The class, offered once a week at night beginning in January, is the brain child of Torrie Adams, president of New Orleans Women in Technology, and Steve Johnson, dean of UNO’s College of Sciences.
Adams said that over the last two-and-a-half years, she has noticed more and more women from non-traditional backgrounds landing in programming jobs.
There was the visual artist employed as a retail window display designer who took a web design workshop to improve her personal website – and then became her employer’s webmaster. There was the political communications person who landed a job in software development. And there was the woman who pivoted from the oil and gas industry to work in the tech field.
“There are all these women–they’re brilliant women–but they have B.A.s, not B.S.s,” Adams said.
During an event co-sponsored by UNO and Women in Technology earlier this year, she and Johnson spoke about the need to offer a course for professionals like these who desire more connectedness than what a strictly online programming course might offer.
Options typically available to people seeking to transition their careers into a computer science realm usually fall into two categories, Adams said: online courses and degree-seeking courses. And while many professionals may be interested in boning up their skills, they may not be ready to commit to a new degree, but tend to desire a more personalized group setting than they might encounter taking with an entirely online course.
“We’re interested in improving the engagement of women in computer science,” Johnson said. It was clear that many professionals – especially women – enjoy the one-on-one interaction, group work and lecture time that unfolds in a classroom setting along with the flexibility that online courses provide.
This pilot course, “Intro to Software Design and Development with Java,” provides both. It will meet on Wednesdays from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. from Jan. 13 to May 11, with some coursework to be completed online at students’ leisure.
Aaron Maus, a Ph.D. candidate and graduate teaching assistant who has been teaching UNO’s introductory computer science courses for more than three years, will be the instructor. He said it’s an adaptation of the courses already taught to students pursuing computer science degrees. “It’s not just for women,” Maus said. “It’s for anyone who wants to know more about software and design.”
There is space for 20 students in the class. The course costs $800, but discounts are available to members of New Orleans Women in Technology. The deadline to enroll is Jan. 11.
If the course is successful, Adams and Johnson said they would like to expand the
offerings to include three or four courses in a series that could improve the professional
knowledge for those who take the courses.
Johnson said that UNO’s proven track record preparing technologists for the growing tech workforce in New Orleans and beyond makes it a perfect home for such a hybrid course.
“We have a great computer science department,” Johnson said. “The approach we take to computer programming is in exact line with what the leading software companies are doing. I would argue we’re the best game in the whole state.”