Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Introduction and Thoughts on Computer Science Online Learning

Hello, I'm Lisa Voss. My surname is very new to me; my husband Sean and I were just married in September 2015 in a wonderful, small ceremony in Italy, where I have extended family and friends. We are happily enjoying married life and generally divide our time between San Francisco, where we reside, and the south bay (south San Jose, Morgan Hill, San Martin, Gilroy), where our families reside. We're all very close; family is very important to us.

Apart from four years spent attending the UC in Santa Barbara and a few years afterward traveling and working in the UK, I've lived in Silicon Valley my entire life.  When I think about my early education and growing up here in relation to Computer Science, some memories include the former IBM Campus, Building 25 at Cottle Road across the street, where they were researching disk drives (since the late 1950s); trips to Fry's and the range of OS, software and Internet of the times to which I had just started to get access; or my good performance in math and science classes.

Yet, I still didn’t feel I had any academic or real personal exposure to Computer Science, and studying it or one day becoming a web developer was outside my realm of imaginable possibilities. I often wonder why or how this could have been the case. For this reason, Ashley Gavin's great TEDxNYU talk, "Computer Science Education: Why Does It Suck So Much and What If It Didn’t?," was very interesting to me.  Her perspective and opinion on improving educational techniques and outreach are tenable and have a lot of merit.  Similarly, reasons behind the small proportion of women enrolled in Computer Science and STEM field majors, which she touched upon, has lead to a lot of personal introspection for me, and could, perhaps, be the topic of future research and blogging.  (I certainly have preliminary questions that I'd like resolved, as was recommended in ESC's Online Writing Center as a place to start when designing and drafting an essay.)  

My strong, personal interests in social justice, political theory and environmental protection ultimately led me complete a BA in Political Science, which I received from UCSB in 2005.  While it was tremendously educational, I nonetheless think that I would have been far better suited in terms of personality and skills to a career related to the STEM fields.  This is not to say there aren't similarities between CS and PolSci.  I've often read that computer programming teaches one how to think, and I believe that also to be the case with PolSci or Law.  Both require research, problem solving, math or statistics, analysis and strong logic.  Additionally, as we've read this week in Hansen's "Writing Skills: More Important Than Ever on the Job," contemporary, ubiquitous e-mail usage requires workers in many fields to develop decent writing skills, which I did there and we are also doing here. Lastly, I think sometimes both technology and politics share the same aims, to build better things, pursue a better world.  So, now, after having spent the last few years completing numerous online coding tutorials, building a handful of websites, attending Computer Science classes at Foothill College and joining some local WomenWhoCode Meet-ups, I’m happy with my decision to fully commit to what was my newfound passion for software/web development, and am ready to keep learning.

Therefore, ten years following my first university graduation, with professional interests and goals that have significantly changed, I’m so pleased to have found a school in CSUMB that shares a lot of the values I learned during my first course of study, and which will provide me a remedy for my lingering regret that I had not pursued a BS in Computer Science a lot earlier. I’m excited at the prospect of becoming an active part of and contributor to what is happening in tech in Silicon Valley. I’m thrilled to have this opportunity to gain fluency in coding languages and learn about the industry, under what looks like will be a rigorous, comprehensive and efficient curriculum. 

It's great to be underway with this program!  Computer Science is particularly well suited to online learning, in itself, and I am a big fan when appreciating the novel flexibility it allows because I will be able to work while completing my degree. Further, online learning compels me to self-reliance, resolve and researching, which are so important when solving difficult coding challenges. Incidentally, online learning is neither the retreat of the shy and introverted student. On the contrary, right from Orientation, I’ve seen that there is a lot and, arguably, in my case, more student-instructor interfacing than I ever had in the on-campus lecture classroom, which is to give no fault other than to my own shyness, in so much as I am required to regularly and often write or speak to my progress, this on a weekly basis.

I have experience attending online courses, having completed five pre-requisite or others of interest at Foothill College. I am on the Java track there, so I am currently supplementing my formal studies with an old C/C++ text. I'd like an extensive skill set with regards to variety of languages. Apart from garbage collection and some other concepts, which are certainly significant, I'm thinking the difference between the two is largely syntactical, rather than structural, in the sense that they’re both OOP languages.  Surely this is too simplistic.  Also, my logic skills are improving, and my memorization skills need to follow suit! Repetition and practice help a lot to that end. Other online courses I completed include Python, Introduction to Unix/Linux and JavaScript.


TEDx Talks, & Gavin, A. (2015, July 21). Computer science education: why does it suck so
     much and what if it didn’t? | Ashley Gavin | TEDxNYU. Retrieved January 07, 2016, from

ESC Online Writing Center. (2016). Retrieved January 11, 2016, from http://www.esc.edu/online-

Hansen, K. (2015). Writing skills: more important than ever on the job | QuintCareers. Retrieved
     January 12, 2016, from http://www.quintcareers.com/writing-skills-on-job/

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