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'mundane' Classes Put Thousands Off Computer Science

By Engineering and Technology Magazine

October 30, 2013

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Reading University is launching what is believed to be the United Kingdom's first free online university programming course, as the school's vice-chancellor Sir David Bell warns that failing to address technology training will harm the U.K.'s tech companies.

Fewer undergraduates today have computer skills and interest in programming than those growing up with the first generation of home computers in the 1980s and early 1990s, Bell says. "The U.K. will suffer for its lost generation of computer programmers," he says. "We risk the U.K.'s high-tech firms struggling to remain competitive in a highly globalized industry." Bell, who supports reforms that would replace the Information and Communications Technology (ICT) curriculum with computer science, claims "Ministers and the wider school system got it completely wrong in teaching mundane office skills in ICT, instead of learning how to build software and we've now got to play catch up."

Reading's "Begin Programming" massively open online course filled 10,000 places in less than 24 hours when registration began last month. The seven-week program teaches the basics of Java and asks students to build a game from scratch. The course aims to provide programming exposure to teenagers interested in pursuing computer programming degrees, as well as adults.

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