Innovation & technology
When coursework translates to the workforce: HCC computer science students get real experience
Computers have dramatically changed the way students are educated today, and nowhere is that more evident than at Houston Community College.
Consider this: More than 90 percent of Dr. Carlton Downey's online students never meet him in person. Downey teaches freshman composition and technical writing at HCC's Southeast College and communicates with many students only by computer.
"Most are working full-time jobs, providing care for their families and taking courses toward their degree," Downey explains. "They may [only] get a chance to do their coursework at midnight or at four in the morning before they go to work."
Instructors use a variety of online teaching methods, he says. Some have online discussion boards and blogs where students participate with other students in the class as they discuss topics and information pertinent to the course.
But students at HCC are not only doing their homework on computers — they're also learning how to use them well enough to move directly from the classroom into the workforce.
Some use videos "where they record lectures and present them with a PowerPoint or other screen-capturing program. Professors also provide links to resources and develop materials to further explain difficult concepts."
But students at HCC are not only doing their homework on computers or computer-type projects — they're also learning how to use them well enough to move directly from the classroom into the workforce, reports HCC computer science instructor Sean Otmishi.
"I came directly from the industry and I know what the industry is looking for," says Otmishi, who teaches at HCC's Northwest College. "I have been able to bring the industry to the computer science department. My courses are partnered with companies like HostGator, cPanel and vspnet. These companies provide my classes with the software and hardware that's needed to make sure our students have the tools and resources needed to learn, train and get that job in the field."
Otmishi, himself a former HCC student, has been around computers all his life. "Computers have been my hobby — from playing games on them to actually building them for family members," he says.
He brings that passion for computers to the classroom — and to the public through a television program called Innovative Technology. The program is aired several times a week on the college's own TV station, HCC-TV.
"My concept was to make a show for students, by students, offering them the ability to expose their creativity and knowledge through the means of television," Otmishi says. "The show gives our viewers the opportunity to be exposed to the latest hardware, software and do-it-yourself projects with technology."
In his spare time, Otmishi launched a computer science club for HCC students.
"I am extremely happy and honored to be a part of this institution," he says. "It not only helped me get my undergraduate degree, but gave me the opportunity to get an affordable education."