Dr. Tzipi Hart, head of the School of Computer Science and Information Systems at Ono Academic College, revealed what is being done differently in computer science studies at Ono, in an interview with the Maariv Newspaper.
Computer science has become one of the most sought after professions among those planning their careers in one of the most financially-rewarding fields of recent years, the high-tech industry. Ono Academic College chose to take this fascinating field one step further, to make it even more attractive, and added to the curriculum an internship in entrepreneurship and innovation. This internship provides students not only with the basic and necessary requirements of the field, but also with the specific professional aspects that will be even more in demand in the coming years.
Dr. Hart has already planned for the upcoming academic year, buoyed by having received the biggest compliment that an educator can receive. Students who began their studies in the program’s new track in February 2020, just before the first wave of the Corona outbreak, have volunteered to explain it to the new students (who will begin their studies in the coming school year) They will speak about how much they enjoy, progress and develop a welcome interaction with the lecturers and with the industry.
Ono’s computer science program is comprised of 120 academic credits leading to the B.Sc. degree (Bachelor of Science, in this case, Computer Science). Of these, 90 credits are dictated by the mandatory standards of the Council for Higher Education in the fields of mathematics, statistics and the core subjects of computer science.
What sets Ono’s computer science program apart from that of other educational institutions is the remaining 25% of the curriculum, which is dedicated to entrepreneurship and innovation studies from the perspective of starting a successful business. It also includes studies in classic areas of entrepreneurship and innovation, such as cyber security and data analytics. Hart notes: “Our program is not focused on training theoreticians or the next generation of academic staff. Instead, it trains promising candidates in the skills they need for the job market, while giving them the tools to be entrepreneurs, not only working in startups, but also as entrepreneurs within existing organizations, a trait that is considered highly sought after.”
Hart notes that entrepreneurship is something that, at least in part, can be learned. “It’s clear that entrepreneurial companies are high risk. That is natural. However, there are also tools that need to be learned [to provide a higher chance of success]: How to write a business plan, How to start a business, How to raise capital, How to appeal to private investors and funds. We also provide students with the theoretical background that divides between those who have only a good idea and those who become successful entrepreneurs. It is not always enough to know what to do, but one must also know how to do it. And here is the main difference between us and any other program that exists in academia.”
Dr. Hart expanded on the program’s added value in the fields of entrepreneurship and innovation. “For example, courses on cyber security, courses that deal with big data. In this regard, we are currently building collaborations with the Innovation Center at Sheba Hospital and with the Migdal insurance company- that is, both in the medical and insurance and finance businesses. Another example is image processing, a skill that is required in diverse and innovative fields – from autonomous vehicles to medical diagnostics. These are just examples of fields that are not only the most in-demand today, but those that will remain so in the coming years.”
The Computer Science program at Ono Academic College is specifically attuned to the needs of working students. This is another area in which Ono differentiates itself from other institutions. Studies take place over two half days (in the afternoon and evening) and on Fridays until noon (rather than 3-4 full days a week). This makes a big difference for the students and is particularly suitable for students who work and earn a living while studying. In order to fit in all the material in the curriculum, studies are spread over 9 straight semesters (including summer semesters) during the three years of study.
These differences naturally create a cadre of slightly older, more committed students, those who understand a thing or two about the need to earn a living while studying. They receive from the institution all the assistance needed to succeed in their demanding course of study. Hart notes, “Our motto is not to lower the level of study, but instead to support those who have difficulty. Our lecturers really like teaching and interacting with students. They are committed to doing everything to help them succeed. Most lecturers have gained experience in the industry, but consider teaching computer science as their “mission.” There are institutions where the faculty is more engaged in research and there is less emphasis on teaching. Our lecturers, even though they are engaged in research, understand that their main task is to get excellent graduates out to the market.”
Hart focuses on the college’s support system for the students. “The lecturers are attentive to the students and help them: whether at a one-on-one level, whether in small study groups or in enrichment classes. If the student has the ability and desire to succeed, the lecturer will do everything to push him or her forward. Classes are relatively small, up to 40 students per class, allowing lecturers closer contact with students, follow-up and even targeted assistance, where required. “
The unique undergraduate program in computer science is aimed not only at the early-career job market, but also at preparing graduates for a more advanced degree: a master’s degree in business administration. It is understood that an MBA is often required for those who want to advance in the organizational hierarchy. Since the undergraduate curriculum also includes introductory master’s degree courses, it only takes one more academic year (i.e. a total of four years from the start of school, assuming all exams and assignments are passed) to graduate from Ono Academic College, not just with a B.Sc. in Computer Science but also with an MBA.
Dr. Hart notes that entry into the program is competitive. “The threshold requirements are high and in principle they are not different from those at other academic institutions. However, when we identify potential among those who want to study, but unfortunately do not meet the threshold requirements, we allow them to enroll in a preparatory program (to raise their qualifications). On the condition that they achieve an average of 75 or higher, they will be conditionally accepted to the program. If they continue to meet the study requirements, they will complete the degree.
Dr. Hart addresses the importance of women studying in the field. “I believe computer science is a profession tailored to young women. It is true that today it has a male majority, but it is suitable for determined women who want to integrate into rewarding positions in the labor market. Women have great analytical skills, improved ability to handle multiple tasks and other qualities that can make them excel in the field. When you add to that the economic independence that awaits graduates, it becomes a vehicle for real empowerment.”
The full article can be found at: https://www.maariv.co.il/business/consumerism/Article-789955