Online Applied Computing Program finds foothold at UWM

Twenty students—including those from Wisconsin and Minnesota –are earning their undergraduate degrees from UWM in applied computing through a 61-credit, online program that is a marriage of computer science and business courses.

Students who enroll in UW Extended Campus’ new Applied Computing Program select a home campus from five participating UW System universities: UWM, UW-Oshkosh, UW-Platteville, UW-Stevens Point or UW-River Falls. Each home campus has developed its own model to provide advising, career services, financial aid (when applicable) and ultimately diplomas for students in this degree completion program.

At UWM, Department of Computer Science takes the lead

At UWM, the College of Engineering & Applied Science’s Department of Computer Science has taken leadership in this program, with four faculty members and instructors involved.

Tian Zhao (pictured), associate professor, computer science, serves as the program’s academic director. “My role is to coordinate course development and instruction,” Zhao says, “and to interact with students when they have questions.” Student questions regarding advising are answered by the college’s academic advisors.

Nineteen faculty members representing the five universities teach the program’s 21 courses. At UWM, Zhao teaches Computer Security I; Guangwu Xu, associate professor, computer science, teaches Computer Security II; John Boyland, professor and department co-chair, electrical engineering and computer science, teaches Applied Data Structures and Algorithms; and Jayson Rock, senior lecturer, computer science, teaches Operating Systems Theory and Practice.

“The online curriculum is something we all have to get involved in,” Zhao says. “It’s been a learning experience for our department. Offering a course online is time consuming and you have to be completely prepared in order to do it well.”

Specifically, he says, the following need to be in place in order for the course to be successful: instructors, managers, advisors, technical support and administration.

And it appears that the college is rising to the challenge. UWM leads enrollment in the program and UWM students who responded to a survey indicated their satisfaction. “Great program…it’s what I was looking for,” one wrote. “Thanks for the hard work. I’m very happy so far,” wrote another. “Keep up the good work,” wrote a third.

The Applied Computing Program began enrolling students in Fall 2018 and the first graduates are expected December 2019.

About the Applied Computing Program

The Applied Computing Program is meant to produce well-rounded computing professionals, skilled in areas such as communications, project management and IT strategy. “It is 75 percent computer science, 25 percent business and communications,” says Zhao.

It is geared for busy adult who are interested in advancing their IT careers or changing careers; applicants must have about 60 transferable college credits or an associate’s degree.

Courses include those in fundamental computer science, software engineering, tech security issues, computing solutions for business problems, and data management; in addition, students begin to master business communications and leadership, legal and ethical issues and project management. Students apply what they learn in a hands-on capstone project with a business or organization. These projects are expected to lead to job opportunities and valuable connections.

Learn more about the Applied Computing Program.