At TU Graz we offer three different Bachelor programmes for students interested in “computers” and “information technology”. In this blog post I dare to try to compare first-year students of all three degree programmes.
The degree programme “Computer Science” (CS) is the “general” program. Its German name “Informatik” seems to be more appropriate, as this programme is not only about the “science of computers”, but the science of information and the automatic processing of information.
In the degree programme “Information and Computer Engineering” (ICE, formerly known as “Telematik”), students dive deeper towards hardware topics. Students are also exposed to courses in electronics and signal processing, for example.
In “Software Development and Business Management” (“Softwareentwicklung-Wirtschaft, SWD-BM), the business aspect of information technology is added to the general courses.
I have the pleasure to get to know all students in the 2nd semester in 2 different courses. In the course “Computer Organisation” (“Rechnerorganisation”, RO) I meet students of
CS and ICE. In the course “Computer Networks and Computer Organisation”(Rechnernetze und -Organisation, RNO) I meet the students of SWD-BM. All three degree programs have approximately 70 students in their 2nd semester.
Both courses, RO and RNO, have a common starting point: Students start by understanding how a rather simple C-program can be compiled to assembly language. This assembly code is then further assembled to machine code for the “TOY computer”. “TOY” is an educational computer with a small instruction set; it has a main memory of 255 word, and input/output. There exist several simulators for TOY. This part of the course’s material is being presented during the first 3 weeks of the second semester.
In the practical, students get asked to first solve a problem with a C program. This year, the problems were “sorting” and “search and replace”. In a second step, students manually compile their C programs by substituting for-loops with while-loops, then substitute the while-loops with labels and goto-statements. They also need to understand how to resolve the access to array elements by using pointers. As soon as they have modified their C code adequately, each statement in the modified C code can be translated directly into an assembly instruction for TOY. The machine code can then be simulated on one of the TOY simulators.
The graph above compares the results of the first assignment of the practical for students in their 2nd semester. In the left column you can see the performance of the ICE students.
Roughly 70% of all registered 2nd-semester students submitted a TOY machine code which passed the “standard” test, i.e. a test case which has been specified in the specification of the assignment.
CS students were less successful in this respect: Only 44% of all 2nd-semester students handed in a solution which passed the standard test.
2nd-semester students of SWD-BM had to solve a slightly different problem, but with similar difficulty. 50% of these students’s submissions passed the standard test.
Let us have a look at the other end of the “spectrum”. We have many students who just register for the course, but then do not submit any work at all. It is a general rule that these students do not get graded. In the ICE programme, we have 13% of all registered students who are “inactive”. In the CS programme, this group is a lot larger: Almost 30% are inactive. In SWD-BM, this group amounts to approx. 20%.
My guess for this rather significant difference in the amount of inactive students is that ICE students seemingly have chosen their degree programme more carefully than CS students, for instance. The SWD-BM students are somewhat in the middle between these two groups. It seems that if someone chooses to become a “computer engineer”, she is more dedicated than if someone chooses to study “Informatik”. Students interested in “software and business” lie in the middle.
Another interesting outcome is the amount of students who only submit “assignment 0” and then quit. Assignment 0 is almost a “no-brainer”; students are asked to submit a short text in which they declare that they understand the concept of plagiarism, that they understand the consequences of handing in plagiarized work, and that they state that they do not intend to plagiarize. Whereas the size of the group of students who only submit “assignment 0” and then quit is negligible in ICE, it is rather large in SWD-BM. This difference seems to be due to the different deadlines for assignment 1. For ICE students and CS students, this deadline was right at the beginning of this year’s Easter break. The deadline for SWD-BM students was 4 weeks later. Is it due to the unbelievably long Easter break — 3 weeks — or is it some other reason which could be used as an explanation for this difference?
In case you are interested in more details, check out the detailed results in these blog posts:
You can find the course webs for RO and RNO here: