UT must be more transparent about availability of coding classes

Kisara Dang

It’s no secret that there is an increase in interest for computer programming in the era of digital technology. Not only does it develop critical problem solving and technological skills, it’s professionally relevant. Coding is increasingly becoming a core skill even in industries outside of technology, like finance and healthcare. In fact, business leaders have called coding “the most important form of communication on the planet.”

Regardless of major, students are drawn to the elements of computing certificate to gain valuable technological skills. It requires 18 hours of coursework focused on programming and software design to support their studies in other disciplines. 

However, this may be difficult to achieve if students are unable to get into the classes they need to complete the certificate. The University should address this concern to students considering this program in advising or information sessions before they decide to pursue the certificate.  

“(With) approximately 1,850 undergraduate majors, 400 graduate students and 700 students pursuing certificates, computer science is among the University’s most popular courses of study,” said Christine Sinatra, director of communications for the College of Natural Sciences. Sinatra said the number of people pursuing a computer science major has more than doubled in just the last six years nationwide.

“The University makes sure all our computer science students get access to the courses they need to complete their degrees in a timely fashion,” Sinatra said. 

However, this may not hold true for students hoping to add the elements of computing certification. At the moment, UT is not always able to accommodate the demand for courses required for this certificate, which is something they could be more transparent about to students. 

Mathematics senior Aldo Villarreal decided to pursue the elements of computing certificate in his second year, but he may not finish because of the difficulty of registering for the required courses in the program. 

“It’s a domino effect,” Villarreal said. “I wasn’t able to get the classes as a junior and it just kept adding up.” 

Currently, he is still deciding whether or not to continue pursuing the certificate because he would have to take nine hours of computer science classes in his last semester — that is, if he can even get in. 

“I’ve only taken half of the required courses, and to be completely honest, I don’t think I will be able to finish it just because the availability of the classes,” Villarreal said. “It’s really hard to get into some of those classes, even as a senior.” 

For one course, Villarreal was not able to get off the wait-list and had to show up to the class itself to ask the professor if they would be willing to add him. 

However, there are many ways that the College of Natural Sciences is working to address the lack of room, such as increasing the number of seats and sections available. In the future, CNS hopes to expand their faculty size — with eight new faculty commitments in this year alone. 

“We have expanded seating capacity for non-majors in computer science wherever possible and are committed to continuing to do so,” Sinatra said. 

But for students like Villarreal, change hasn’t come soon enough. While the University recognizes the high demand for computer science coursework and works toward increasing capacity, they should also be more transparent about the difficulty for registering for the computer science classes earlier on, especially for students considering the elements of computing certificate. 

“We let students in the large introductory courses for the certificate know that the upper-division elements of computing courses have a more limited capacity at this time,” Sinatra said. 

But by the time they are in the introductory classes, they’ve already signed up for the commitment. Students deserve to know beforehand that there is a possibility they won’t get the classes they need due to the high volume of students before then. While this could come in the form of either a written acknowledgement, a mandatory advising session or adding a disclaimer to the elements of computing certificate page, it is clear that students should be made aware about programming class availability.

Dang is a sustainability studies and business honors freshman from Kerrville, Texas.