College of Computing Debuts Transformational Change To Undergraduate Computer Science Education

September 25, 2006

Innovative Threads™ Curriculum Focuses on Best Preparing Students for Successful and Sustainable Careers in a Competitive Global Economy

ATLANTA (September 26, 2006) – The College of Computing at Georgia Tech, a national leader in the creation of real-world computing breakthroughs that drive social and scientific progress, today announced that, starting with the 2006-2007 academic year, incoming freshmen will be the first to experience Threads™, its transformational approach to undergraduate computer science education developed by college faculty. With the goal of producing graduates whose skill sets will be difficult to outsource in a globally-competitive marketplace, Threads is the basis for a flexible, exciting and innovative computer science curriculum that enables students to pursue lifelong learning and drive real, sustainable value throughout their careers.

“Threads represents a tremendous departure from current thinking about computer science education – historically a vertically-oriented curriculum whose goal is the creation of students with a fixed set of skills and knowledge,” said Richard A. DeMillo, John P. Imlay, Jr. Dean of the College of Computing at Georgia Tech. “Computer science as a discipline is an increasingly broad spectrum. Threads gives students the power to select where they want to be in this spectrum and to take ownership of their career trajectories.”

New York Times columnist and Pulitzer Prize winner Thomas L. Friedman, author of the best-selling The World is Flat: A Brief History of the Twenty-First Century, recognized the paradigm-shifting nature of the Threads curriculum. In his updated version of The World Is Flat released in April 2006, Friedman stated that the Georgia Tech College of Computing model recognizes that “the world is increasingly going to be operating off the flat-world platform, with its tools for all kinds of horizontal collaboration” and that other academic institutions must “make sure that they are embedding these tools and concepts of collaboration into the education process.”

The Threads curriculum consists of the following eight sets of broad and horizontally-focused skill categories (or “threads”) that lie within and outside of the computing discipline:

  • Computational Modeling – where computing meets and describes the world;
  • Embodiment – where computing meets the world;
  • Foundations – where computing meets itself;
  • Information Internetworks – where computing meets data;
  • Intelligence – where computing meets and models intelligence;
  • Media – where computing meets design;
  • People – where computing meets users; and
  • Platforms – where the practical skills of computing are learned.

Any two threads can be intertwined, leading to an accredited Bachelor of Science degree in Computer Science. In total, there are 28 possible combinations of threads, creating an educational experience more tailored to the individual student.

“An incoming student at the College of Computing may enter with the desire to start their own company designing and marketing household robots. Some may want to be a game designer. Others may want to focus on the theoretical and mathematical foundations of computing. With Threads, there are almost as many possibilities as there are students,” said Charles Isbell, Assistant Professor at the College of Computing at Georgia Tech and co-creator of Threads. ”An additional expectation of Threads is the attraction and retention of a broader range of students, including larger numbers of women and under-represented talent, into computing and computer science.”

While the eight threads define the content of students’ undergraduate degree, the College of Computing has also developed “roles” to define how they will apply their degree in the real world. Similar to choosing threads, students can choose one of four roles to guide their course selection and explore for course credit. The currently-defined roles are:

  • Master Practitioner – expert programmer who possesses the technical skill and experiences to thoroughly design, construct and validate computer-based systems either alone or as part of a large team;
  • Entrepreneur – creator and leader of new enterprises that bring technology to the public;
  • Innovator – discoverer of new knowledge and constructor of ground-breaking solutions; and
  • Communicator – individual capable of communicating technical information to the technologist and layperson alike.

By offering undergraduates the opportunity to explore multiple computing trajectories, threads and roles help to develop the culture of innovation, risk-taking and continual learning in students – attributes that increase students’ value in the global economy.

The College of Computing at Georgia Tech currently enrolls about 800 undergraduates, most of them pursuing the Bachelor of Science degree in Computer Science. The Threads platform will serve as the new curriculum for this degree, starting with the 220 first-year students enrolled in the 2006-2007 academic year.

For more information and to read the white paper on Threads, Creating Symphonic-Thinking Computer Science Graduates for an Increasingly Competitive Global Market, click here.

College of Computing contact:
Stefany Wilson
College of Computing at Georgia Tech
stefany [at] cc [dot] gatech [dot] edu