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 intoscience wanting to address social problems and the curriculum maybe less culturally relevant and allowless opportunity for that kind of exploration. You're listening to enrollment growth university fromHelix Education, the best professional development podcast for higher education leaders looking to growenrollment at their college or university. Whether you're looking for fresh enrollment growth techniquesand strategies or tools and resources, you've come to the right place. Let'sget into the show. Welcome back to enrollment growth university, a proud memberof the connect EU podcast network. I'm Eric Olson with Helix Education and we'rehere today with Dr and Marine Nun yes, professor of educational studies at the OhioState University. Dr Newnia has welcome the show. Thank you so much. Really excited to talk with you today about a big potential value prop forour stam computer science and technology programs in comparison with coding boot camps and otherAlt credential providers. But before we dig into that, can you give thelisteners a little bit of background on both the Ohio State University and your willthere? Yes, the Ohio State University is the only urban land grant universityactually in the country and one of the largest universities in the country and aswell, and I am, as you said, a professor of educational studiesthere and my emphasis is in the Higher Education and Student Affairs Program so Iwork with students who want to work with college students, whether that be inresidence halls or in advising or in multicultural affairs, and also with students whowant to become scholars of higher education or who want to pursue policy work inthat area. Great Background for this conversation. I'm convinced you're the right person tobe leading this conversation to kicksof date. Actor newny as, can you givethis a high level overview of, and a reminder perhaps, of theethical 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 thepurpose of technology in the first place? So, if we're thinking about agiven application, is it really necessary to have that kind of technology? Soa lot of times there's an assumption, right like a technology optimism, thattechnology 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 beintroduced that can lead to a lack of humanistic control. That can lead tosome ethical issues that we've certainly seen in the news. Another one would justbe 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 takento mitigate those? So, for example, algorithmic bias. Their offfor example, was an advising program right now with analytics that predicts black andHispanic students as high risk for leaving stump field, and if advisors are relyingon that in addition to other information, they may be advising black and Hispanicstudents out of stump fields and losing talent that otherwise, you know, mighthave 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 theUniversity of Texas Austin where their Graduate Department of Computer Science was using an algorithmin its admissions process and they found that it might be biased, and thisis the computer science department, and so they stopped using it in favor ofother formation. So I think that those are really key questions, and Ithink I'll probably turn back to this, but just really broadly, how cansocial, humanistic and moral context be integrated into technology work is really how dowe bring in that context in order to make top technology that is more humaneand won't have as many unintended negative consequences? I think one of my big ahas when reviewing your research was not just this realization of remembrance about theethical decisions were asking technologies to make, a potentially what kind of people weretracking to these fields. What is your research say about how computer science studentsshift their beliefs on things like global citizenship during their degree program in comparison toother 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 diddo pretests of post tests. So yes, actually we did control. There mayhave been some more sophisticated factors that we didn't control for, but basicallywhat 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 workingto foster justice in the world I frequently think about the global problems of ourtime and how I will contribute to resolving that. The third is I'm currentlytaking steps to improve the lives of others, and the fourth is I'm actively learningabout 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 ofcollege students at a hundred and twenty two...

...institutions around the country. We surveyedthem 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 inand of itself is very helpful for understanding, you know, different departments and differentprograms. Most majors improved particular measure right, you know, most ofthem. We had a bar chart and most of the you know, barswent up and for computer scientists, not only did they decline, but theydeclined 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 thentheir beliefs decline even more or their global citizenship skills decline. It's something thatthey're encountering in the curriculum that you know, they're not being exposed to the samesorts of skill building and curriculum that some of the students in the othermajors 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'sthe chicken versus the egg here? Are these inherently more solitary people? Isthat why they like the independent type of pursuit like computer science? Just computerscience 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 youcome to any theories that you like the most behind those findings. So it'simportant to note again that that their global citizenships for decline. So even ifthey 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 begoing 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 individualisticand competitive major, even more so than some of the other science, technology, engineering and mathematics and medicine, you know, premed. It's even moreindividualistic 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 mightnot even necessarily be important for pursuing computer science. So sometimes it's hard tochange college curricula. There may be like outdated math courses a curriculate haven't beenupdated and if students fail those and their requirements they may not be able tocontinue in that particular field. I think...

...also something else to remember remembers thateven in comparison with other majors, computer science tends to have a more rigidcourse sequence. So like there are fewer opportunities for computer science majors to takeelectives, and so students, you know, I've read recommendations that students take moreelectives, but a lot of times there isn't room in their schedule.But what I would say, even more importantly, that a lot of programsand computer science do have an ethics class, but that ethics class is often separatefrom the rest of the coursework. So what I mean is, youknow, students may take this sort of ethics class on the side but theircourse work and their assignments may not incorporate the or in degree applying ethics totechnical matters. So I think the lack of integration there is a challenge interms of developing global citizenship. And then I think also a lot of individualsdo go into science wanting to address social problems and the curriculum maybe less culturallyrelevant and allow less opportunity for that kind of exploration. So I think thatthere are several issues going on in the culture of departments and and the disciplinethat shape these particular trends. Yeah, like how you phrase that as anopportunity, that we have this integrative opportunity for these students. And when Ithink about how there are many students right now who are thinking about a fouryear computer science degree versus a eight to twelve month coding boot camp and determiningthe value there, they're making a value choice. But for us and theresearch that you have have found for us, we obviously see an opportunity here thatwe are potentially graduating these computer science students with a big gap. Isthis where higher ed can should think about positioning ourselves that, rather than tryingto 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 humanitiesinstead. Does a great question. That's actually part I'm not scholar of highereducation and the other people that I wrote that piece with are also scholars ofhigher 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 programslike coding boot camps, does have the...

