Communication Skills for Computer Students

CSC 290 Communication Skills for Computer Scientists This undergraduate credit course is offered once a year in the fall at the St. George Campus of the University of Toronto.  Classes are run as three-hour workshops one night a week and class size is limited.  Due to budget squeezes, this course is currently not offered.

Calendar Description Targeted instruction and significant practice in the communication skills required for careers in computer science. The curriculum covers written, oral, and interpersonal communication. Students will hand in short pieces of writing each week and make oral presentations using interactive multimedia web technology.  Interpersonal communications classes are designed to give students insight into their current habits and new skills for working with others.  By the end of the semester, students complete research papers on CS topics and collaborate with a team to present their findings.   

Course Description and Philosophy An article describing the way speaking, writing, and interpersonal communication are taught this course can be found in the Proceedings of the 14th Annual ACM SIGCSE Conference on Innovation and Technology in Computer Science Education.  The pdf can be found here.

Course Website Former CSC 290 student, Max Drozd created a website for the Fall 2009 course.  If you are interested in taking this class, you can look at the website and see the articles posted and the links to all websites referred to in the course activity book.

Epresence Videos Students make five short presentations over the term and one group presentation.  These are all captured digitally and posted here: Some of the videos can be see without a password and are still visible on this site. This process allows students to review their presentations.  The website has a feedback feature in which the students tag specific moments and comment on those moments in response to questions posed by the professor and TA. 

Student Comments 

Following a workshop for Bitmaker's Labs in Toronto, student Ian King wrote this blog.  

"CSC 290 will never fall from my my memory because I use one (if not more) of Lil's lessons on a regular basis. "Never talk in absolutes" is my mantra these days.  Qualifying my statements in a more realistic way makes life seem so much more manageable and positive. No longer do I "always mess up," think that "this will never work," or feel that my friends "always do this."  May, 2011
Justin Commu took CSC 290 in the Fall 2007 semester.  He is now living in the Caribbean and working as a systems integration engineer, designing real time billing systems and deploying them at customer sites.

"I wanted to thank you for offering this course, making this course available, bringing this course into the "light of day."  In the past few days, I have applied a few techniques I learned from this course throughout the summer.  The ones I used the most often are I-Messages and Responding Non-Defensively.  I have to say, they _really_ worked!  I am putting myself in the other's shoes and picturing the scenario in their position.  I've had to reply to some comments and my replies weren't rushed.  I liked this course because I actually learned things I can apply directly in my life."   Dritan Xhabija   August 23, 2007

 "I have been meaning to tell you this story about my application of interpersonal skills.  I went to a salon to have my hair cut the day after CSC290 exam.  The barber looked very annoyed while I was detailing the hairstyle I desired and he just started cutting my hair before I even finished.  I stopped him right away and I said: "Can you tell me why you seem so unhappy?”  He then told me his frustration with customers who are too demanding about their hair styles.  Then I said: "So you think I don’t trust you and you feel hurt. Is that why you were so annoyed?” He replied: “Yeah” and the haircut went very well from that point on.  What’s even more amazing is that I said those lines almost unconsciously.  I felt like those words just slipped out of my mouth."  Eric Yao, January 13, 2009

"Lil is a dynamic lecturer.  Her course, communication skills for computer scientists, has helped me transform my career from a software engineer, to a project manager, to an entrepreneur. She taught me how to manage perceptions, how to communicate the "I" message instead of the "You" accusation, and how to assert myself non-defensively.  These skills have helped me build and manage my personal brand and client relationships effectively. Lil has equipped me well to achieve my goals and I cannot imagine success without the skills she taught me in that course."

Daniel Chu President and CEO SilkStart Technology Inc.