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The Italian Certification of Computer Science University Curricula . Agostino Cortesi, Università Ca’ Foscari - Venezia Enrico Nardelli, Università Tor Vergata - Roma GRIN - Italian Association of University Professors in Computer Science. 1. Motivations. 2. Degree Program Certification .

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The italian certification of computer science university curricula l.jpg

The Italian Certification of Computer Science University Curricula

Agostino Cortesi, Università Ca’ Foscari - Venezia

Enrico Nardelli, Università Tor Vergata - Roma

GRIN - Italian Association of University Professors in Computer Science


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1. Motivations

2. Degree Program Certification

3. Certification Process Management

4. Towards a CS Body of Knowledge

5. Conclusions


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Challenges for italian universities…

  • The autonomy granted to italian Universities in the specification of their curricula forces the faculties to highly qualify their products with respect to the plethora of courses that are offered in the educational market.

  • Also when focussing just on curricula offered by the University system, it is very difficult to evaluate the values of curricula that look very similar.

  • The same holds for enterprises and recruitment agencies, having hard time to classify the different Universities with respect to the quality of each undergraduate and graduate degree program


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…and for CS in particular

  • Each italian University delivering a degree program in Computer Science should be fair enough

    • to guarantee that their curricula cover the basic spectrum of scientific knowledge in Computer Science,

    • and that courses are given by qualified professors.

  • Unfortunately the second condition above is sometimes disregarded, as there are Universities degree programs where not even one faculty member has a PhD neither in Computer Science nor in Computer Engineering.


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1. Motivations

2. Degree Program Certification

3. Certification Process Management

4. Towards a CS Body of Knowledge

5. Conclusions


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The GRIN certification mark

  • GRIN, the Italian Association of Computer Science University Professors (about 750 members) promoted a common effort involving almost all of the Italian Universities towards the elicitation of the “product qualities” of undergraduate degree programs in Computer Science:

    • it characterized the constraints to be fulfilled in order to obtain the GRIN quality certification.

    • rules and results of this certification process are made public, in a web site

  • An external professional certification authority (AICA) guarantees the fairness of the certifications process


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A feasible approach

  • The GRIN Association decided to adopt the following criteria, in order to avoid the need of heavy organizational duties:

    • The quantity of data to be treated should be quite limited; data should be easy to get and to check;

    • data should be already available at each site, as part of the usual public information provided to potential students.


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General Guidelines

  • The GRIN quality certification is based on the verification of the fulfilment of a set of constraints on the programs.

  • The general guidelines to define the certification rules are as follows:

    • The percentage of courses in Computer Science in the degree program has to be significant.

    • The main areas of Computer Science should be properly covered

    • The degree program should not too much focussed on a single area.


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Constraints

  • Two certification levels were designed

    • the first one aimed at undergraduate degree programs (certificazione base)

    • the second one for graduate degree programs or for very demanding undergraduate programs (certificazione avanzata).

  • A list of 11 main Computer Science areas was identified, by the community, and a detailed list of subtopics (subareas) were associated to each of them.


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The 11 CS Areas

  • Foundations

  • Algorithms

  • Programming

  • Computer Languages

  • Computer Architectures

  • Operating Systems

  • Data Base Management Systems

  • Network Computing

  • Software Engineering

  • Human Computer Interaction – Graphics - Multimedia

  • Knowledge Representation


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Basic Rules

  • The certification rules are defined in terms of credits (cfu = 25 hours of learning activities for the average student).

  • In order to be eligible for the GRIN quality certification mark, each University degree program in Computer Science must satisfy the following 3 constraints:

    • At least 78 cfu must be assigned to learning activities in Computer Science or in Computer Engineering.

    • At least 60 cfu (out of the 78 above) must be assigned to learning activities in the 11 areas listed above

    • At least 7 areas (out of the 11 listed above) must be covered by at least 6 cfu.


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Rules vs Guidelines

  • The first rule guarantees that more than 1/3 of the program is specifically dedicated to CS topics; the rest might mathematical and physical foundations, more specialized topics, or complementary aspects (e.g., legal, economical, and ethical issues).

  • The second rule guarantees a good coverage of the main areas of Computer Science; observe that credits assigned to the same area can be spread among different courses.

  • Finally, the third rule prevents from degree programs whose scope is too narrow: at least half of the 11 areas must be properly covered, say by at least 48 hours of class lectures.


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Additional Rule on Faculty

  • The quality of the degree program heavily depends on Falculty qualification

  • The minimal requirements:

    • At least 8 professors on Computer Science or Computer Engineering for an undergraduate program

    • At least 6 professors for additional degree programs


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Results

  • Effort ongoing since 2002-03

  • The web site is public:

    http://grin.informatica.uniroma2.it

  • 2004: 39 certified programs out of 57 (univ. 31/39)

  • 2005: 42 certified programs out of 54 (univ. 35/42)

  • 2006: 44 certified programs out of 54 (univ. 37/42)

  • Each degree program pays an annual fee of 150 Euros


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1. Motivations

2. Degree Program Certification

3. Certification Process Management

4. Conclusioni

4.Towards a CS Body of Knowledge

5. Bibliografia

5. Conclusions


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Process management

  • Each year, the chair of each Computer Science degree program may apply for the GRIN quality certification by inserting in the certification web site the data concerning the activated curricula, and the syllabus of each course taught.

  • For each course, the following information has to be provided: total number of credits, number of credits labelled as “computer science”, and corresponding area.

  • A synthetic description of the contents of each credit in the 11 areas has to be inserted as well.


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course

areas

syllabus


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Correspondence between curricula

  • The system allow to discover semantic correspondences between different courses.

  • In particular, the web site supports curricula recast when students transfer to a different university

  • Based on sub-areas

    • A finer partition of each of the 11 top-level areas

    • “starred” sub-areas are “recommended” ones


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A – Foundations (Subareas)

* ALF – Automata, Formal Languages

* CAL - Calcolability

* COM - Complexity

* SLP – Programming Language Semantics

TIC – Information Theory

L - Logics

SD – Dinamic Systems

V - Varia


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B – Algorithms (subareas)

* SDF – Fundamental Data Structures

* TAPA – Basic Techniques for Analysis and Design of Algorithm

* A – Fundamental Algorithms

* ASC – Combinatoric Algorithms

TAA – Advanced Algorithms

SDA – Advanced Data Structures

AD – Distrubuted Algorithms

AP – Parallel Algorithms

AN – Numerical Algorithms

V - Varia


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1. Motivations

2. Degree Program Certification

3. Certification Process Management

4.Towards a CS Body of Knowledge

5. Conclusions


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  • There is a great value in the amount of information that has been collected this way in three years

    • It is possible, in fact, to build in a bottom-up process an updated “map of knowledge in Computer Science”. This is object of current investigation by the GRIN National Educational Committee, aimed at defining an Italian Curriculum in Computer Science.

    • This will be particularly useful in order to maintain a correspondence between the University curricula and the requirements of the work market.


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1. Motivations been collected this way in three years

2. Degree Program Certification

3. Certification Process Management

4. Towards a Book of Knowledge

5. Conclusions


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Conclusions been collected this way in three years

  • The GRIN quality certification mark of University degree programs in Computer Science has a value both for the whole Italian Computer Science community, but also for the european University system, as it yields a system of comparable and transparent curricula that facilitates student mobility in a national or international context.

  • It can be the basis toward the design of an Eurobachelor in Informatics