...opportunity and more flexibility and to reimaginewhat computing education looks like. That's really one of its strengths that you haveprofessors from different disciplines, social sciences, humanities and computer science, other stemfields, who can come together and really perhaps rethink the curriculum, and thatis going on at some places around the country. So I think that that'sreally important for higher education. To keep in mind that higher education, whendone what we think it is, in a more growth oriented way, focusesholistically on the whole student, and so computing curricular can definitely be reimagined toaddress 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 morehumanities 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 areright now. I was alluding to this earlier. There isn't a lot ofroom for electives. There's not. There's definitely more rigid core sequences than inother majors, in other words really fundamentally less flexibility to add in humanities andso 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 inthe curriculum. So what's most realistic is to integrate within the existing curriculum someclasses that have assignments that focus on for example, in some of the campusesI've visited that serve a lot of Latin next students, perhaps they have culturallyrelevant assignments like generating a program that translates language into Spanish or opportunities like thatthat I think are good to keep in mind. That kind of flexibility issomething that computer science curricula can address. And one more I'm going to sayone more thing that I've observed in the campuses that I visited that sometimes havingone credit courses instead of the typical three year or four unit classes can alsoprovide kind of shorter term career oriented or or supplemental material that might expose studentsto other areas other than technically what they're learning. I love that you're bringingus 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 hereand maybe maybe leave us there. So for those institutions listening thinking about thisresearch, thinking about how should they approach, developing, rethinking their existing stem programcurriculum, given the current constraints that you're hyper aware of, what aresome 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 herethat the talent pool for jobs in the US, the demographics of the USare changing, and so consider that by two thousand and forty five, noracial and the group is going to be in the majority and higher education andcomputer science in particular have been designed from a more white dominant standpoint. Rightthat privileges male perspectives. If we think about, you know, the waysthat institutions like Harvard were founded. So I'm bringing in history because it's importantto kind of reimagine this to how can stem environments be designed to support womenand people of color who might not see themselves reflected in their faculty right theymight not have as much exposure to roll models. It may be harder forthem to imagine themselves as scientists. So some important strategies and I'm going totalk 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 maynot know about Hispanic serving institutions, those are federally designated institutions that enroll twentyfive percent or more Latin next students, and so I've been working with anetwork of over forty of Cossi, is the acronym Computing Alliance of Hispanic servinginstitutions, and I've been working with them and here some of the things thatI've seen them engage in and up. These are also borne out by otherresearch and other literature. So just to create more welcoming environments for students tocreate more welcoming cultures. And one interesting thing I should point out is thatI've been also involved in work with minority serving institutions more generally, but sometimeseven computers, computer science and stem fields. Within those institutions, students report lesswelcome climates. MMM, so there's something going on in the discipline doright or or the department. So engaging in strategies that have been shown tobe effective for women and people of Color...

...is important and weaving those strategies intothe curriculum. And so this could be active learning, you know, activeproblem solving, and since a lot of women and people of color might bedrawn 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 inthe world that involves their communities. Another one is collaborative learning, so integratingmore team work into assignments, and that it. I know earlier I talkedabout how computer science tends to be a very competitive environment, and so involvingteamwork can eat some of the competitiveness and promote collaborative thinking and cooperation that actuallyemployers want to see. Yeah, right, that those kinds of skills and then, as I was talking about earlier, culturally responsive approaches that allow students tosee themselves in the curriculum. And I can absolutely hear listeners saying,well, how do we do that with computer science? Well, in someof the Hispanic serving institutions that I've observed, I already talked about in an examplewhere the professor ask students to translate the program, develop a program totranslate English into Spanish or to generate Spanish oriented music. So there was onewhere the professors had students develop a program to play salsa. So there areways that it can be integrated, that that students backgrounds can be integrated.Also, internships, offering students opportunities to participate in internships with industry. Sothis network that I work with does have opportunities to for students to work atGoogle and other related employers, whether they be local or national, and Ithink also I institutions. So allowing, I guess what I should say maybeallowing internship credits, trying to sort of weave that in as a form ofactive 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 otherthings that I'm also observing with the network that I'm working with is that thatin the departments, faculty can maybe develop national networks where they're exposing students tostudents in other institutions who are also working...

...in computer science. So students mightbe more likely to see faculty or students like themselves, and that is somethingthat higher education, in comparison to coding boot camp, I mean building thosesocial networks is that's something that higher education can facilitate. So I think thatthose are some important issues to think about. I think another one is rethinking certainclasses that might be weed out classes, whether it be revising paedagogy in thoseclasses is or whether it be getting rid of the classes right, comingup with different kinds of requirements, just rethinking what is it that students reallyneed and want to now, and I think I'm also just going to addas well, to provide opportunities for students to form their own associations around theseissues. So, for example, I've seen students in departments that with theseclasses that may not have a lot of teamwork right, that like, maynot have a lot of what I'm talking about. However, these students willsometimes 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 dosomething together and we make friends and that helps us with study groups and thathelps up with the team work that employers want. And I going to concludemaybe with mentioning that, because I also think that that's something that higher educationcan uniquely offer. You mentioned the stem curriculum, but the CO curriculum aswell 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 bestplace 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 dota zero at Osu Dot Edu, and you can see what I'm up toon my website at and Marine Nunazcom Ann Em Arie, and you and easycomawesome. Dr New YS, thanks so much for joining us today. Thankyou so much. Are Attracting today's new post traditional learners means adopting new enrollmentstrategies, helix educations, data driven enterprise wide approach to enrollment growth is uniquelyhelping colleges and universities thrive in this new education landscape, and Helix has justpublished the second edition of their enrollment growth playbook with fifty percent brand new contenton how institutions can solve today's most pressing enrollment growth challenges. Downloaded today forfree at Helix Educationcom. Playbook. You've...

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