Could the Humanities Separate our STEM Degree Programs from Bootcamps?

ABOUT THIS EPISODE

Dr. Anne-Marie Núñez, Professor of Educational Studies at The Ohio State University, joined the podcast to talk about the ethical questions our society asks STEM technologists to determine for us today, and whether or not they have the global citizenship awareness to answer them well. 

A lot of individuals do go into science wanting to address social problems and the curriculum maybe less culturally relevant and allow less opportunity for that kind of exploration. You're listening to enrollment growth university from Helix Education, the best professional development podcast for higher education leaders looking to grow enrollment at their college or university. Whether you're looking for fresh enrollment growth techniques and strategies or tools and resources, you've come to the right place. Let's get into the show. Welcome back to enrollment growth university, a proud member of the connect EU podcast network. I'm Eric Olson with Helix Education and we're here today with Dr and Marine Nun yes, professor of educational studies at the Ohio State University. Dr Newnia has welcome the show. Thank you so much. Really excited to talk with you today about a big potential value prop for our stam computer science and technology programs in comparison with coding boot camps and other Alt credential providers. But before we dig into that, can you give the listeners a little bit of background on both the Ohio State University and your will there? Yes, the Ohio State University is the only urban land grant university actually in the country and one of the largest universities in the country and as well, and I am, as you said, a professor of educational studies there and my emphasis is in the Higher Education and Student Affairs Program so I work with students who want to work with college students, whether that be in residence halls or in advising or in multicultural affairs, and also with students who want to become scholars of higher education or who want to pursue policy work in that area. Great Background for this conversation. I'm convinced you're the right person to be leading this conversation to kicksof date. Actor newny as, can you give this a high level overview of, and a reminder perhaps, of the ethical questions that our society is currently asking technologists to determine for us today? Yes, so, I think one question that is really important is what's the purpose of technology in the first place? So, if we're thinking about a given application, is it really necessary to have that kind of technology? So a lot of times there's an assumption, right like a technology optimism, that technology can address a lot of problems but isn't really needed in the first place. Are there other approaches, because there's a non human element that can be introduced that can lead to a lack of humanistic control. That can lead to some ethical issues that we've certainly seen in the news. Another one would just be what are the potential unintended negative consequences...

...or ethical implications of a given technology, and so, once those are identified, what kinds of steps can be taken to mitigate those? So, for example, algorithmic bias. Their off for example, was an advising program right now with analytics that predicts black and Hispanic students as high risk for leaving stump field, and if advisors are relying on that in addition to other information, they may be advising black and Hispanic students out of stump fields and losing talent that otherwise, you know, might have made a contribution in the stem fields. So how can in this case, algorithmic bias be minimized? And even there was even a case at the University of Texas Austin where their Graduate Department of Computer Science was using an algorithm in its admissions process and they found that it might be biased, and this is the computer science department, and so they stopped using it in favor of other formation. So I think that those are really key questions, and I think I'll probably turn back to this, but just really broadly, how can social, humanistic and moral context be integrated into technology work is really how do we bring in that context in order to make top technology that is more humane and won't have as many unintended negative consequences? I think one of my big a has when reviewing your research was not just this realization of remembrance about the ethical decisions were asking technologies to make, a potentially what kind of people were tracking to these fields. What is your research say about how computer science students shift their beliefs on things like global citizenship during their degree program in comparison to other kinds of majors? Well, are kie bring up a really interesting question. So our research didn't address sort of what students actually wait. We did do pretests of post tests. So yes, actually we did control. There may have been some more sophisticated factors that we didn't control for, but basically what we found is that in this global citizenship measure, which is for measures, it integrates like for attribute statements, for students reporting I am actively working to foster justice in the world I frequently think about the global problems of our time and how I will contribute to resolving that. The third is I'm currently taking steps to improve the lives of others, and the fourth is I'm actively learning about people across the globe who hold different religious and cultural perspectives from me. So we have that measure in the survey and then the National Study of college students at a hundred and twenty two...

