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The Computer Science Major Curriculum: A Rationale


Computer Science is simultaneously one of the most pragmatic disciplines and one of the most conceptual.   

It must be pragmatic because of the rapid pace of technological change.   Not only computer professionals but virtually everyone who is a more than casual user of computers is continually confronted with new tools to be learned and skills to be mastered.  Members of the technical cadre that produce all this technology for us are not exempt: they also must learn ever more rapidly evolving methodologies if they are to continue to contribute to the progress of the field.  These societal and professional growth needs require that a Computer Science curriculum undergo continual review and evolution.   Its graduates must be suitably equipped to "hit the ground running" ? to begin performing productive work without extensive additional training.   Therefore, appropriate courses should include treatment of up-to-date and in-demand operating systems, languages, tools and applications ? the pragmatic features of the discipline.

On the other hand, the education provided must be conceptual because any specific instance of pragmatic content may have a relatively short useful life.   Keeping up with the latest new tools and methods is done most effectively when the conceptual component of the undergraduate education has provided a strong base.   New developments may then be understood not as isolated phenomena but as additions or changes within an already well-established broader framework.   The efforts and costs involved in acquiring new skills are lessened if the basic education has provided a sufficiently conceptual understanding of the field.

In order to achieve pragmatism and conceptuality simultaneously, Computer Science courses at Salem State College have been designed around fundamental ideas and application areas in the field (as indicated in the course titles).   Concepts are presented through the medium of real, current examples, reviewed and updated frequently, in order to include the strong pragmatic flavor desired.