Archive for June 17, 2013

Misunderstanding MOOCs and Computing Labor Shortage: Andy Kessler of WSJ.com

Andy Kessler of the Wall Street Journal (linked below) misunderstands why we have a computing labor shortage. MOOCs definitely make “computing education” (in general) accessible to more people.  But that doesn’t mean that we’ll shrink the computing labor shortage, as described by Code.org.  Undergraduate computing education is “accessible” to everyone on campus, but rarely draws more than 15% women. We have to go from “accessible” to “engaging.”  Unless we draw in women and under-represented minorities, we can’t close the jobs-graduates gap.  We have to change how we teach to draw more women and under-represented minorities, and MOOCs don’t teach that way.

Anyone who cares about Americas shortage of computer-science experts should cheer the recent news out of Georgia Tech. The Atlanta university is making major waves in business and higher education with its May 14 announcement that the college will offer the first online masters degree in computer science—and that the degree can be had for a quarter of the cost of a typical on-campus degree. Many other universities are experimenting with open online courses, or MOOCs, but Georgia Techs move raises the bar significantly by offering full credit in a graduate program.It comes just in time. A shortfall of computer-science graduates is a constant refrain in Silicon Valley, and by 2020 some one million high-tech job openings will remain unfilled, according to the Commerce Department.

via Andy Kessler: Professors Are About to Get an Online Education – WSJ.com.

June 17, 2013 at 1:42 am 11 comments

Could CS departments be legally forced to change their practices?

The latest Freakonomics podcast is on tipping and whether it should be banned, i.e., made illegal.  One of the arguments for banning tipping is that it’s discriminatory.  White servers get more than Black servers, for example.  Professor Michael Lynn cited a Supreme Court case that I found described below.  If a neutral practice disproportionately affects minorities or women in an adverse manner, then the practice is illegal.

I’ve raised the question here before, whether CS departments could be forced to change their teaching practices in order to comply with Title IX provisions so that more women might participate.  One of the arguments I got in response was that no one adopted any practices to explicitly exclude women.  This ruling says that the motivation for the practice doesn’t matter — even if it’s a “neutral” practice, if the effect is discriminatory, it has to go.  We certainly have evidence that implicit bias exists in computing classrooms and that CS teachers allow their classrooms to develop a defensive climate. Further, we know a lot about how to improve women’s participation in computing.  If we have a legal requirement to make computing education available to women, my guess is that we could be required to make change.  For example, could we be forced to give up MOOCs as a discriminatory practice, since MOOCs have a measurable discriminatory effect?

In Griggs v. Duke Power Co., the Supreme Court decides that where an employer uses a neutral policy or rule, or utilizes a neutral test, and this policy or test disproportionately affects minorities or women in an adverse manner, then the employer must justify the neutral rule or test by proving it is justified by business necessity. The Court reasons that Congress directed the thrust of Title VII to the consequences of employment practices, not simply the motivation. This decision paves the way for EEOC and charging parties to challenge employment practices that shut out groups if the employer cannot show the policy is justified by business necessity.

via Selected Supreme Court Decisions.

June 17, 2013 at 1:08 am 17 comments


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