Public-Private Partnerships in Computer Science Education

By: Lorilyn Owens, Director, Oracle Academy North America

Industry partners are content providers, augmenting and enhancing curriculum resources. Industry partners are funding sources, helping support classroom resources, professional development, and extracurricular clubs and activities. Industry partners provide volunteers to support classroom teaching, lending expertise and credibility to real-world ideas. All of these ideas were expressed by experienced educators at the 2014 CSTA conference during the Oracle Academy panel discussion focused on how to maximize public-private partnerships to better support computer science (CS) education. When it comes to CS education, which approach is right? Or are they all right? The lively discussion only began to scratch the surface. We did learn, however, there is no one right answer.

For more than 20 years Oracle, through its flagship philanthropic Oracle Academy program, has worked to advance computer science education and make it more accessible and engaging to students everywhere. Oracle Academy supports continuous computer science learning at all levels, and makes available a variety of resources including technology, curriculum and courseware, student and educator training, and certification and exam preparation materials.

Over the years, we have seen tremendous progress with public-private partnerships. Recently there has been an influx of both industry and nonprofit organizations that provide support for computer science education. While some of the resources come with a hefty price tag, many of them are free or low cost. The resources often differ in scope and objective. Some resources are vendor specific and some are vendor neutral and focus on core concepts and foundational knowledge. Some resources are event driven and others are curriculum based. Some resources focus on students and others focus on educators. There are e-books, videos, software, games, and countless websites with downloadable resources. With so much available, how do you choose what is right for you and your students? Rather than solely considering the available resources, perhaps you should also look at the resource provider and seek an opportunity for a public-private partnership.

Although we cannot provide specific guidance, in our experience, effective public-private partnerships in support of CS education do three things:

  1. They provide an opportunity for true engagement. If an industry partner is seen only as a project funder with little direct engagement with students or teachers, it is a missed opportunity for all involved. Seek a partnership that helps foster a strong and supportive community of practice, and provides support for educators at all levels.
  2. They are mutually beneficial. The arrangement should clearly articulate what the industry partner can offer the educational institution and what the educational institution can offer the industry partner. All involved need to be sure they deliver on commitments.
  3. They help address the need. Don’t lose sight of the problem you are trying to solve. Have a good understanding of what you are trying to accomplish and what is needed to achieve that goal. Then, seek a partnership that truly helps to deliver what is needed. Finally, consider including success metrics as a way to evaluate the effectiveness of the public-private partnership in addressing your needs.

Access to computer science education, regardless of gender, ethnicity, or socioeconomic status, is a defining 21st century social issue. Technology permeates our lives and drives the global economy. Future growth requires people with strong computer science skills. As we work collectively to prepare the technology innovators of the future, consider engaging in public-private partnerships to support your efforts. They can be effective avenues to increase access and opportunity in CS education.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *