Newswise — NORMAN – University students majoring in engineering, science and mathematics typically are the ones who enroll in college-level computer courses, like computational thinking and computer programming. Now with Janux online courses offered at the University of Oklahoma’s College of Engineering, anyone with an interest in computer science can learn more about the subject from college professors. With almost 2,000 students enrolled in these two classes alone, it is apparent the first-time courses are opening an academic portal for nontraditional students.

Students have the option of enrolling in traditional for-credit or not-for-credit courses through the university’s online learning platform, Janux. The OU College of Engineering’s Introduction to Computer Programming is offered as both a for-credit and not-for-credit course. The Power and Elegance of Computational Thinking is a not-for-credit course created specifically for Janux. All of the not-for-credit courses are available to anyone with online access, and include video instruction and written materials. The popularity of taking these challenging classes for the sake of learning is evident as enrollment numbers are nearly 10 times that of traditional on-site courses. Introduction to Computer Programming has more than 1,200 students enrolled and The Power and Elegance of Computational Thinking has more than 600 students.

“It is exciting to see so many people interested in computer science,” said Deborah Trytten, OU associate professor of computer science and instructor for the Janux Introduction to Computer Science course.

Trytten said the reasons for enrolling in the Janux courses are as diverse as the student demographics. They include adults who are considering a career change, homeschooled students, professionals wanting to keep their skills current, students considering majoring in computer science, and students who want to get a head start on computer science majors.

“As an open course, Janux allows students to experiment with intellectual achievement in a new framework,” Trytten explained. “Without the cost commitment and grading pressure of a traditional degree-seeking program, students are free to learn merely for the sake of learning.”

Anthony Vogt, an OU senior majoring in Latin, is enrolled in the Janux Introduction to Computer Programming course. Vogt was attracted to the course because it allowed him to explore his interest in computer programming without the cost or structured time commitments of typical college-level courses.

“After just a few sessions, I’ve already learned more about programming and other things related to computing than I have in years,” Vogt said. “I can take my class while working overnight shifts, which makes the courses highly useful for the working student.”The all-time access to the course, combined with continuous online community support facilitated by the platform, makes it easier for students to learn complex subjects. Janux goes beyond other online platforms by allowing students to share notes, form groups, live chat and interact with other students and professors throughout the entirety of the course.

“Programming can be frustrating, particularly at first,” said Trytten. “Being able to get help and support around the clock minimizes the challenges of learning to program.”

Amy McGovern, OU associate professor of computer science and instructor for the Power and Elegance of Computational Thinking, sees the far-reaching implications of web-based courses like Janux.

“Higher education is undergoing a revolution,” said McGovern. “Through the Janux platform, students of all levels and backgrounds have the opportunity to gain more personal, distinct knowledge, whether is it for a college degree, or for the sake of learning. By recognizing the diversity of today’s students and meeting their individual learning needs, OU’s College of Engineering is helping redefine higher education.

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ABOUT:The University of Oklahoma College of Engineering challenges students to solve the world’s toughest problems through a powerful combination of education, entrepreneurship, research, community service and student competitions. Research is focused on both basic and applied topics of societal significance including biomedical engineering, energy, engineering education, civil infrastructure, nanotechnology and weather technology.The programs within the college’s eight areas of study are consistently ranked in the top third of engineering programs in the U.S. with research expenditures of more than $22 million and the formation of 12 start-up companies.