Dr. A. Joseph Turner: Challenges/Trends in Computing Education/Accreditation; Work as Journal Editor

This is the next interview in the continuing series of Computing Canada’s (CC) Blogged Down (BD) which is featured here “first” in the Canadian IT Managers (CIM) forum.

Dr. Joe TurnerIn this blog series , we continue our talk with Dr. A. Joseph Turner: internationally regarded computer science authority and educator; Professor Emeritus, Clemson. The blog series started on Friday November 3rd with Dr. Turner’s profile.

Stephen: You received the ACM SIGSCE Award for Lifetime Service, ACM Outstanding Contribution Award, and you are an ACM Fellow. Moreover you received recognition as Teacher of the Year. You have a unique position of accumulated wisdom. What do you see as the major challenges facing computing education and can you share your insights on how they can be resolved? What are the trends in computing education and how can we meet the challenge?

Joe: I see two primary challenges for computing education. One is to provide programs of study that meet the needs of industry, and to do this in a way that prepares students for lifelong learning to keep up with changing technologies and new concepts. There is some doubt that our traditional "computer science" programs in North America are appropriate for most industry needs and student interests. This is not to say that there is no longer a need for computer science programs, because computer science will continue to play a role in pushing the foundational boundaries of computing and there will continue to be a need for computer science (and engineering) graduates for many jobs.

But I think it is likely that enrollments in traditional computer science/engineering programs will become less than enrollments in other programs such as information technology and information systems.

A second challenge is to attract enough students into computing programs to meet the demand for skills in computing. This is not unrelated to the challenge of developing more appropriate programs of study, because some students do not find traditional programs in computer science or information systems interesting. However there are additional problems due primarily to a belief that computing jobs in North America are rapidly diminishing because of offshoring and the continuing effects of the dot-com bust. Despite government reports to the contrary and pronouncements (or even pleas) from the computing industry that there is a continuing need for well-educated graduates, potential students and their parents persist in fearing that majoring in a computing discipline will result in few, if any, job opportunities. The ACM has published an excellent report, "Globalization and Offshoring of Software", that addresses many of the myths that persist, and the ACM also has launched a brochure and website that are aimed at providing information about computing careers that will attract more students into computing majors. But it remains to be seen whether these and other efforts to reverse the trend of declining enrollments will succeed.

Stephen: You serve as a member of the Computing Accreditation Commission (CAC) of ABET. What are the top issues?

Joe: I don't think that I can identify THE top issues, and I can't speak for CAC or ABET. But in a sense our continuing top issue is how to provide an accreditation process that is fair, respected, and of the highest quality. This is easier said than done, because the accreditation process is carried out mostly by hundreds of volunteers. Almost all of these volunteers are incredibly dedicated and competent, but of course with that many people who have primary demands on their time from jobs and family, it is difficult to avoid some situations where the level of performance by a volunteer is less than what is desired. It also is a challenge to maintain a process that clearly allows flexibility and innovation in programs without allowing inadequate programs to satisfy the requirements.

One of the current challenges that ABET faces is what to do in the international arena. ABET has some mutual recognition agreements with other accreditation agencies in English-speaking countries, but there are increasing requests for accreditation from institutions in other countries. This all ties in to the globalization of the world's economies and increasing internationalization of curricula that are designed to achieve common outcomes. ABET does not currently accredit programs that are outside the US except in institutions that have ties to the US and are accredited by a US institutional accrediting agency, but the increasing demand from programs outside the US for ABET accreditation is causing this policy to be reexamined.

Stephen: You continue to provide Editorial Services with Education and Information Technologies, Informatica Didactica, and the Journal on Educational Resources in Computing. Can you describe your work? What are the top challenges in these roles? What do you hope to accomplish?

Joe: My work as an editor involves recruiting and assigning reviews to reviewers, and then reviewing the reviews and making a recommendation on acceptance of submitted papers. I also do some reviews myself. The purpose of the work is the standard purpose for academic publications: to identify and publish significant contributions to the expansion of knowledge in the field, and to ensure that the work that is published is original and sound through qualified peer evaluation.

One of the challenges is to ensure that the results have not been published elsewhere, which is becoming increasingly difficult because of the proliferation of venues for publication.
In the next blog, Joe will talk about the future direction of international IT societies and professional credentialing, evaluation of Comp. Sci. programs, and past lessons/stories.

I also encourage you to share your thoughts here on these interviews or send me an e-mail at sibaraki@cips.ca.

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Thank you,
Stephen Ibaraki, FCIPS, I.S.P.

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