[Beowulf] Degree

Ellis H. Wilson III ellis at cse.psu.edu
Wed Oct 24 10:01:13 PDT 2012


On 10/24/12 11:49, Lux, Jim (337C) wrote:
> Oh man.. you all are opening a BIG can of worms here..
>
> Testing for certifications has been fairly well discredited because it's too easy to set up "certificate mills" and because the certifications tend to be single manufacturer specific (e.g. Cisco Network Engineer, Microsoft Certified Professional, Novell, etc. etc.etc).  You'll note that employment ads these days don't ask for certifications as much any more..  (although ones like PMP, which are more generalized, although specific to the certifying organization, you'll see)
>
> The requirement for a degree has very little to do with the material you may have studied in the pursuit of that degree, particularly in the software field.  30 years ago, there were very few degrees in software fields (e.g. at UCLA, it was Math/CS; at Cal it was EE/CS).  My wife (erstwhile software developer, now IT manager) has a degree in Poli Sci (one could argue that this is actually a pretty useful field of study when it comes to being in management).

I'm not suggesting getting rid of degrees or providing certs -- I 
recognize much of a degree is the time put in and the evidence that you 
can stick something out.  I don't want somebody to get "certified" in 
Algorithms and Data Structures, for instance.  That's just one class in 
the degree.

What I'm suggesting is ditching the way in which a degree is pursued. 
Right now, it often means leave home, rent an apartment or some other 
housing near some arbitrarily placed University, and pay a large tuition 
that covers all of the many costs associated with having a campus, 
buildings, greenery, etc, etc.  Also, please note I'm referring to just 
a handful of degrees where hands-on experience really doesn't matter 
(CSE, Math, English, and the like).  Not Physics, Chem, etc, where you 
really need a lab.

I'm not intending to open a can of worms here, it actually seemed to me 
to be a fairly basic concept.  Just get rid of everything but projects 
and tests.  An employer can then simply look and will see you have a 
degree, you completed it in such and such an amount of time (indicating 
you stuck with it), and can examine your individual grades.  In fact, 
this also has the nice property that it shows you are very self-driven; 
a highly valuable trait if I could think of one.  Traditional degrees 
don't really say that -- you might have just felt pressured by your 
teachers into completing the course.  At the end of the day, I don't see 
how my suggestion would be any different in effect than the degrees we 
have today, with the exception of the enormous savings in cost and 
overhead of brick and mortar universities.  Obviously some people 
(supposedly) need that lecture format, and so some of these brick and 
mortars should still be around, but with far lower pricing for equally 
good degrees without those overheads, that should provide nice 
competition to drive their tuitions down as well.

Please note that I'm just talking about undergrad really here, as in 
grad school admittedly things get a little hairier with advisor-advisee 
relations.  For a MS or PhD it's probably better to have some physical 
co-location of persons for simplicities sake.

Best,

ellis


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