Comparison of 100-level Computer Science Courses

Wed Jul 30 05:47:16 EDT 2008

The Department of Computer Science offers three 100-level courses: 109, 116 and 126. COS 109 and COS 116 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, surfing and similar uses. Overall, the two courses will cover similar material and the average depth will be similar. However, the courses have significantly different emphases, and many topics will receive significantly different treatments. No mathematics or science background is assumed and there are no prerequisites.

COS 109 (QR) is an introduction to computing and computers, organized around hardware, software and communications. Topics and case studies will be motivated by current issues, events, and even gadgets that involve computing, computers, networks, and other digital systems; it might include security, privacy, intellectual property, file-sharing, cryptography, compression, and search engines. 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 digital technology works, how it affects the world they live in, and how to use this knowledge to make intelligent decisions about technology. COS 109 is only offered in the fall.

COS 116 (ST) is a broad introduction to the fundamental ideas of computer science and the influence of these ideas on modern technology. Classic computer science questions will be investigated: How is information represented? How do modern computer systems work? How are computational tasks accomplished through algorithms? What are the limits of computation? Examples are taken from current widespread applications such as searching the Web and computer game playing. The goal of this course is to give students an understanding of computers and computing that will allow them to recognize and appreciate the difference between fundamental capabilities and limitations of computing and fleeting artifacts of today's technology, to quickly adapt as users to the rapid advances in technology, and to use technological understanding in the social assessment of computational solutions to a variety of problems. COS 116 is only offered in the spring.

COS 126 (QR) 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 COS 109 or COS 116. COS 126 is offered both terms.