...institutions around the country. We surveyed them and their first year and then at the end of their college careers, and most majors we were able to disaggregate this data by major, which in and of itself is very helpful for understanding, you know, different departments and different programs. Most majors improved particular measure right, you know, most of them. We had a bar chart and most of the you know, bars went up and for computer scientists, not only did they decline, but they declined the most. And so it could be that they come in and then, you know, the the college education doesn't help them and you know then their beliefs decline even more or their global citizenship skills decline. It's something that they're encountering in the curriculum that you know, they're not being exposed to the same sorts of skill building and curriculum that some of the students in the other majors might be exposed to. That's what we're sort of exploring. Yeah, and your kind of exploration is where my mind went in terms of what what's the chicken versus the egg here? Are these inherently more solitary people? Is that why they like the independent type of pursuit like computer science? Just computer science and coding lead to a greater focus on the individual versus the collective? I guess I'm curious as you and your team talk those things out and you come to any theories that you like the most behind those findings. So it's important to note again that that their global citizenships for decline. So even if they came in with, you know, expressing a certain level of global citizenship, it actually declined over four years. So there's something that might not be going on in the curriculum for them that could be going on in other majors. And so one of them is just that computer science is a very individualistic and competitive major, even more so than some of the other science, technology, engineering and mathematics and medicine, you know, premed. It's even more individualistic than some of those. There are some weed out classes that sometimes students, you know, can't make it past certain kinds of introductory classes that might not even necessarily be important for pursuing computer science. So sometimes it's hard to change college curricula. There may be like outdated math courses a curriculate haven't been updated and if students fail those and their requirements they may not be able to continue in that particular field. I think...

...also something else to remember remembers that even in comparison with other majors, computer science tends to have a more rigid course sequence. So like there are fewer opportunities for computer science majors to take electives, and so students, you know, I've read recommendations that students take more electives, but a lot of times there isn't room in their schedule. But what I would say, even more importantly, that a lot of programs and computer science do have an ethics class, but that ethics class is often separate from the rest of the coursework. So what I mean is, you know, students may take this sort of ethics class on the side but their course work and their assignments may not incorporate the or in degree applying ethics to technical matters. So I think the lack of integration there is a challenge in terms of developing global citizenship. And then I think also a lot of individuals do go into science wanting to address social problems and the curriculum maybe less culturally relevant and allow less opportunity for that kind of exploration. So I think that there are several issues going on in the culture of departments and and the discipline that shape these particular trends. Yeah, like how you phrase that as an opportunity, that we have this integrative opportunity for these students. And when I think about how there are many students right now who are thinking about a four year computer science degree versus a eight to twelve month coding boot camp and determining the value there, they're making a value choice. But for us and the research that you have have found for us, we obviously see an opportunity here that we are potentially graduating these computer science students with a big gap. Is this where higher ed can should think about positioning ourselves that, rather than trying to compete against the BOOT camps. We should really understand the difference and perhaps, instead of adding more coding languages to our curriculum, we add more humanities instead. Does a great question. That's actually part I'm not scholar of higher education and the other people that I wrote that piece with are also scholars of higher education. So your question is what motivated us right to write this piece, and and that higher education itself, in comparison with more narrow targeted programs like coding boot camps, does have the...

...opportunity and more flexibility and to reimagine what computing education looks like. That's really one of its strengths that you have professors from different disciplines, social sciences, humanities and computer science, other stem fields, who can come together and really perhaps rethink the curriculum, and that is going on at some places around the country. So I think that that's really important for higher education. To keep in mind that higher education, when done what we think it is, in a more growth oriented way, focuses holistically on the whole student, and so computing curricular can definitely be reimagined to address the whole student to a greater degree. So I think you ask the question. Should more humanities be required and I think in an ideal world more humanities should be required in reality. So it where we are right now. I'm thinking about little next steps. We're a lot of computer science programs are right now. I was alluding to this earlier. There isn't a lot of room for electives. There's not. There's definitely more rigid core sequences than in other majors, in other words really fundamentally less flexibility to add in humanities and so that kind of additive approach. While in an ideal world it makes sense, in reality it's hard to carve out that space in terms of requirements in the curriculum. So what's most realistic is to integrate within the existing curriculum some classes that have assignments that focus on for example, in some of the campuses I've visited that serve a lot of Latin next students, perhaps they have culturally relevant assignments like generating a program that translates language into Spanish or opportunities like that that I think are good to keep in mind. That kind of flexibility is something that computer science curricula can address. And one more I'm going to say one more thing that I've observed in the campuses that I visited that sometimes having one credit courses instead of the typical three year or four unit classes can also provide kind of shorter term career oriented or or supplemental material that might expose students to other areas other than technically what they're learning. I love that you're bringing us back to practical next steps because there's...

