New Partnership Announced to Provide Statewide Online Coding Curriculum

LITTLE ROCK – The Arkansas Department of Education, Arkansas State University, and the Arkansas Public School Resource Center announced a partnership program to provide a statewide online coding curriculum starting with the fall 2020 semester.

The first offering of its type to the high school students of Arkansas, the UpSkill program is designed to support the Governor’s initiative on computer science skills.  The course structure leads students through a nine-month curriculum that prepares them to receive a certificate in Swift coding.

“We know that growing the number of students in our state with coding skills is vitally important to our state’s overall economic development future, and Arkansas State is proud to be on the forefront of delivering this type of course work to our state high schools,” Chancellor Kelly Damphousse said.  “Equipping the youth of Arkansas with the skills needed in a dynamic, digital future is essential to both our state as well as to the next generation workforce.”

“The Arkansas Computer Science Initiative has been and will continue to lead the nation in K-12 computer science education; however, to meet the needs of our state, students, and industries, our initiative must strengthen its partnerships and connections to post-secondary education and the workforce,” says Anthony Owen, state director of computer science. “Through partnerships, like the one we are announcing today, Arkansas will increase relevant opportunities for students who are progressing into the workforce directly from high school or into traditional college programs. The A-State / ADE Upskill partnership is a great step in the right direction as we build tomorrow’s workforce with today’s student population.”

The three-course series begins this fall with an introduction to coding in Swift, followed by an intermediate course in the latter half of the fall semester and closes out with the advanced studio in Swift during the first part of the spring semester.

Each course is taught online over an eight-week period.  Students work through modules each week to gain the techniques and skills associated with Swift coding.  A limited number of slots are available in this initial rollout for fall 2020.

“Coding, development and design are huge elements of every sector of society now,” Cameron Buckley, assistant professor, said.  “In the state of Arkansas, it is essential that we equip students with the tools to thrive in our growing tech sector.  A lot of people think coding is memorizing terms. That couldn’t be further from the truth.  It’s about learning the strategies and a language whose concepts work together.  This is content you can apply to any field – medical field, design, business – this isn’t just a set of tools to use in computer science only.”

Buckley recently joined Arkansas State as a lead professor of photography and new media, and is instrumental along with other members of the Department of Art + Design in the creation of this new program.

“There are so many things you can do with these skills,” Dr. Temma Balducci, chair of the department of Art + Design, said.  “This type of coding is an excellent example of the crossover between traditional design and the growing new world of app development.”

The program is open to all high school students in the state of Arkansas, and is coordinated through the individual school systems.  The Arkansas Department of Education Division of Elementary and Secondary Education has provided the Arkansas Public School Resource Center (APSRC) with a grant to enroll up to 250 high school students in UpSkill at A-State’s Swift Coding program for the 2020 fall semester at no cost to the student or the school.

Public schools interested in enrolling students for this one-of-a-kind program are asked to contact the APSRC office to complete a memorandum of understanding (MOU). Once the MOU is completed, a representative from the school — either a school counselor or other designee — will need to help the student complete A-State’s application for admission.

All three courses are designed and administered by the A-State Online program, the home of the state’s largest online university program, and high school students completing the courses receive nine hours of college credit.

“This is a perfect opportunity for A-State to leverage its strength as an online leader,” Damphousse said.  “Obviously we look forward to the graduates of the UpSkill program joining us at A-State, but not only will they have the coding knowledge, they will have nine hours of solid college course credit to transfer anywhere.”

To learn more about deadlines and specific requirements, go to AState.edu/UpSkill for more information online, or follow the program at Facebook.com/UpSkill or @UpSkill on Twitter. Schools wishing to participate in the grant opportunity can call APSRC at (501) 492-4300 or email jketcham@apsrc.net.

This is Computer Science Education Week; Arkansas is releasing a new computer science-related announcement and/or commitment each day of this week.  For a full listing of the announcements as they are made, one may visit the ADE computer science webpages at: http://bit.ly/ARCSedWeek.

This and other news releases also available at: AState.edu/News




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