Comparison of 100-level Computer Science Courses

The Department of Computer Science offers three 100-level courses: 109, 111 and 126. COS 109 and COS 111 are both intended for students from the humanities and social sciences who want a one-course introduction to computers, and who have little or no computer experience beyond word processing and Web surfing. Overall, the two courses will cover similar material. However, the courses have different emphases, and many topics will receive significantly different treatments. The average technical depth will be similar in the two courses. The courses will share labs. The workload is intended to be about the same. No mathematics or science background is assumed.

COS 111 is intended for students from the humanities and social sciences who want a one-course introduction to computers and computer science. Emphasis is on understanding how computers really work, starting with a single switch, and showing step by step how to use just that one kind of part to build the most interesting man-made machine. Also addressed are essential limitations of the computer, such as undecidability, as well as future prospects for artificial intelligence and on-line access to the world's knowledge. The laboratory is complementary to the classroom work and explores a broad spectrum of modern applications. This course will also be offered in the Spring.

COS 109 will also give students an introduction to computing, but is less computer-science oriented and will spend less time on computer science per se. Topics and case studies will be motivated by current issues and events that involve computing and computers, and will include discussion of how hardware and software work; what programming is and why it is hard; how the Internet and the Web operate; usability, reliability; electronic commerce; security, privacy. It will also touch on fundamental ideas from computer science, and some of the inherent limitations of computers. Topics will be covered at sufficient depth for students to understand how technology works, how it affects the world they live in, and how to use this knowledge to make intelligent decisions about technology.

A student cannot get credit for both COS 109 and COS 111. Both courses satisfy the quantitative reasoning (QR) AB distribution requirement. Neither course satisfies the BSE computing requirement.

COS 126 is a technical introduction to computer science. It is also a broad introduction to the fundamental ideas of computer science, but at more technical depth. Students in COS 126 also develop programming skills. COS 126 is the only introductory computer science course that serves as prerequisite to more advanced computer science courses and that can be used to satisfy the BSE computing requirement. It also satisfies the quantitative reasoning (QR) AB distribution requirement. COS 126 CAN be taken for credit by students who have taken either of COS 111 or COS 109.