Friday, October 09, 2009

Politeness or Professionalism Classes: Required?

Now that I'm actively involved in undergraduate courses, I've noticed a disturbing trend among students: unprofessional e-mails, inability to remember deadlines, not paying attention in class, and a lack of time management. Even graduate students have been prone to another problem: inappropriate types of question asking during presentations and class (the overbearing, you're wrong and I'm right, type of "question" that is really a statement and is usually incorrect).

I feel that college is the best place to either learn about professional and appropriate behavior or to improve one's behavior even more, so that upon graduation it will possible to interact correctly in any work environment including graduate school. So why do we not require students to take a professionalism class? I was lucky in that my university (Virginia Tech) required computer science students to take a professionalism seminar their junior or senior year, but I have since discovered that is not normal. We not only discussed and practiced interactions and professional writing, but also had panels related to ethics and the social impact of computing. I don't think this class was done perfectly (for one thing, anyone who did internships could have used it much earlier in the curriculum), but at least it was there to prepare students. Other computer science departments should really consider this type of class as well!

We do have professionalism seminars that happen a few times a semester at my current university, but they only cover a few topics, are the same every year, and are more geared toward applications and research methods for graduate students. This is great, but the undergraduates really need more guidance!

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