How to combine and customize multiple programming languages into one course.

Concurrent Session 10

Session Materials

Brief Abstract

For decades, only computer information majors needed to know how to program computers. There are many computer programming languages; some are better suited for certain fields. This presentation will discuss how to combine and customize a course to incorporate multiple programming languages that could be taken by several different students. 


Lewis Williams III has 20 years in the education industry holding various positions that include Education Manager, Instructional Systems Designer, Curriculum Developer, Training Instructor and Adjunct Professor. His career has spanned several industries from large corporations and small businesses to government contracting and academia. Currently he is a Learning Designer in the Learning Design and Solutions group at University of Maryland University College (UMUC), and an adjunct professor at Anne Arundel Community College. Lewis earned a Bachelor of Business Administration degree from Howard University in Computer Information Systems, and a Master of Instructional Design degree from the University of Maryland - Baltimore County. He also holds certifications in Instructional Systems Development, Instructional Technology, and Microsoft Office. Mr. Williams has used adult learning theories and instructional design principles to develop and design curriculum for instructor-led, e-learning, and web-based courses. He has created training strategies as well as utilized needs analysis to develop learning solutions that are measurable, assessable, and match learning outcomes. Lewis along with Dr. Michael Brown and Tommy Bennett are receipts of the 2016 OLC Effective Practice award.

Extended Abstract

University of Maryland University College (UMUC) has combined and customized an Introduction to Programming course which teaches multiple programming languages such as Java, Python, and R. The goal of this presentation is to show how UMUC combined three programming languages into one course and how the course was customized to allow students to select the language they want to learn. Participants will learn why UMUC created this course and how they combined the three programming languages by having modules divided into general content and specific content. They will also learn the advantages and disadvantages of this course’s design methodology.

For decades, only Computer Science majors were required to know how to program computers. Industries such as Biotechnology and Data Analytics now request their entry-level employees to have basic programming skills. There are several computer programming languages, and each is specialized for different types of computing.  Due to this language diversity, each major often wants to use different programming language. This presents a problem when teaching students how to program.

Universities typically solve this problem in one of two ways. Some schools select one official programming language and require all departments to use it. The disadvantage of this approach is that some majors use languages not designed for their subject.

Another approach that some schools take is to develop and conduct multiple Introduction to Programming courses each using different programming languages. The disadvantage of this approach is that multiple courses need to be developed and since enrollment is spread over multiple courses that are more partially filled at best. This approach is not financially optimal. I believe UMUC is the first to create a multi-language introduction to programming course that all students, regardless of major can register for and take.

This presentation will demonstrate how to combine and customize a course to incorporate multiple programming languages that could be taken to meet several different students’ needs. The target audience for this presentation is collegiate program or department chairs, faculty, adjunct professors, and admissions officers.

The format of this presentation will be a slideshow beginning with an interactive discussion. The materials used for this presentation will be slides and screenshots from the developed course. The presentation will begin with a 5-7 minute discussion session asking the group to brainstorm ideas on how they would solve the problem of having multiple programming language courses but only one language being able to run every semester because the other courses never have enough enrollment.