In a comment on Mark Guzdial’s blog (Women leave academia more than men, but greater need to change in computing « Computing Education Blog), Laurissa commented
I’ve always been afraid that technology and computer education will follow in the footsteps of writing instruction. Communication and computer literacy are both necessary skills in today’s culture and job economy. How can we expect students to learn either if universities require one (maybe 2) intro level courses during freshman year then never teach students how to build upon those skills, show them how how valuable those skills, and actually give them opportunities to apply their skills AFTER they leave those initial classes. Computing–in the same way as communication–can’t the be taught in isolation from other disciplines. They’re life-long learning skills that students NEED if they’re going to succeed once they leave the university.
Although she is an English major who took some computer science, while I am a computer science PhD who taught tech writing for over a decade, we have similar views on the similarity of writing and computer programming. Both are essential skills that require clarity of thought and are expensive to teach well. Both are being short-changed in colleges and universities, because they require labor-intensive feedback to the students from highly skilled practitioners.
There is a strong temptation to throw the problem over the fence to a small group of experts (writing instructors or computer science lecturers) teaching first-year classes. That happened in most universities to writing instruction over the past 2 decades, with the result that students write very few papers after their freshman year in most majors, and almost never get detailed feedback on them. It is happening in computer science also, except that the freshman CS courses already do not provide any feedback on programming style other than whether things compile and work on a few test cases. (That’s like checking English papers for word count, word length, and sentence length, but not for content—sort of what scoring of SAT essays is like.)