Friday, November 22, 2019

New online course teaches students how to think like a computer


Humans program computers in order to tell a computer what to do, but programmers must first consider exactly what results they want from the computer. Thinking through problems in this way is called “computational thinking,” and it is the subject of a new Coursera MOOC (Massive Open Online Course) that was developed by an interdisciplinary team including members of the SOE. In partnership with U-M’s Academic Innovations office, Educational Studies professor Chris Quintana and Darin Stockdill, instructional coordinator of the Center for Education Design, Evaluation, and Research (CEDER), were significant contributors.

In this course, titled Problem Solving Using Computational Thinking, students will discover the many components of computational thinking. These include abstraction, problem identification, decomposition, pattern recognition, algorithms, and evaluating solutions. Students will puzzle through some real-world cases that illustrate how computational thinking can be used to solve complex problems. They will also complete a project that allows them to apply computational thinking to a real-world situation.

This course is designed for anyone who is new to programming, is thinking about programming, or wants to understand a new way of thinking about problems critically. No prior programming experience is necessary, and the examples in this course were designed to be understandable by everyone.

“This is an innovative and interesting course that uses case studies of different large scale problems (human trafficking, spread of epidemics, etc.) to teach the concepts and core practices of computational thinking,” explains Stockdill.

University of Michigan alumni, students, faculty, and staff who take this course will earn a free verified certificate through Michigan Online upon successful completion of the course.

Chris Quintana is Associate Professor

Darin Stockdill is Instructional and Program Design Coordinator

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