Antigonish, Nova Scotia, Canada

Coding, data analytics, technology that’s changing the world part of new offerings in StFX’s computer science program

December 2nd, 2015
L-r, Drs. Laurence Yang, Man Lin, Wendy MacCaull and Iker Gondra

University students who want to understand and develop technology that’s changing the world, have only to look at StFX’s own computer science program.

The department is offering three new courses, one revised course and three new concentrations, all designed to meet the demands of today’s society. Two courses – one in coding and one in computer applications technology – start as early as January 2016, while the rest come on stream in September. Several courses are open to all students, and are designed to give students skills that are valuable for today’s job market. 
“We’ve restructured our degree, offering three new concentrations, one in traditional computing; the second in analytics or data science; and the third, a pre-education stream, designed for those interested in teaching. Students in both the faculties of Arts and Science can major or minor in computer science,” says Dr. Wendy MacCaull, chair of StFX’s Department of Mathematics, Statistics and Computer Science.
“These new concentrations will meet the needs of the many new job opportunities,” she says. “Statistics have shown that if current trends continue, by 2020, there will be one million more computing jobs than students in the U.S. and similar trends are predicted in Canada (see” 
Not only is there a ready job market for those with computer science knowledge, she says, school systems across North America are increasingly recognizing the need for these skills and are beginning to teach fundamentals of computing to children starting as early as elementary school, noting the following story,
And, as activities across all social and economic sectors produce more and more data, demand continues to grow for those with skills to analyze it.
“We’ve put a lot of effort into making computer science more accessible because it’s needed more broadly,” she says.
Dr. MacCaull says at StFX there is lots of opportunity for students to participate in or be exposed to computer science from taking a single course or a pair through to doing a majoring or honuor BA or BSc degree in the discipline.
Computer science professor Dr. Man Lin says she is excited to see that students are provided with more choices to learn something that will allow them to participate in today’s new technology development.
Computer science faculty member Dr. Iker Gondra says “there is no shortage of studies which find that there is an unprecedented demand for computer science education and, consequently, majoring in the discipline leads to excellent job and salary prospects. Furthermore, it’s no secret that computing is quickly becoming indispensable in so many other disciplines. Thus, regardless of a student’s major, minoring in or even just taking a few computer science courses is a huge value for students looking for skills that will give them an edge in the marketplace and make an impact in their career. 
“Besides solid job prospects,” he adds, “computer science is an extremely exciting and intellectually rewarding field that gets you to work in the development of creative technological solutions to real-world problems with the potential to have a strong positive impact on society.”
Computer science colleague Dr. Laurence Yang notes “we are living in a world where billions of gigabytes of data are generated every second about all aspects of our lives. It is evident that the next generation of scientific discovery, technological innovation and business decision-making will be data-driven.”
He’s particularly excited to see the introduction of the analytics stream as data science, which is a new and rising discipline for which many universities have not yet developed any comprehensive stream/degree programs, saying “I’m delighted we are moving in this direction.” 
The faculty members say Nova Scotia plans to incorporate aspects of computing into the curriculum over the next few years so students from Grade 4 up will have fundamental skills in problem solving and coding. Most school age kids are skilled at using programs, but in today’s world they also need to know how to develop these programs.
Dr. Lisa Lunney Borden, chair of the StFX B.Ed. Department, points out that computer science is now a teachable for Nova Scotia high schools, and foresees a demand for teachers knowledgable in aspects of computing science both at the elementary and high schools levels.
Two new courses will start this January and are open to students in any degree program:
In January 2016, StFX will offer, CSCI 128: Computing Literacy and Coding for Problem Solving. The course will teach basic coding and problem solving skills to everyone, and prepare students for careers in the 21st century. Coding will be introduced through multimedia computing including manipulation of images, sound and voice with an easy to use programming language Python. The course is different than the traditional programming course offered to computer science students. The course has been developed in consultation with StFX’s Department of Education, as the need for teaching aspects of computer science in the elementary and secondary school system continues to grow. 
Also offered in the winter term of 2016, is CSCI135: Computer Application Technology. This course enables students to use a variety of software tools to assist in their post-secondary studies and future careers. It will introduce a broad range of information and communication tools essential for analyzing and presenting data, communicating information, organizing and writing papers, and preparing talks, slide presentations and posters, as well as website management. 
Other new courses, Social Issues in the Information Age and Introduction to Data Science will be offered in the academic year 2016-2017. 

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