...so much to take from this, including despair and despondence. I love that you're talking us off the ledge here and maybe maybe leave us there. So for those institutions listening thinking about this research, thinking about how should they approach, developing, rethinking their existing stem program curriculum, given the current constraints that you're hyper aware of, what are some of those baby next steps as they bring this conversation to, you know, the curriculum experts at their university? So it's really important to emphasize here that the talent pool for jobs in the US, the demographics of the US are changing, and so consider that by two thousand and forty five, no racial and the group is going to be in the majority and higher education and computer science in particular have been designed from a more white dominant standpoint. Right that privileges male perspectives. If we think about, you know, the ways that institutions like Harvard were founded. So I'm bringing in history because it's important to kind of reimagine this to how can stem environments be designed to support women and people of color who might not see themselves reflected in their faculty right they might not have as much exposure to roll models. It may be harder for them to imagine themselves as scientists. So some important strategies and I'm going to talk a little bit about a program that I have been involved in researching, and that's the Computing Alliance of Hispanic serving institutions. And for listeners who may not know about Hispanic serving institutions, those are federally designated institutions that enroll twenty five percent or more Latin next students, and so I've been working with a network of over forty of Cossi, is the acronym Computing Alliance of Hispanic serving institutions, and I've been working with them and here some of the things that I've seen them engage in and up. These are also borne out by other research and other literature. So just to create more welcoming environments for students to create more welcoming cultures. And one interesting thing I should point out is that I've been also involved in work with minority serving institutions more generally, but sometimes even computers, computer science and stem fields. Within those institutions, students report less welcome climates. MMM, so there's something going on in the discipline do right or or the department. So engaging in strategies that have been shown to be effective for women and people of Color...

...is important and weaving those strategies into the curriculum. And so this could be active learning, you know, active problem solving, and since a lot of women and people of color might be drawn to stem fields to address societal problems, maybe active learning involves some kind of, you know, assignment to address a problem that's going on out in the world that involves their communities. Another one is collaborative learning, so integrating more team work into assignments, and that it. I know earlier I talked about how computer science tends to be a very competitive environment, and so involving teamwork can eat some of the competitiveness and promote collaborative thinking and cooperation that actually employers want to see. Yeah, right, that those kinds of skills and then, as I was talking about earlier, culturally responsive approaches that allow students to see themselves in the curriculum. And I can absolutely hear listeners saying, well, how do we do that with computer science? Well, in some of the Hispanic serving institutions that I've observed, I already talked about in an example where the professor ask students to translate the program, develop a program to translate English into Spanish or to generate Spanish oriented music. So there was one where the professors had students develop a program to play salsa. So there are ways that it can be integrated, that that students backgrounds can be integrated. Also, internships, offering students opportunities to participate in internships with industry. So this network that I work with does have opportunities to for students to work at Google and other related employers, whether they be local or national, and I think also I institutions. So allowing, I guess what I should say maybe allowing internship credits, trying to sort of weave that in as a form of active and experiential learning, and also hiring more diverse faculty is really important, and institutions have to be very intentional about this. But one of the other things that I'm also observing with the network that I'm working with is that that in the departments, faculty can maybe develop national networks where they're exposing students to students in other institutions who are also working...

...in computer science. So students might be more likely to see faculty or students like themselves, and that is something that higher education, in comparison to coding boot camp, I mean building those social networks is that's something that higher education can facilitate. So I think that those are some important issues to think about. I think another one is rethinking certain classes that might be weed out classes, whether it be revising paedagogy in those classes is or whether it be getting rid of the classes right, coming up with different kinds of requirements, just rethinking what is it that students really need and want to now, and I think I'm also just going to add as well, to provide opportunities for students to form their own associations around these issues. So, for example, I've seen students in departments that with these classes that may not have a lot of teamwork right, that like, may not have a lot of what I'm talking about. However, these students will sometimes might form a professional club themselves and they might form a gaming club, and they've told me, well, we in our gaming club, we do something together and we make friends and that helps us with study groups and that helps up with the team work that employers want. And I going to conclude maybe with mentioning that, because I also think that that's something that higher education can uniquely offer. You mentioned the stem curriculum, but the CO curriculum as well is what higher education can offer. That's broader. Afternoon. Yes, thank you so much for your time and your thoughts today. What's the best place for listeners to connect with you if they have any follow up questions? So you can reach me by email and my email is Anu and easy dot a zero at Osu Dot Edu, and you can see what I'm up to on my website at and Marine Nunazcom Ann Em Arie, and you and easycom awesome. Dr New YS, thanks so much for joining us today. Thank you so much. Are Attracting today's new post traditional learners means adopting new enrollment strategies, helix educations, data driven enterprise wide approach to enrollment growth is uniquely helping colleges and universities thrive in this new education landscape, and Helix has just published the second edition of their enrollment growth playbook with fifty percent brand new content on how institutions can solve today's most pressing enrollment growth challenges. Downloaded today for free at Helix Educationcom. Playbook. You've...

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