Heidelberg partners with Google

Heidelberg University is one of five schools nationally to pilot new tech industry courses in a collaborative effort with Google.

Courses through the Applied Computing Series are going to be offered in computer science, data science and machine learning. These courses are going to be offered to undergraduate students who may not have considered themselves in a technology career.

The series is a three-course program that will increase a student’s access to quality data science and machine learning education. Heidelberg is to offer two applied computing courses during the academic year — Foundations of Python Programming and How to Think Like a Data Scientist.

The third is an advanced course — a 10-week course, titled Applied Machine Learning Intensive, is to be offered during the summer and is designed to offer non-computer science majors a crash course in data engineering, which can be applied to their own majors. This course is to be co-taught by a Heidelberg faculty member and a Google engineer, who is to be on campus for the pilot intensive this coming summer.

Heidelberg has been piloting courses in this sequence with Google since January, Sean Joyce, assistant professor and chair of computer science, said.

“This is a tremendous opportunity for the university and our students,” he said. “Through this program, we are able to further enhance the value of our long-standing, successful programs in both computer science and information systems.”

Joyce said students are to be exposed to more cutting-edge technologies and skills in data science and machine learning. They are to participate in even more meaningful, hands-on experiences in computing and are to further develop their abilities in problem-solving, critical thinking, collaboration and communication — skills required by today’s employers.

“Students who complete this experience will have opportunities to enter the workforce as data engineers, technical program managers, or data analysts in industries ranging from healthcare to insurance to entertainment and media,” Joyce said. “These courses and program are a great compliment to any major or field of study.”

According to Joyce, Google has taken the lead on developing materials for each of the courses. The company has authored some of its own materials as well as worked with noted computer science faculty to adapt respected textbooks and materials to this program. Through the pilot, Google has worked with faculty at partner institutions to hone the material, make adjustments and develop instructor ancillary resources.

“These courses complement and strengthen our long-standing computer science and information systems majors in engaging and exciting ways,” Joyce said. “Our partnership with Google provides additional options for students who may or may not be majors but who recognize the importance of computational thinking and data analysis to their chosen fields of study.”

Courses are taught using a “flipped classroom” model, which allows students to review, study and practice material on their own. Students then are to work on collaborative projects in groups with coaching by instructors. The Google instructional team builds the content and in-class projects so students have relevant, real-world problems to solve. Courses then are facilitated by Heidelberg faculty. Benefits for students include skills that will position them for entry-level positions in the burgeoning machine learning workforce; opportunities to work with Google engineers to learn about the tech industry’s working environments, challenges and nuances; immersion in a project-based curriculum to help reinforce the computer and data science principles they’re learning.

“Heidelberg’s partnership with Google will allow us to rethink the way traditional computer science is taught, as well as to prepare students for a new career path in machine learning with great market demand,” Provost Beth Schwartz said in a release provided by the university.

According to Google, the Applied Computing Series teaches the foundations of computer and data science, designed to attract students who might not have considered themselves destined for a technology career. All courses leverage tools and techniques used at Google and in the wider tech industry, while also teaching the non-tech skills needed to be successful at work more generally: soft skills required by employers, including critical thinking and problem solving, collaboration and the ability to communicate and network.

Courses are to teach students more than how to code — they will teach data analytics, statistical techniques and machine learning modeling.

“All of the courses combine high-impact practices that include skills in hands-on, collaborative projects meant to solve real-life problems in the tech industry and beyond,” Schwartz said in a release.

Courses are expected to reinforce the goals of Heidelberg’s HYPE Career Ready Program.

“This partnership and our new courses demonstrate our continued commitment to the preparation of our students for the professions of today and tomorrow,” Joyce said.