Georgia Tech's David Joyner

Python Fundamentals Seminar Helping OMSCS Students Prepare for Success

As computer science (CS) majors know, Python is currently one of the most used programming languages. Of course, this hasn’t always been the case. Prior generations of CS students cut their teeth on Java, C, and other, now less studied languages.

To help those that earned their bachelor’s degree before Python became the standard, Georgia Tech opened Computing in Python I: Fundamentals and Procedural Programming (CS 1301) to students enrolled in the Online Master of Science in Computer Science (OMSCS) program as a non-credit seminar this semester.

David Joyner teaches the online CS 1301 course. He is the executive director of online education & OMSCS at Georgia Tech’s College of Computing. He is also the author of a new book about online education, Teaching at Scale: Improving Access, Outcomes, and Impact Through Digital Instruction.

One of Joyner’s key themes in the book is looking beyond challenges to find unexpected opportunities in large-scale online learning environments. Opening his Python fundamentals course – recently ranked as among the Top 10 Best Courses to Take for 2022 – to help bridge any knowledge gaps for OMSCS students is an example of Joyner’s point.

“We get a lot of OMSCS applicants who have succeeded in college-level CS courses and qualify for the program, but they could use a stronger foundation in Python to succeed. The seminar provides that foundation in a more structured, social format,” said Joyner.

Fifty OMSCS students from around the world are participating in the Python fundamentals seminar this semester. They join more than 450 other students enrolled in the online, asynchronous course. These include:

In all, the 510 or so students range in age from 16 to 68 years old and represent 42 countries. Joyner says the greatest benefit of having so many different students participating is that they benefit from one another's experience.

“Our OMSCS students have always been fantastic about helping one another in their classes; now, they're helping our undergraduate students as well,” said Joyner, who is also an adjunct faculty member in the School of Computing Instruction.

With such a diverse group, an undergraduate student might ask a question and get an answer from an experienced software developer that enrolled in the seminar to add Python to her resume. Or, as Joyner describes, a student visiting the help desk could meet a professional in the field at a company that might be hiring.

“In online education in general, we want to provide more environments for students to interact, especially when they represent such a diverse set of backgrounds, but interaction requires an anchor to get started. This course, in many ways, is that anchor,” said Joyner.

Teaching at Scale follows last year’s publication of Joyner’s book, The Distributed Classroom, which he co-authored with College of Computing Dean Charles Isbell.