Enrollment in CS106A’s summer offering has reached a record high this year with 263 enrolled students, according to Summer Session administrators.
The introductory computer science (CS) course has been one of Stanford’s most popular classes in recent years, with a steady increase in enrollment figures over the past five years culminating in more than 700 students taking the class last fall quarter.
Nate Hardison B.S. ’10 M.S. ’11, this quarter’s course lecturer, attributed the course’s popularity to its reputation and the increased prominence of computer science as a field.
“It’s known to be an exciting class. With people like [Professors of Computer Science] Mehran [Sahami ’92 M.S. ’93 Ph.D. ’99] and Steve Cooper and Keith [Schwarz ’10 M.S. ’11] and Eric [Roberts] teaching during the year and just doing a fantastic job with it, it just seems like a really fun, great class to take,” he said. “People come to Stanford during the summer, and they want to take a course because they know our CS department is very strong and want to take advantage of that.
Compared to the academic year, the summer session of CS106A presents more diversity in its class makeup, featuring high school students and visiting undergraduate and graduate students in addition to Stanford students.
According to head teaching assistant Dima Brezhnev ’13, the inclusion of students from outside the University hasn’t made a difference in the teaching process.
“At least from the teaching side, there does not seem to be much difference between the summer and the school year in terms of student background,” he said. “Some students are a bit nervous and for many CS106A is the first university class they’ve ever taken…Besides this and slightly younger faces, high school students perfectly meld with the general student body.”
Hanna DeBrine, a rising junior at Park High School in Cottage Grove, Minn., enrolled in CS106A through the High School Summer College program, as a way to experience real programming for the first time. According to Debrine, whose high school doesn’t offer any computer science classes, the class format of CS106A has been challenging so far.
“You have to do a lot more stuff independently. It’s all lecture, so there’s no time in class to work,” Debrine said. “You really have to manage your own time to get work done, unlike in high school.”
The summer session’s abbreviated length – at two weeks shorter than regular quarters – poses a challenge for lecturers and students in terms of teaching and processing course material at a faster rate, according to Brezhnev.
“A big challenge for classes offered in the summer is that we only have eight [weeks] rather than the full ten,” Brezhnev said. “As result, the schedule must move a lot quicker, and students must be fully dedicated to the course.”
Nevertheless, Ashjeet Talwar, who attends the University of California, San Diego, framed the class as manageable for high school and college students alike.
“The way [Hardison] teaches makes it understandable to everybody,” he said. “He communicates very well with everybody and makes the problems seem simple and easy. Even if you’re a high school student, you can cope really well.”
Hardison, who is teaching the course for the first time, attributed this accessibility to existing CS106A lecture designs.
“I’m following the preform that’s been set up by Eric and Mehran and all the other lecturers in the department pretty much to a key,” he said. “There are minor modifications here and there, but if you were to look up the lectures given last spring, they’re pretty much the same.”
According to Hardison, the summer and regular quarter classes appear to differ only in the increased number of people attending lecture.
“The only thing that I’ve noticed that is different is that there are more people in lecture,” he said. “Stanford students often watch lectures online, whereas in the summer, we have a lot of students come to class every day.”