notes on OSU’s post-bacc CS program

I’ve recently wrapped up my first term in OSU’s post-baccalaureate Computer Science program. I took Introduction to Computer Science I and Discrete Structures in Computer Science. You can see from my hiatus from posting artwork these last couple of months that I was very preoccupied with my studies.

Regarding Introduction to Computer Science I (CS 161)

I’m glad I had at least some (albeit rudimentary) exposure to Python and programming going in. Otherwise I think I should have been overwhelmed from the get-go, beginning with establishing a connection to GitHub, which was necessary to complete any of the assignments.

The assignments started out as a gentle introduction, but then became less so, requiring some mental and programming flexibility. At least that was the case for me. The focus was on problem-solving, not on knowing which Python operator could easily pop out the correct solution (which was not allowed). I thought this was just what an introduction to computer science should be like. Overall, the assignments were reasonable, though there also were some moments – which could go on for many hours – of serious brain-wracking.

The number of assignments we needed to complete each week was very reasonable, especially since most of my time was spent getting through the other course I was taking simultaneously. I wish that I hadn’t been so distracted by my other class and had been able to give more attention to this one.

The course was structured around weekly modules, with a quiz and programming assignments, in which you were given problems to solve using the concepts introduced in the module. There were two larger assignments at the end but no final exam. There were also a couple of “group” projects. The goals of the group projects were simple, so the emphasis was the process of working with others – remotely, with the weird sort of anonymity you get from online-only, asynchronous interactions.

Regarding Discrete Structures in Computer Science (CS 225)

I found this course to be very challenging, both in terms of learning the concepts and the amount of time it took me to get through all the graded work. My Khan Academy studies hadn’t touched on any of the subject matter in the course, and, if I had been introduced to any of it as a student many years ago, it had long since fled from my brain.

It felt akin to learning a foreign language, but without a way to compare that language to your native language.

Given my struggles comprehending the material, completing the copious weekly graded assignments and studying for the quizzes proved to be extremely time-intensive and often mentally exhausting.

Now, having emerged on the other side of the course, I can say I learned the material. What seemed incomprehensible at the time I was trying to drill it into my addled brain now makes sense (mostly). This was achieved through a brutal repetition of attempting to solve problem sets, reviewing any provided solutions, and then doing more problem sets. Concepts eventually gelled along the way.

This course had a large volume of weekly assignments, biweekly quizzes, and a final “quiz”.

Some General Thoughts about the Program

So far, it’s been less “social” than I expected it to be. I thought a lot of people would be interested in professional “networking,” but this is the exception rather than the rule. Most of the students prefer to remain anonymous to each other. Perhaps this will change to some extent further into the program, for those who have stuck around.

It’s a work-in-progress trying to figure out what skills/experience I will need in addition to the coursework to be a viable intern or job applicant – and how to accomplish them. Most advice is from the relatively small amount of peers (and sometimes alumni) active online on an unofficial Slack channel, and is helpful but anecdotal in nature.