the reputation of the school with regards to that program?”  “What level and variety of classes are offered within that program?”  “Who are teaching the classes?”  “How many classes are required?”  “What are the specific classes required?”  “Are the required classes actually mostly within the field itself or are they pulling a lot of classes from other fields to fill the degree because they don’t have enough classes in that area?”

So let’s analyze each of those for UNCC:

1.  “What is the reputation of the school with regards to that program?” – For NC schools, UNCC probably doesn’t have the BEST reputation, however, within some specific fields it does have a better reputation and computer science is one of those fields.  It is “up and coming,” as they say.  NC State and UNC – CH are probably two other schools that good reputations in the STEM areas but UNC- CH falls short in some of the other areas where UNCC does not.  If you look at general reputation, UNCC is probably not the winner though, I would say NC State is, but I did not hear bad things in terms of a reputation of UNCC computer science when we applied – so if I were to give this area a grade, it would get a C.

2.   “What level and variety of classes are offered within that program?” – This is where UNCC outshines most other NC schools.  Look at the course selections at the different schools.  UNCC has a very large variety and selection of classes, I would give it an A.

3.  “Who are teaching the classes?” – When we spoke with the department head at the school before applying he said there were “teaching faculty” at the school.  Faculty who are meant to teach only and not divide time between research and teaching.  This usually means improved teaching.  However, overall, my son reports that his professors have not been that great.  On the other hand, this is not uncommon for many schools and he has only attended one other school with mostly online classes so I can’t compare this other NC schools.  There have been a few good professors in the game design classes he has taken that he really likes but overall, his professors are probably a C+.

4.  “How many classes are required?”  This can be a good thing or a bad thing.  If too few classes are required (especially if the department is pulling in engineering classes and a lot of science classes instead of computer science classes as major requirements) the student doesn’t learn enough and that is a bad thing.  If too many classes are required, it can make it difficult to graduate in four years because there is no breathing room.  UNCC has too many requirements.  You can end up with only 1 credit of true electives which means transfer students cannot graduate in four years.  UNCC needs to cut back a little, however, there are many other schools who need to require more to make sure students are prepared for the work force.   I give UNCC a D because they are just too tight, taking out their required minor (they don’t call it that but it is essentially what it is) would allow students more flexibility.

5.  “What are the specific classes required?”   “Are the required classes actually mostly within the field itself or are they pulling a lot of classes from other fields to fill the degree because they don’t have enough classes in that area?”  When we looked at many different programs and what classes were required in the major, the classes were a handful of computer science classes and then filler classes from other programs, they might include 2 physics classes and 2 biology classes or chemistry classes, others were 3-4 classes from the Engineering degree program.  I want the computer science degree to be focused on COMPUTER SCIENCE, if my son wants to take additional sciences or engineering, he should have the space in his schedule to do so but chemistry is not going to help him in computer science.  I can see some slight relationships but mostly the reason these courses are there are because they don’t have enough computer science classes to make a full degree so they put these filler “related” classes in.  While if you look at UNCC’s requirements – your non-computer science classes are your math (that all colleges require) – Calc 1, 2, and Linear Algebra (which is needed for computer science), and Statistics.  The other classes are general ed classes that are classes that actually are also computer science related but fulfill general education requirements.  You can take any science you want to with a lab and one without.  All the CS courses make up the degree, my only complaint is the required minor (since it makes the major have too many credit requirements). The student also picks a focus area and then chooses 4 courses within a focus area such as Game Design or Networking – besides the analytical math, there are no outside major classes other than the whole required minor thing (which should go away in my opinion). So, again an A to UNCC in that area.

What are the negatives?  It wouldn’t be fair to not include this – however, I think this is going to be true of most every NC college and most colleges in all the US.  Maybe (and I know nothing about the big name universities and I am probably giving them more respect than they deserve) schools with high CS reputations are better at this…

** There is not enough time spent in situations that mimic real world job situations to prepare them for the work force

**They don’t spend enough time coding in classes, too much time listening to lectures instead of coding and getting real world experience

**There should be more hands on labs with challenging problems.

**There should be a class for seniors where the teachers work through interview questions on data structures and programming problems

In conclusion, UNCC has a lot to offer from the CS degree.  It is an affordable school, a beautiful campus, and my son seemed to enjoy his three years on campus.  We liked that they had the Game Design focus and other schools were not offering that at the time although finding jobs in the game industry post graduation is difficult.

 

 
 

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