CS125, the "new", "honors-ish" Algorithms and Complexity course, got off to a good start today. The room was full with not enough seats for people, the students asked good questions and responded well to questions asked, and we got through the amount of material I expected. It's year 2 of the class, which is easier than year 1 in some ways (lots of material prepared), and possibly harder in others (some thinking about what needs to be tweaked or fixed from year 1). We'll see how things shake out next week, but I'm expecting we'll be in the 30-40 student range, like last year. I can never tell if I managed to scare students off or make them want to take it. (The challenge is that I want to do both; scare off people without sufficient background, but interest students who do but might not realize it and might not even be Computer Science majors.) Pleasantly, I felt very excited during and after the lecture, and will try to hold on to that positive energy.
In other, much much stranger news, Harvard's CS50 appears to have a "backlash" movement, as described in today's Crimson article. Apparently, according to some, there's intense "social pressure" to take CS50, and students need to be told that it's OK not to take the class. I find this quite odd and, from my vantage point, misguided. (Of course, I'm not a college freshman.) I can't recall any such organized movement against Economics 10 at Harvard, which has been for decades now the most popular class at Harvard, although even when I was a student there was something one could potentially call cult-like about it. (Cult of Wall Street....) But that didn't mean people complained; if you didn't want to take the class, you didn't, not really a thing. Sure, the CS department here has been actively trying to attract students for decades -- CS50 was a good-sized class even before David Malan took over -- and David has just been very successful at it, with a combination of organization, interesting material, vision, and, yes, good marketing. Naturally, here in CS, we believe that in our idealized world nearly all undergraduates would have a CS course as part of their liberal arts education, and we provide several other entry courses besides CS50. I was initially thinking the movement described in the article was just a joke, and maybe I'm being April Fooled, but I'm not sure where those responsible are coming from.
And speaking of bringing in students to CS, Ben Golub and Yaron Singer are doing a new Econ-CS class at Harvard (counts for either; also good for Applied Math majors) simply entitled Networks. I'm a bit jealous -- this is a class I've thought about teaching also, but was busy and happy teaching algorithms -- but hopefully now that they've started it up it means I'll get a chance to teach it some year(s) down the line.
More insight into whether our enrollment numbers are still rising (is that still possible?) next week...