More Penn students are taking computer science courses, but Computer and Information Science faculty say they aren't being given enough resources to accommodate this growing demand.
Students nationwide are pursuing skills in computer science, and Penn is no exception. As students work to further encourage others to take on CIS courses through initiatives like a certificate reflecting competency, class sizes for introductory CIS courses such as CIS 120 have expanded. However, CIS 120 faculty say that the University isn’t giving them enough space for office hours.
Bethany Davis, a fifth-year Engineering student and one of the head teaching assistants for CIS 120, said CIS 120 has grown from 120 students to over 350 students in the past four years.
CIS 120 faculty originally used Moore 207, a computer lab, for office hours, but that space is currently being repurposed by School of Engineering and Applied Science administration, leaving CIS 120 faculty using other Engineering rooms for office hours.
“We’ve since outgrown all of the available engineering auditoriums. So we are in the Nursing building now,” Davis said.
CIS 120 TA and Engineering senior Matthew Chiaravalloti said that given the number of students in the course, the classrooms currently used by TAs are too small and cramped. He added that CIS 120 TAs have tried to reach out to the University regarding alternative spaces for office hours, such as the Active Learning Classroom in Towne or a space at 3041 Walnut near Penn Park, but all their requests have been denied by administrators.
Space shortages have forced TAs to switch rooms every couple of hours and hold office hours in places that don’t have computers or outlets, said Jenny Chen, a Wharton and Engineering senior and CIS 120 TA.
“We want to provide the best quality education to our students and not have students sit on the floor,” Chen said.
Davis added that holding office hours in classrooms and in other schools' buildings that lack outlets and computers has made it harder for TAs to help students.
“If you're working on your laptop and it dies and you need help, what do you do?” Davis said, referring to the lack of power outlets in some venues for office hours.
Having to change rooms for office hours can also be inconvenient for students, said College sophomore Arjun Swaminathan, who is currently taking CIS 120.
“We start out in one room from 4-6 and no matter what, we switch to another room from 6-10. That changes the queue of people waiting to get help, because it's very hard for TAs to transfer one queue to another,” Swaminathan said.
Chen said that she and other TAs have all been frustrated by the lack of space provided by the Engineering School for CIS courses.
“There's a trend of computer science interest growing, and they need to be planning ahead to allocate for our interest growing, and instead they are doing the opposite," she said.
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