Comp Sci Department Updates Intro Course to Java

Javascript (pictured) and C++ are highly similar programming languages, but Javascript is consid- ered by some to be the simpler of the two, resulting in the Computer Science Department’s decision to teach Javascript in introductory coding classes. / Dmitry Baraanovskiy via Flickr

Next spring, the Computer and Information Science Department will upgrade its coding course for first-time students.

The department is shifting from C++ to Java, a modern programming language, to keep intro students in the know about the ever-changing tech field. According to professor Gerald Weiss,  intro computer-science majors will benefit from accessing two programs.

“There were things about C++ that we felt would make it more difficult for students in the intro class,” said Weiss. “It really would be paying off to be moving to Java the second semester.”

Weiss added,  “The first course [now Java] is actually very similar to that C++ course, both in its approach, there are various ways of introducing java and we are introducing it in a similar fashion that we were introducing C++.”

Weiss has worked with the Computer and Information Science Department since 1980. According to a profile on the Brooklyn College website, Weiss is a member of the undergraduate curriculum committees and helps to build a sequence of primary programming languages.

“We felt that students would have a better time doing it,” Weiss said. “Once somebody gets out of this school, out of the department, they know Java and C++ anyway, it’s just the order in which we [teach it].”

Weiss said that previously, students would take at least two semesters of C++ and then continue on to a third semester, still as an introduction of C++. Now they will take an intro to the Java class.

“The things that make C++ difficult at the beginning make it quite interesting at the end,” Weiss said.  “And those things can now be taught to students that have a maturity and understanding [of it.]”

According to Khan, employers often seek students who are skilled in Java.

“We have been having long discussions with members of the computer science club,” said Antara Khan, a Computer Science major. “There are pros and cons. For instance, Java is more used industry wise.” Khan continued, “Companies tend to look for proficiency in Java by the time interviews come around. Which is sophomore or junior year. Secondly, Java has more resources available. Lastly, Java is easier because there are no pointers like C++.”

Despite a more modern appeal, there are pitfalls to the transition.

“There are cons. For example, engineering students need C++ as an introductory course in order to transfer to NYU from Brooklyn College,” Khan said. “With the switch, I don’t think they will be able to.I have heard this, so I am not 100 percent sure.”

Weiss said he understands that the department needs to keep up with the fast pace of technology and its evolution.

“We are trying to keep up with the times, we have hired some faculty members [for the department],” Weiss said. “We have two new hires I think one of them, their field is cyber security and we have other people whose fields are architecture and systems. Pedagogically, we just felt students would have an easier time doing Java first and then going on to C++.”


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