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Communications of the ACM

China Region special section: Hot topics

Teaching Undergraduates to Build Real Computer Systems

student at laptop computer in classroom

Credit: Getty Images

Computer system courses (for example, computer organization, computer architecture, operating system, and compiler) are the foundation of computer science education. However, it is difficult for undergraduates to fully grasp key concepts and principles of computer systems due to the gap between theory and practice. To mitigate the gap, Chinese educators have spent the last decade focusing on teaching undergraduates to build real computer systems. They carried out many effective reform measures with the philosophy of learning-by-doing, which have significantly improved the computer system skills and abilities of Chinese undergraduates.

Chinese educators have devoted exhaustive efforts over the past 10 years to reform measures for improving the technical skills of undergraduates by teaching them to build real computer systems.

Computer system education in China before 2010. In 2013, Yuan and Chen conducted a study that analyzed the scores of computer system courses in the National Entrance Examination to Graduate School for the years of 2009–2012. The statistical results show the average scores were extremely low, ranging from only 34.3 to 49.3 during the four years and the scores of operating systems were a bit better, ranging from 41.3 to 54.4.3 This situation stunned Chinese educators for it revealed serious problems in computer science education before 2010 in China.


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