"Using a software is akin to borrowing the brain of its developer to solve a certain problem,” Professor Kim Hyeon Cheol (Computer and Communications Engineering) said in his book, The World Through Data’s Eyes (2014). As he further elucidates, computers are more than soulless machines; in contrast to the past, when computers were designed to think like humans, nowadays it is humans who are asked to emulate the functions of a computer. Heeding the call for advanced education, Korea University (KU) has reorganized the Computational Thinking class starting this semester so that KU students can become better acclimated to the era of computers.
▲ Professor Kim Hyeon Choel. PHOTOGRAPHED BY KIM MIN YOUNG.
From this semester onward, all students admitted in 2017 and thereafter are obliged to take the Computational Thinking class in the fall semester. The class will be automatically added to each student’s schedule and is classified as a Required General Studies course that counts as one credit. Students need to take 16 lectures online on Blackboard, the site on which notices, additional handouts, and assignments are uploaded. Grades of Pass or Fail will be distributed to students based on their academic performance and attendance.
For additional help, offline classes are provided to students who wish to apply the information they learned from the course to real life. The specific date and place for the offline classes are not yet decided since a prior survey is needed to determine the number of interested students. The offline
course, which is scheduled to be held twice this semester, would last for half a day. Students will be given help from assistants to properly apply the information to reality.
Some might think that the field of computational thinking is exclusive to students majoring in computers. However, it is far from learning detailed programming techniques. “Computing ability is a language of the future. It is evident that students need to grasp computational thinking to be competent in their respective fields,” said Kim. He added that, just like the poets of old who had to be proficient in a number of professions to publish their poems, people in today’s era are also required to possess operational skills such as programming.
In this sense, the Computational Thinking class is expected to serve as the first stepping stone. The course will teach students basic abilities such as homepage making, Scratch and Python programs, and provide rudimentary background regarding social issues on technology. If students become interested in the field, various programs are ready to satisfy their needs in KU. Free camps are held during the summer and winter break over two months so that students can create applications in iOS and Android interfaces.
In addition, many opportunities are open to the public outside of the school. “Many websites, such as Khan Academy, Udacity, and Mnex, provide useful lectures for those who want to learn,” said Professor Kim. Although until now students in other majors could only learn about computers through Computer Science major courses, the Computational Thinking class offers an alternative for those who want to glean such knowledge without going to too much trouble.