Every semester, some of my students come up to me and ask questions along the lines of, “How can I learn more about networks?” or “I’ve heard Ruby is cool, where should I start?” or “I feel like the class is just scratching the surface, how should I learn more?” If you’re one of these students, this post is for you!
A developer at IBM Watson Innovation Labs, Iheanyi Ekechukwu, recently wrote a great article intended for incoming Computer Science students at Notre Dame. It discusses the ways computer science students can expand their knowledge and build confidence in their skills as developers. He has excellent, concrete suggestions; you can (and should) read his article here.
The key? Learning outside of the classroom whenever possible. If you’re asking questions like those at the top of the article, the curriculum isn’t going to give you enough.
Now, don’t get me wrong, the computer science program at CSUS has its strengths. We have a strong set of electives in computer graphics, video game architecture, and artificial intelligence. Our capstone Senior Project imparts valuable experience in software engineering. But there is so much more to computer science than what is covered in our degree, and no four-year computer science program can possibly hope to do more than scratch the surface. If you want to learn more, you need to look beyond the classroom, and that’s exactly what Ekechukwu’s article describes. (Go read it!)
Learning outside the classroom can be challenging. It takes discipline and time, but it’s also great fun when you find a project or subject you enjoy. The experience you’ll get will far surpass what you’ll learn in class. Most of what I’ve learned I gathered from projects outside of classes, from building my own Linux-based router (to share a dialup modem connection–yeah, that was an experience) to writing a PHP/MySQL web app on my first job (and last I heard, they’re still using it).
So, to my students: I highly suggest reading Ekechukwu’s article. If you need ideas for side projects, drop me an email or visit during office hours; we can find a project that kindles your interests.