This spring, Yale’s Computer Science Department will offer two new courses focusing on entrepreneurship — CPSC 213, “Apps, Software and Entrepreneurship,” and CPSC 413, “Advanced Apps, Software and Entrepreneurship.” The courses replace CPSC 113, “Technology and Entrepreneurship,”which was the first class within the department to teach business skills alongside programming. CPSC 413 is aimed at computer science majors, while CPSC 213 will be open to students of all disciplines.
Kyle Jensen, director of entrepreneurship for the Yale School of Management, has taught CPSC 113 since its inaugural semester in fall 2014. He said he came up with the idea for the popular class after meeting with his colleague Daniel Abadi, a Yale computer science professor.
“We both care deeply about computer science education and both had profound entrepreneurial experiences related to software development,” Jensen said. “We wanted to create a learning environment for both students to learn computer science principles related to the production of software, and also learn about what it means to create a startup.”
Jensen noted that a wide range of student projects were created as part of the course, including an event-finding platform, a sandwich delivery service and a tool that matched same-sex couples to egg and sperm donors. However, he added that the diversity of students projects presented the course’s teaching staff with a challenge: He and his team found it pedagogically difficult to spend enough time with each of the student groups while at the same time engaging them with both computer science and business. Jensen added that this combination also posed a challenge to students.
“For many students, this was their first management class,” Jensen said. “They have many of the same lessons and learning objectives they have here that they would at the MBA-level entrepreneurship classes. It can sometimes seem like drinking from a fire hose.”
April Koh ’16, a peer tutor for the course, said that in her experience, the students who thrived in the class were those who had a strong idea to begin with and a team to help execute that idea, as well as those enthusiastic about entrepreneurship.
She said that students who took a “Credit/D/Fail mind set” to the class and students who expected the class to be easy were likely to find it difficult.
Koh advised students interested in CPSC 213 and CPSC 413 to think more broadly when envisioning class projects.
“A lot of the scope of these problems were limited by the fact that these students had only experienced the college and high school life so far,” Koh said. “It’d be nice in the future if students brought back experiences from other realms of society and tried to address those problems.”
Jensen described last semester as difficult, adding that the teaching staff realized they were asking more of students than was implied by the 100-level course code. He added that the splitting of the course into CPSC 213 and CPSC 413 this academic year came about as a result of these challenges.
Students interviewed said the courses were a welcome addition to the department, which has traditionally focused more on computer science theory.
Computer science major Gray Newfield ’19 said he enjoys the abstract and theoretical nature of the department’s offerings. He added that a knowledge of the fundamentals of computer science was essential, and that other avenues are available to students that translate this theory into practice.
Jensen said he does not see the distinction between theory and practice as being so defined, adding that in his classes, the computer science faculty aims to blend the two together.
In March 2015, the Yale Computer Science Department merged with the Yale School of Engineering and Applied Science, after receiving two donations totalling $20 million.