LSUS computer science degrees create opportunities for students, teachers

The LSUS computer science program is seeking to supply northwest Louisiana’s burgeoning technical and digital industry with skilled, career-ready employees.

Forbes in 2016 ranked a bachelor’s degree in Computer Science as the number two in demand by employers and ranked a master’s degree Computer Science as the number one master’s degree in demand. In 2015 about 60,000 students graduated from US institutions with bachelor degrees in computer and information services. There are about 530,000 computing jobs currently open (in 2017), according to Code.org.

Dr. Al McKinney, chair of computer science department, said that university began adding degrees because filling the needed STEM jobs will require “a lot of effort, and it won’t get us anywhere near the need. (The nation) is graduating far fewer student than are needed.”

The department’s four concentrations are Computer Information Systems (CIS), Cybersecurity, Digital Interactive Graphics (DIG) and Software Development (SD).

The university modified its network security program last spring to include more Cisco Academy Certification Programs and spent $63,000 upgrading its Network Lab to support these courses.

They also recently received an AEP grant for $300,000 to add a Cybersecurity Collaboratory. LSUS is currently panning the installation of this lab and revising its network security curricula at two levels this spring. LSUS has also applied for $99,000 cyber security workforce grant and is working with CSRA in their cybersecurity concentration.

“We are strengthening and increasing the number of our security courses and creating a concentration in Cybersecurity that will utilize this new Cybersecurity lab,” said Dr. McKinney. ““This is a drop in the bucket of what’s needed but these two Cybersecurity programs will attract a lot of students and greatly increase our enrollment.”

Dr. McKinney has seen a steady increase in the number of undergraduate and graduate students, but notes the increase is not as much as the university should have seen.

“I think the increase in number of students is coming,” he said. “In 2020 there is projected that there will be over 1,000,000 unfilled computer jobs in the U.S. In 2019, it is predicted that there will be over 6 million cybersecurity jobs globally with 1.5 million of these jobs unfilled.”

To better prepare students before they reach the doors of LSUS, the departments of education and computer science at LSU Shreveport formed a partnership to provide computer science training to K-12 teachers.

A series of seven graduate courses worth 21 credit hours have been created for currently certified teachers who want to also earn a certification in computer science. The month long course exposes teachers to the fundamentals of robotics through the use of kits that provide hands on training.  The study of the topics included in robotics exposes the teachers to many different computer science skills so the teachers can take the kits and the skills they have learned into their respective schools for use in teaching some of the fundamentals of computer science.

“The demand for graduates with a computer science degree is increasing dramatically. The thought is that these programs will expose K-12 students to training that will stimulate their interest in computer science,” said Dr. McKinney.

Beginning this past fall semester, LSUS is offering a package for teachers who want to earn the Master of Education – Computer Science at the same time they are earning the add on certification in computer science.  The seven courses needed to earn the certification are imbedded within the MEDCI degree. A teacher interested in earning the MEDCI while pursuing the new certification must only take an additional five education courses.

“We saw the need to allow teachers to get a degree in STEM education in order to fulfill this shortage of people,” Dr. McKinney explained.