Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Enrollments Up

The last two years, we've seen a huge increase in enrollments in our introductory computer science course. Last year it was about double the size it was the previous year; this year, it looks like it's gone up another 50%. Yes, the intro course has about tripled in the last two years.

Part of that might be that we have a new instructor, who is apparently young, dynamic, bringing a more modern perspective, and all those things that inspire students to take introductory courses. Another explanation is that Harvard last year introduced minors (called secondary fields), so now by taking 4 classes you can get a minor in computer science. A more timely explanation is that the financial meltdown is encouraging students to look at computer science and applied math this year (instead of the more commonly popular major of economics).

The gain is starting to translate into other courses. The intro theory course (automata/complexity) is up over 50% from last year.

Needless to say we're excited by this change, although still processing what it means and how to deal with it longer term. Obviously, we're hoping this will help us make the case for more hires...

6 comments:

David said...

Can you say actual numbers?

Michael Mitzenmacher said...

2 years ago -- 132
1 year ago -- 282
this year -- 341

So it turns out I exaggerated this year a little bit; I think 1st day show-ups were over 400, but Harvard has its shopping period, and some fraction (as usual) didn't stay. Still, over 250+% over the last two years.

Anonymous said...

Is enrollment up in the introductory computer science course because there is a greater interest in computer science, or because the material of the course has changed in a way that people see it as a light, fun course? If you are in the latter situation, is this necessarily a good thing?

Anonymous said...

How many are in 121 this year?

Michael Mitzenmacher said...

I'd have to check with Salil for the latest, but I think CS 121 has 81 or 82 enrolled.

Michael Mitzenmacher said...

Anonymous #4: I'm happy to report that CS courses at Harvard, as far as I know, are rarely, if ever, described as "light".

If, however, the latest iteration of the CS 50 course is more "fun" that previous versions, I don't see anything wrong with that. Even though it's my job, I often have fun doing computer science. It's probably OK if students see it as fun also.