While a majority of students may find that they excel in a traditional classroom environment, others may discover that they are best suited for online learning. In making this decision, prospective students should carefully consider a number of different factors.
To begin, those who enroll in an online computer science degree program should understand that they may never need to set foot on the physical campus. For those who are employed full-time, in the military, have children, or who don’t live near a campus, this can be highly beneficial, as these students can obtain a degree from a reputable school without having to relocate or commute. For others, however, online learning may prove to be difficult; in particular, those who thrive on frequent face-to-face interactions with peers and professors (both inside and outside the classroom) may find that online degree programs lack the level of interactivity, structure and support necessary for them to succeed.
Also, while students in online programs are given a school calendar and a schedule to which they must adhere, they will often have more freedom and flexibility regarding the completion of course sections, and related assignments. Again, while some may find this appealing, others may not perform as well without having to adhere to a more rigid schedule. Prospective students should evaluate their own study habits and support requirements before making a final decision.
Bella Bose is a professor and associate director of the school of electrical engineering and computer science at Oregon State University. He holds fellow status with the Association for Computing Machinery and with the engineering society IEEE, and his recent work has broken new ground in codes for flash memory which would reduce error rates and increase storage capacity.
Simona Doboli is an associate professor and chair of the computer science department at Hofstra University. She has received co-authorship for four publications over the past few decades, and is the associate editor for the IEEE Transactions on Neural Networks journal.
Eunice Santos is a professor of computer science, as well as the Hochsprung Endowed Chair and the chair of the department of computer science at the Illinois Institute of Technology. She has served as a senior research fellow at the U.S. Department of Defense’s Center for Technology and National Security Policy, and has received a number of awards, including a National Science Foundation CAREER Award.
M. Brian Blake is a distinguished professor of systems and software engineering at Drexel University. His research and teaching interests include software engineering approaches for integration of web-based systems, and he has been the recipient of various grant awards, including for the GAANN Fellowships in Computer Science and Engineering at the University of Notre Dame II, Department of Education in the amount of $1.2 million over the duration of the project.
Richard L. Blumenthal is a professor of computer science at Regis University, as well as a program coordinator for B.S. in computer science. He is a senior member of the Association of Computer Machinery (ACM), and has received co-authorship on many reviewed publications throughout the years, including the most recent Proceedings of Artificial Intelligence and Applications (AIA 2010).
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Students wishing to enroll in an online computer science degree program must of course first meet a number of admissions standards prior to being offered admittance. At each degree level, institutions share a number of these standards. While they differ slightly from one university to the next, understanding admissions commonalities should help the prospective CS student better comprehend what to expect before completing the application process.
To begin, students who are applying for programs that offer undergraduate degrees should expect to show proof of SAT scores, along with copies of a high school diploma or GED. Furthermore, these same students may be required to write a personal essay on a topic selected by the institution of choice, along with multiple letters of recommendation from authority figures who can attest to the student’s academic abilities. In addition, students may also be asked to submit more personal information, such as their academic goals and why they are specifically interested in enrolling in a particular program.
The application for enrollment in a graduate program may be similar; however, rather than SAT scores, prospective graduate students will typically be asked to show proof of scores obtained on the GRE (graduate record examination, which even has a subject test for computer science to test for subject proficiency), or another similar standardized test. Additionally, students applying for admissions in a graduate program will also be asked to submit copies of undergraduate diplomas and transcripts, as well as letters of recommendation completed by past professors or teaching assistants, employers or supervisors, or anyone else that may have a professional or personal relationship with the applicant and who can shed light on his or her capabilities. These students may also be asked to write a personal essay, as well as submit prior research or other related documents.
Prospective students will be required to submit their application on or before a specific deadline if they wish to be considered for admissions. Generally, for a program that starts in the fall, the deadline for application submissions will be around January; the deadline for spring-start programs will typically be in late fall. Of course, this does ultimately depend on the individual institution, so it is important to confirm the date with program representatives early in the application process.
During the application process, prospective students may also wish to consider whether or not the institution at which they are applying is accredited. In general, computer science programs may receive accreditation through the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology (ABET), which is widely regarded as the national accrediting agency for programs focusing on science and technology (this agency acts as an umbrella group for other engineering organization; CSAB, Inc., formerly known as the Computing Sciences Accreditation Board, Inc., is the member organization focused on computing and computer science). Educational institutions are not required to undergo the accreditation process; however, doing so, which involves a process of peer approval, leads to a mark of approval from a nationwide set of professional computing and engineering organizations.
