Curtin Students Get a Jump Start

Earlier this week Brian posted about part 1 of a two part workshop that he and I delivered to a group of 18 or so Curtin University computer science students (I also just noticed he posted yesterday about the second part).  Yesterday we completed the second part and I have to make a couple of comments to sum up the event.  Firstly I would like to commend all the students who participated for standing up against the university and demanding that they lift their game.  The workshop came about because the students complained to the computer science department about the lack of practical work in a particular unit.  One of the unit objectives was that the students would get some practical experience with a range of technologies around building distributed applications.  Unfortunately the labs that were initially planned didn’t go smoothly and were insufficient for the students to gain an appreciation of how any of the technologies worked.  I’m not going to comment on why this might have happened but the upshot was that Brian and I were contacted to deliver a two part practical workshop around building distributed applications.  Well done to the students who pushed the department to work with local industry to deliver course outcomes.

As I left the workshop yesterday I was talking with Geoff West about how universities structure courses/units and he was making the comments that most staff are so focused on their niche area of research that it is very difficult for them to keep up with all the changes in the industry. This is an interesting point as it can be read in a couple of ways.  Firstly it can be read as an admission of guilt that perhaps the courses/units aren’t up to date and don’t reflect current theories/techniques.  But I feel a better way to interprete this is that because the industry changes so quickly, and that university staff are driven by their research, perhaps it is time for universities to partner with industry professionals to help deliver content that is more relevant.  The question is really what’s the best model for universities to refresh their curriculums and to bring in guest lecturers/workshops?

Some of the student feedback was also really pleasing:

  • Most students felt they got a lot out of the workshops and thought it would be great to have this type of activity more frequently.  Peraps a partnership between Curtin and the local user groups (Perth .NET CoP, SQL User Group….) could work well to deliver these practical sessions on a regular basis.

  • The univerisities have a way to go in terms of lab administration.  The students indicated that during semester the lab configuration meant that most of the proposed labs couldn’t be completed.  During the workshops we delivered we also experienced issues with regards to security, setup, performance and stability of the VMWare images. This is an area that really needs to be streamlined – perhaps investing some dollars into a partnership with a local infrastructure company would relieve these issues, instead of attempting to do all lab managment internally.

  • The students were keen to get access to the code that we were working on as part of the workshop.  For their benefit I have posted the lab samples as an attachment to this post (my apologies as these are in C#).  In order to run the samples they will need to download/install Visual Studio 2005 Express Edition, SQL Server Express Edition and the AdventureWorks sample database.

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