Monday, September 12, 2011

Blogging Again?

My thoughts that I would blog more over the summer, during academic "down time", turned out more of a fiction than I would have thought.  The summer proved remarkably busy, with plenty of research, administration, consulting (the economy must be coming back?), and, more enjoyably, time with the kids.  The blog was low priority.

With the school year starting, I actually feel I have things to say, so we'll try again.

Classes have started, and Harvard's continuing growth in CS, well, it continues.  Our intro CS course ended up with about 500 students last year;  this year, we've currently got 650 enrolled.  Our 2nd semester programming course designed primarily for majors has gone from 70 to 110 enrolled.  Most importantly for me, our intro theory course (the Turing machine class) went from about 55 to 75.  My algorithms and data structures class tends to be just a few less than that 2nd semester, so I'll have to plan for a jump up.  (My biggest year was 90, back in the (last) bubble days;  I'm not sure we'll ever get back there, as students have more class choices now.)

Really, we're trying to put more resources early in the pipeline to attract students to the intro course -- and we seem to be in a healthy positive feedback loop, which is (over time) pushing all the numbers up in later courses.  Apparently tech is popular again.   

I'm teaching randomized algorithms and probabilistic analysis, a graduate course that splits 1/2 grad and 1/2 undergrad.  Currently I have 23 students, which is a nice and healthy but not earth-shattering number. 

It's exciting to come back and see these numbers continuing to go up.  No wonder we're #2 on Newsweek's Schools for Computer Geeks.  (And no, we don't take that seriously.)  Besides giving some evidence that we're on the right track, it should make the case for hiring more in CS easier to make.


Anonymous said...

"Our 2nd semester programming course designed primarily for majors". Are you referring to CS51? If so, I think there were a bit over 160 students.

Michael Mitzenmacher said...

No, I was referring to CS61 (offered in the fall; CS 51 is offered in the spring). CS 51 is our 2nd semester programming class, but includes fewer elements of systems programming. Either CS 51 or 61 can be taken for the concentration, but 61 is perhaps designed a bit more with majors in mind.

You are right that CS51 tends to attract more students, perhaps because it's in the spring right after 50. We're now expecting something like 200-250 for CS 51 next semester -- which is great!!!