Friday, April 16, 2010

Another signal bites the dust

To increase the appeal of the already popular Computer Science 50, Harvard’s introduction to computer science, course instructor David J. Malan ’99 announced yesterday that starting next fall, all students will be graded on a satisfactory/unsatisfactory basis.

Malan, who first started teaching CS50 in the fall of 2007, said that he had long considered eliminating letter grades to encourage more students without previous programming experience to take the course.

Given the course’s reputation for time-consuming problem sets, Malan said he often worries that interested students may shy away from taking the course, though 72 percent of students who took CS50 last semester said they had no programming experience.
--Monica Dodge, Harvard Crimson, on the impending elimination of a useful signal of ability I've often used in hiring decisions

If I’m going to put all that effort, I want the grade to sit on my transcript, I don’t want a satisfactory—if I put in the work for an A.
--Marina Anton expressing the Harvard attitude I know and love

Less than two weeks after announcing to the Computer Science 50 course staff that the class would be offered satisfactory/unsatisfactory next fall, course instructor David J. Malan ’99 wrote in an e-mail to teaching fellows and course assistants Saturday night that “sufficiently many concerns have arisen” such that “SAT/UNSAT will not happen this fall after all.”
--Gautam Kumar and Evan Rosenman, Crimson, on the resuscitation of the signal

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