CS 61A course enrollment reaches new high, nears 2,000

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Current enrollment in UC Berkeley’s introductory computer science course has increased from 1,568 students last fall to 1,762 students this semester.

The first lecture of the semester was webcasted three different times in Wheeler Hall for about 600 students each time, computer science professor John DeNero said. But he added that live lecture attendance is expected to reduce as students choose to watch the webcasted lectures instead.

“We have enough funding and enough TAs and, as of yesterday, I think we have enough rooms,” DeNero said.

He added that he “can’t promise” but believes they will be able to take everyone from the waitlist.

CS 61A is a part of the series of requirements for computer science and EECS majors on campus. It is one of the introductory coding courses, along with CS 10, E 7 and Data 8, according to DeNero, who co-instructs the course with computer science professor Paul Hilfinger. With these introductory course offerings, DeNero said students are enrolling in the class “not because it’s (a) requirement but because it’s interesting.”

Campus sophomore media studies and cognitive science major Lynne Hickman said that she felt “a little bit intimidated” by the course, but she said hopes to rely on the support offered by the class, such as discussion sections and mentoring sessions.

The course expanded small group-mentoring sections this semester as an opportunity for students to directly get questions answered and work on interesting problems, DeNero said.

DeNero said they are also piloting online versions of discussions and labs this semester. He added that the online platform would make the course more accessible to commuter students and eventually to the public.

“I think we have a pretty good thing going,” DeNero said. “We can potentially offer (the course) all throughout the world.”

CS 61A TA and campus sophomore Shreya Sahoo said a record number of TAs — over 50 — means that they can increase the number of sections while maintaining the section sizes. Sahoo predicted that logistically, finding enough rooms for exams and grading could take longer, but the overall structure of the course would not need to be changed.

“I’m more responsible for my section of students, which is about 40,” Sahoo said. “So it’s not as scary.”

Campus senior Patrick Kim, a statistics student who took the course last semester, said even if the course lacked support, the students are dealing with a “well-established subject” which makes it possible for them to find other outlets for support, including online resources.

DeNero said the course instructors issue an end-of-semester survey to evaluate their success. According to DeNero, last fall, 60 percent of the students rated their class experience 5/5.

“There are always challenges,” DeNero said. “What I really care about is that students are learning a lot and having fun.”

Contact Alicia Kim at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @aliciackim.