New Course: CS50 Comes to Yale

Nishant Jain | nishant.jain@yale.edu May 8, 2015

New Course: CS50 Comes to Yale

Brian Scassellati is a professor of computer science at Yale. He will teach CS50 at Yale next fall. Image courtesy of Shelley Westover.

Brian Scassellati is a professor of computer science at Yale. He will teach CS50 at Yale next fall. Image courtesy of Shelley Westover.

There will be more than one shake-up in the computer science department come Fall 2015. In addition to an expanded faculty and other investments, computer science professor Brian Scassellati will team up with Harvard professor David Malan next semester to bring Harvard’s popular CS50 introductory computer science course to Yale as course number CPSC 100.

An exciting experiment in cross-university collaboration, the course will feature a new element of discussion sections led by undergraduates to complement the lectures. “This is the first time we’ve ever had undergraduates standing in front of a classroom, fully invested as teachers,” Scassellati said.

If this model works well, it could set a precedent for increased undergraduate involvement in other teaching roles. Having undergraduates serve on course staff could result in many benefits such as an abundance of one-on-one help and an improvement in the overall student experience. “This is going to allow us to have group office hours four nights a week. It’s going to allow us to sit down with students side-by-side and say, ‘Okay, you’ve been having trouble getting this piece of code to run. Let’s take a look at it together,’” Scassellati said.

Prospective CS50 undergraduate teaching assistants wait for a February information session to begin. Image courtesy of Shelley Westover.

Prospective CS50 undergraduate teaching assistants wait for a February information session to begin. Image courtesy of Shelley Westover.

Citing the popularity of CS50 at Harvard among majors and non-majors alike, Scassellati hopes that the introduction of the course at Yale will inspire more students here to explore computer science. He stressed the broad applicability of the course material and the importance of a computer science education in the current age. “[Computer science] has become so pervasive in modern culture that you really want to have some understanding of how these ideas go together and how they work,” Scassellati said. “That is what CS50 is about.”