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Between roughly 1970 and 1990, community colleges increasingly focused their computer science majors on computer programming and applications. Adelman53 compared courses taken by two different cohorts of high school graduates who went on to earn associate's degrees in computer science. Those who studied at community colleges earlier (graduating from high school in 1972 and in 1984) took a broader course of study in community colleges than those who graduated from high school a decade later. The more recent cohort of students spent more of their time on computer science, mathematics, and business subjects, with especially large increases in time spent on computer programming and applications. These courses were well-matched to the graduates' activities in the jobs they found after graduating.

However, this emphasis on business knowledge and applications did not follow the Association for Computing Machinery's 1993 guidelines, which called for spending more time on algorithms, data structures, software methods, and engineering/architecture. Adelman noted that, if community college students took more such courses, the graduates “would have greater flexibility in adapting to new programming languages and computer environments.”54 More recently and contemporaneously with the rise in importance of the Internet, community college curricula are placing more emphasis on network installation and support and Web development.

The Northwest Center for Emerging Technologies (NWCET) at Bellevue Community College in Washington State has developed comprehensive skill standards designed in part to ensure that current 2-year IT education matches the requirements of the labor market. The NWCET IT skill standards are based on clusters of IT occupations, using a general definition of IT work similar to that used in this report (Box 7.5).55 The skill standards can be used to build curriculum modules, allowing community colleges to quickly expand their course offerings in IT disciplines. In addition, the modules allow state education agencies to align and articulate IT curricula from the high school level to community college, 4-year college, and university-level education (Box 7.6).

In recent years, the boundaries between 2-year and 4-year institutions, and between public and private training providers, have blurred

53  

Adelman, 1997, Leading, Concurrent, or Lagging? The Knowledge Content of Computer Science in Higher Education and the Labor Market.

54  

Adelman, 1997, Leading, Concurrent, or Lagging? The Knowledge Content of Computer Science in Higher Education and the Labor Market, p. 21.

55  

Northwest Center for Emerging Technologies, 1999, Building a Foundation for Tomorrow: Skill Standards for Information Technology.



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