Is programming for you? Q&A with Computing Flexible Learning lead instructor Jason Wilder

BCIT Computing has a long track record of teaching programming for software development. Meet faculty Jason Wilder, curriculum lead for the BCIT Computing Flexible Learning programming fundamentals stream, to learn more about how students can best explore essential IT skills. [Pictured: thank you note to Jason from a student]

Learn more about Computing Flexible Learning by joining our online Info Session on August 29 at 5.30 pm

Q: Where can students start if they want to see if they enjoy programming?

A: In Computing Flexible Learning (COMP FLEX), students can begin a path to a career in software development starting with just one course nights or weekends.

Our team has built a series of three courses which are taken in sequence, one course at a time: COMP 1516: Programming Fundamentals Part 1 (Python), COMP 2501: Programming Fundamentals Part 2 (Java), and COMP 2601: Programming Fundamentals Part 3 (Object Design).

These three courses offer a crucial skill set for anyone who wants to test the waters to see if they like programming.

Not sure where to begin? Pathways to start your journey in computing

Q: And what do they do if they complete the three fundamentals courses and want to go further?

A: These courses ladder all the way to a degree.

COMP 1516/2501/2601 align with the curriculum in our full-time programs, so students who decide they love this work have an option to complete the Computer Systems Certificate (CSC) and then apply for Direct Entry to the full-time Computer Systems Technology (CST) Diploma, or continue part time with the CST FLEX Diploma.

Every student takes the same first three programming courses in CSC. By the time they complete the third course they will have an idea of which path to take after that.

Q: How are new developments like Artificial Intelligence (AI) impacting the course content in areas like this?

A: Here’s a comment from ChatGPT: “It’s important to understand that while AI can automate certain tasks and improve efficiency, it cannot replace the critical thinking, creativity, and human judgment that are essential in programming and many other fields. AI is a tool that augments our capabilities, allowing us to focus on more complex and innovative aspects of our work. By integrating AI into our courses, we prepare students to leverage these tools effectively while emphasizing the unique skills that only humans can bring to the table.”

I agree with this! Who is going to make the very best use of these AI tools in the future? PROGRAMMERS. US.

AI is becoming yet another arrow in our quiver of tools to develop apps and programs. It is like a good assistant that needs managing, and it can also help as teacher. Rather than letting it do our work 100% for us, leaving us ignorant and helpless, we use it to save time typing. We use it to explain things easily. We use it to find errors and omissions.

Q: What kind of students will be most interested in these courses?

A: If you are curious and logical, these are good starting points. A basic foundational knowledge of how the hardware works, and how the software works is interesting. It can be intimidating, but it is also totally accessible for all beginners.

Q: What brought you to teaching?

Black and white photo of a man in a hoodie, smiling with a shaved head
Jason Wilder

A: I teach at BCIT because I was a student at BCIT. I graduated from CST, and now I teach in that program. It changed my whole life, more than the nine years I spent doing other non-computing degrees.

I remember when instructors helped me understand tough topics. Sometimes they could explain in five minutes or less what I couldn’t grasp over an entire weekend. That’s the goal: to save students time and stress by holding their hand through the sometimes-daunting terrain.

I teach a number of courses, including computer architecture and discrete mathematics, but I really like teaching the introductory programming courses, where we advance from “I don’t know anything” to “I can make my first programs!”.

Are you interested in teaching for BCIT Computing? Learn more.

Q: How do you keep up with a changing industry?

A: Our courses were created in partnership with industry, and we update them with help from industry.

I make web and mobile applications, so I’m forced to keep up. Change is daunting, but at BCIT we “learn how to learn”. As my son says, I started in tech “in the 1900s”!

But everything I learned as a BCIT CST student more than 20 years ago is still serving me well. The technology has changed, but I was given the foundation to teach myself and to adapt.

About Computing Flexible Learning

Kevin Cudihee, Program Head for Computing Flexible Leaning and Industry Training:

“We parallel many of the full-time BCIT Computing diploma offerings with the latest in-demand technologies and tools. I created these laddered credentials to satisfy multiple audiences and to also provide milestones along the way to a degree. These allow students who could not otherwise attend full-time to obtain significant skills and earn credentials at their own pace. They can study at night and on weekends, and pay as they go, course by course. My advice to those thinking of getting into IT: start with just one course.”

Subscribe to Tech-It-Out quarterly to keep up with the latest from BCIT Computing and learn more about Computing Flexible Learning by joining our online Info Session on August 29 at 5.30 pm

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