Oxford College of Emory's introductory computer science course sparks interest

Oxford College of Emory, a private Methodist college in Georgia, is taking a hands-on approach to introducing students to computer science.

Oxford College students taking the college’s Introduction to Computer Science course have the opportunity to try writing programs to fulfill a plethora of computing tasks. Paul Oser, who is a senior mathematics lecturer and teaches the programming course, said letting students get first-hand knowledge by creating and designing computer programs gives them a deeper education experience.

“I try to make all of the programs on which they work authentic – like photo filters, video games, encryption software, fractal generators, or tools that model things mathematically -- to demonstrate that the language and algorithms they learn are useful in everyday life,” Oser said.

Students working in the lab section of the computer science course build two or three Java-based programs each week, which are designed to give them experience in both text and graphic-based programs. Many of the non-graphic programs are mathematical and are built to find prime factors, generate geographic shapes, analyze statistics, or generate numeric codes.

When students move on to graphics-based programs, they have the ability to create fractal generators, simple video games, card and dice games, photo editing programs, and virtual clocks. That has made the class even more popular, Oser said.

“A few years ago the course was once every other year,” Oser said. “As demand has increased, the course has grown explosively -- it’s now offered once every semester. We even added the follow-up course CS 171 last semester."

Oxford College is Emory University's freshman/sophomore college on the university's original campus, which is 38 miles east of Atlanta. The two-year residential college specializes in the foundations of liberal arts education.

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Oxford College of Emory University

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