Intro enrollment spikes in CS, other departments constant

Jan. 9, 2012, 2:07 a.m.

While the introductory computer science course CS106A spiked in enrollment fall quarter, the fundamental introductory courses in other departments such as mathematics, chemistry and economics enrolled a similar number of students as previous quarters, according to numbers on Axess.


CS106A enrollment has shot up from 285 to 594 students from fall 2007 to this past fall. Meanwhile, CHEM31A numbers increased only slightly from 385 to 420, while MATH51 and ECON1A both decreased, from 400 to 300 and from 460 to 396, respectively.



Intro enrollment spikes in CS, other departments constant
(SERENITY NGUYEN/The Stanford Daily)

Mehran Sahami B.S. ’92 M.S. ’93 Ph.D. ’99, associate professor in computer science, taught CS106A fall quarter and has been doing so for the past few years. With regards to the increased enrollment, which has been noticeable for the past few years, Sahami wrote in an email to The Daily that he believes it is due to a combination of factors.


“Certainly the growing high-tech economy and the availability of job opportunities in computing is a factor,” he wrote. “Another factor is that computing is becoming critical in a variety of areas, as computers play a larger role in society…I think CS106A has a positive reputation on campus and that causes students to recommend the course to their friends.”


The next course in the sequence, CS106B, also saw higher-than-expected enrollment for this winter quarter.


“Over the break, the enrollment numbers in CS106B shot up so that there are now 100 more of you than would fit in the originally assigned room,” wrote CS106B professor Eric Roberts in an email to students.


The class has been moved to Hewlett 200, where CS106A was taught in the fall.


“I was really excited to have Mehran,” said Gabi Greenberg ’15, who took CS106A this past fall quarter. “I was also interested in pursuing a CS-related major.”


When asked about taking a class with more than 600 students, Greenberg said that it was a bit shocking on the first day that a lot of people couldn’t find seats, but added that Sahami was “very engaging” and that her discussion section leader helped break down the material.


Steven Longoria ’15 said he took the class because he knew that he wanted to major in CS and, while he did not have any experience with computer science before coming to Stanford, he is even more interested in pursuing CS as a major after taking 106A.


The Computer Science Department made changes this past quarter in order to accommodate the extra students. More section leaders and graders were hired, which contributed to a greater number of helpers at the LaIR computer cluster to assist students with their programming assignments in the course.


“For CS106A, we also had the class lectures videotaped to make it easier for the students to access the class material if they had difficulty getting seats in the lecture hall,” Sahami added.


Both Greenberg and Longoria said they utilized online lectures for review.


“If I didn’t understand something in class, I would go online and watch the lecture again so I wasn’t confused,” Greenberg said.


Longoria said that the large class size didn’t really discourage him from going to lecture; he used the lectures posted online to help him understand the material better.


Sahami added in his email, “the Computer Science Department also looks to expand the size of faculty to help address the growing enrollments in CS courses at all levels.”


In other introductory classes, such as Math 51, Chem 31A and Econ 1A, enrollment has remained steady over the past five years.


Many of these introductory courses have, on average, about 300 to 400 students. According to Roger Kuhn, student services manager in the Chemistry Department, “enrollment for Chemistry 31A and 31B has been consistent over the last few years,” and continues to meet the expectations of the department.


Many students who enroll in these introductory courses said they take them because of a desire to major in something related to the course, seeking a feel for the department and major or because the course fulfills a General Education Requirement or a prerequisite for another major.


The math and chemistry departments split introductory classes into several lectures to keep class sizes small, while economics and computer science do not.


“In the case of the 50s courses, we try to keep enrollments at most 50 per lecture,” wrote Brian White, professor of mathematics, in an email to The Daily. “We never keep students out.”

Josee Smith is a senior this year, majoring in anthropology with a minor in Spanish. She is the desk editor for the student groups beat and has spent her last 3 years at The Daily as both a staff writer and contributing writer. Originally from Washington State, Josee came to California for the warm weather and stayed for the awesome reporting. To contact her, please email jsmith11 'a'

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