In conversation with Tom Gifford, Assistant Director, International Recruitment, within the Experience, Operations portfolio at RMIT University
How learning programming/ Python is important for any career in the post-COVID-19 times?
One of the prevalent impact of lockdown due to the COVID-19 outbreak is the faster embracing of technology across the globe. The pandemic has made everyone realize the shifting nature of jobs and that technology is the future. This turnaround of events will lead to a sharper rise in the demand for digital skills moving forward. The future of jobs would involve Artificial Intelligence, Machine Learning, Big Data, Data Science, Data analytics, automation and more technologies in one way or the other.
In my view, for aspirants/ students, this lockdown period has presented an opportunity to choose and learn from the plethora of tech programmes and learn the tech skills they want. Python has been observed as a popular programming language among students during this phase and it will continue to gain further momentum. With an introduction to Python, students can start building the base for data science, analytics and machine learning. Moreover, this programming language is very user friendly. A student with knowledge and hands-on experience in Python gets a head-start for his/her career in computer science, gaming and information technology.
Why is it imperative to introduce programming to every student at the school level itself? How soon a student (which class) can be introduced to the subject?
In my opinion, everyone should learn programming predominantly school students. Programming aids students learn to analyse, think critically and creatively solve problems. Understanding computers and learning the basics of programming would help students to grow an appreciation for how things work.
More importantly, they will learn while learning programming, the essential life skills besides the tech skills. They will learn to think and solve problems in a logical and creative manner. Students would also learn to nosedive but at the same time acquire the ability to spring back post failures. Making mistakes serves as breaks for gaining wisdom.
Students starting from early years should start getting an introduction to the programming language. In India, both CBSE and ICSE boards have announced programming as a part of their computer science course as optional, for most schools. We are ensuing to a point where everything, every job would amalgamate into Computer Science and IT across fields to realize the next level of excellence. Picking up programming skills early on will only help students, at a later stage.
What are the new-age career prospects for students after pursuing a course in programming/ Python course?
The demand and application of programming/ python are anticipated to fast-track in the times to come. A course in programming/ Python would expose to abundant new-age career avenues as a Software Developer, Data Scientist, Data Analyst, Big data, Machine learning, Automation, Networking and more. Though attaining the right skills from a good educational institution would be crucial to an affluent career.
How getting international exposure will add value to students’ education and career path?
Studying in a foreign institution is excellent to expand your horizons for both personal growth and professional development. International exposure allows getting to ascertain new things, learning in a dynamic environment where a student acquires better cultural consciousness and understanding of peer students coming from different nations. Learners who study abroad display initiative, the desire to learn and the courage to enter into the unfamiliar terrain. This way a student can develop advanced social skills as well. International student exchange is not just about academic learning but the growth of life skills that goes a long way in an ever more globalized world aiding to build a generation of more leaders and innovators. I believe that getting international exposure is becoming a necessity for resolving grander problems in the world. Businesses across the globe too favour hiring candidates with international experience. The more experience you have abroad, the more you can assist a company to magnify its reach worldwide.
What is the idea behind introducing the GES programme? How is it different from other similar programmes/workshops offered during this COVID era, as every academic institution is proposing something similar either with nominal fees or free of cost?
In this swiftly moving world, it is vital to prepare students for the future of what’s next in computer science, gaming and information technology at a young age. We wanted to provide students with the taste of skills and experience that the industry needs through our special Global Extension Studies (GES) programme. This is an introductory-level programming principles, design and development course in Python. We envisioned delivering experiential learning with hands-on experience through the GES programme.
It is a world-first IT course giving Indian school students a passageway to programming, equips them for careers in IT in the Post COVID-19 World. To save their time and money on undergraduate studies, RMIT University would provide students with one subject of credit towards Bachelor degrees in Computer Science and Information Technology at the University.
Students aiming to build a career in the IT field and high achieving students can look forward to a completion certificate, scholarships with a maximum of 20% waiver on tuition fee to study at RMIT University, along with potential internship opportunities and selection for summer school programmes in India.
In programming, live experiences in a computer lab make sense. How did you manage to deliver 100% learning to the students? What were your success factors?
During these extraordinary times, we had to embrace ourselves to deliver an authentic programming experience to our students using a multitude of remote learning environments. The primary tool we used is an interactive textbook on the trinket platform. This is a novel approach in remotely teaching programming where students can experiment with all programming exercises within the textbook which can be remotely accessible from the web browser. This obliterated the need for any software installed on students’ computers. Moreover, we integrated this interactive textbook within our Learning Management System (LMS) and Collaborative Learning Platform, creating it a one-stop learning environment. This way students were able to experience an authentic learning environment as if they were studying together with an instructor in a traditional laboratory setup.
We have received encouraging feedback from students and a high completion rate of these unrestrained programs.