A degree from an accredited institution is not a necessity to receive future employment in the field of computer science; however, upon completion of the program, it may help the graduate obtain gainful employment. To be sure, CSAB, Inc. specifically states that a degree from an ABET-accredited program “verifies that the quality of the educational experience [the student] received meets the standards of the profession,” and that it “increases and enhances employment opportunities.” It also “establishes eligibility for many federal student loans, grants, and/or scholarships.”
Here, it is important to note that a number of highly-respected institutions are not ABET-accredited. As such, this should not be a final determining factor, unless the student wishes to take sit for the Patent Bar in the future, as a degree from an ABET-accredited institution is a requirement for this pursuit. To clarify further, individuals with ABET-accredited computer science degrees are eligible to sit for the Patent Bar to become licensed patent agents, allowing them to represent others in patent court. Because those who sit for the Patent Bar are expected to "possess the scientific and technical training necessary to provide valuable service to patent applicants," the United States Patent and Trademark Office stipulates that a degree from an ABET-accredited program is a prerequisite.
Students enrolled in an online computer science degree program will likely take similar courses, no matter their institution of choice. Specifically, such students may be required to take courses on basic programming, math and statistics, software and systems engineering, and other related courses. Undergraduate students may need to satisfy additional elective requirements, while graduate students may have more flexibility in their coursework, and the ability to specialize further.
Often, students of computer science may be able to pursue certain specialties, or even obtain certificates during the course of their studies. To be sure, students of computer science may choose to specialize in artificial intelligence, security, systems, real-world computing, and a number of other fields.
Today, a good number of well-respected institutions nationwide currently offer online computer science degrees. Here’s a closer look at 5 of those.
Through Columbia University, students have the ability to pursue either a masters or a doctorate degree in computer science entirely online. Students may also specialize in computational biology, computer security, software systems, or other fields, and may pursue a number of additional certifications as well.
Alfred V. Aho is the Lawrence Gussman Professor of Computer Science at Columbia University. His research interests include programming languages, compilers, algorithms, software engineering and quantum computing.
Steven M. Bellovin is the Percy K. and Vida L. W. Hudson Professor of Computer Science at Columbia University. He is the co-author of Firewalls and Internet Security: Repelling the Wily Hacker.
At the University of Illinois at Springfield, students can obtain an undergraduate or graduate degree in computer science. University of Illinois at Springfield also partners with a number of community colleges, allowing students there to transition to the University of Illinois after meeting certain requirements.
Kamyar Dezhgosha is a professor of computer science at the University of Illinois – Springfield. He has served as the principal investigator for several research grants and contracts funded by JPL, NASA, and NSF.
Sviatoslav Braynov teaches computer science courses at the University of Illinois – Springfield. He has served as co-chair and a program committee member of more than 40 international conferences and workshops
Students at the University of Idaho may pursue a masters degree in computer science, or a masters in computer engineering. A degree from this institution helps students understand advanced computer concepts and applications in science, business, engineering, and the everyday world.
Jim Alves-Foss is a professor of computer science at the University of Idaho. He has published more than 80 scholarly papers and was a founding member of the Center for Secure and Dependable Systems.
The University of Southern California allows students to complete a masters degree program in computer science online. Students may also choose to specialize in data science, computer security, or other select areas.
Leonard Adleman is the Henry Salvatori Professor of Computer Science at the University of Southern California. He has authored and co-authored numerous publications since 1974, and is the holder of a patent, as well.
Michael A. Arbib is the Fletcher Jones Professor of Computer Science at the University of Southern California. He is the author or editor of over 40 books, and his recent interests include “working with architects to better understand the neuroscience of the architectural experience and to develop a new field of neuromorphic architecture.”
As one of the most respected institutions in the Midwest, the University of Minnesota offers an online program in computer science for those interested in pursuing a masters degree. Furthermore, no research is required to complete the masters of computer science.
Daniel Boley is a professor of computer science at the University of Minnesota. He has developed a number of software programs, and has co-authored and authored a variety of publications since 1968, the most recent of which became available in 2015.
John V. Carlis is a professor of computer science at the University of Minnesota. He is the author of Mastering Data Modeling: A User Driven Approach, and has written and co-authored many other selected papers.
Visitation requirements for a program in online computer science will ultimately depend on the institution. In some cases, a student may be required to arrive on campus a handful of times throughout the year; in others, the student may never need to set foot on campus at all.
At the University of Southern California, for example, students may pursue a degree from any location throughout the globe, and may never need to visit the school in-person.
Beyond what has been mentioned above, there are a few other important factors that prospective students should consider before choosing a program. For example, students may wish to research post-graduation employment placement resources available at their institution of choice, as this may prove beneficial in the search for a job. Furthermore, students interested in a graduate degree may also wish to ask the admissions officer if the switch between a masters to a doctorate degree is possible, something that many graduate students consider during their studies.
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