Scott: Gen-ed needs to power up students’ computer skills

Scott argues the importance of incorporating computer skills into the gen-ed curriculum at Temple.

Zach ScottThere are certain expectations that come along with being a member of Generation Y. We’re supposed to be more civic-minded than our predecessors. We’re supposed to care more about the environment. Most importantly, we’re supposed to have grown up submerged in the sea of technology.

Recently, I came face-to-face with such expectations on a trip back home. My parents’ computer had been on the fritz and they asked me to take a look at it. They had apparently been hammering away at it (almost literally) for several days and were about to give up hope. Desperate, they asked me to take a look. Then they stood back, agape, as I did some basic things like virus scans and diagnostic tests. Ultimately, I was unable to deduce what the problem was, but I did learn something else.

I had never demonstrated any interest in computers. Of course my parents knew this. But that didn’t stop them from believing that I, being a young, college-educated adult, should be able to magically fix any technological problem they might face. There was an expectation that I should have learned to work with computers at some point in my life.

More people than just my parents believe this, I’m afraid. Regardless of major, people are going to expect that you be able to effectively work a computer.

That said, I do not believe that Temple is doing enough to prepare its students to face such expectations.

Don’t get me wrong. I’ve been exposed to valuable computer information in the classroom. I’ve learned how to use various design programs and the intricacies of Microsoft Excel. But most of what I’ve learned about the fundamentals of computers happened elsewhere.

It was learned through talking with friends. It was learned through Googling answers. And it was learned through enlisting the help of the Tech Center support staff.

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve needed to stop by for help. Not because I can’t recollect, but because I’m a little too embarrassed to say. But all those times my computer automatically installed an update that was giving me problems, or I got a virus, or even that one time when my USB drive stopped working for some weird reason, they were always there to help. And I dutifully paid attention and asked questions so that the next time I had these problems, I was equipped to handle them myself.

I’m grateful I had them to help. But if I had been luckier — or just plain smarter — I wouldn’t have picked up on all these tips.

This is where Temple should step in. A course focusing on computer literacy and other essential computer skills should be added to the general education program.

Technically, similar classes already do exist as part of the science and technology gen-ed requirement. But, of the five stated goals for the program, not a single one deals with preparing students to deal with the growing influence of technology. Instead, the program mainly focuses on ensuring that students understand the scientific method and are capable of applying it to their lives. Of course this is an important lesson, but it lacks the practicality of teaching computer literacy.

Students don’t need to be taught how to do anything advanced. Just being taught how to master important applications like Microsoft Word and PowerPoint, the differences between Macs and PCs, computer security tips and general jargon would make all the difference. Knowing these basic things would enhance a student’s ability to meet workplace expectations post-graduation.

Subsequently, an exemption test could be offered to those students who believe they already possess the requisite knowledge. This way Temple is rewarding students who have taken the time to learn such crucial lessons outside of the collegiate classroom while also ensuring that every student leaves the university being exposed to it. Additionally, such a computer literacy class could be deemed mandatory while also replacing one of the science and technology courses so as to avoid piling on excessive requirements on students.

Ultimately, through the introduction of such a requisite computer literacy course at Temple, the university would fulfill its primary role in ensuring that its students are prepared for life past enrollment. This generation, which has grown up embedded in the technological world, is and should be held up to certain expectations. By modifying the gen-ed program, Temple could help make these expectations more reachable.

Zack Scott can be reached at

1 Comment

  1. All students have access to through Blackboard, which provides free tutorials for any computer program imaginable. We do not need another gen-ed add costs to our already expensive tuition. Seriously, does anyone do any research before writing these articles?

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