Large portions of modern life revolve around computers. Many of us start the day by booting a PC and we spend the rest of our time carrying miniaturized computer devices around – our smartphones.
Such devices rely on complex software environments and programs to meet our personal and professional needs. And computer science deals with precisely that.
The job of a computer scientist revolves around software, including theoretical advances, software model design, and the development of new apps. It’s a profession that requires profound knowledge of algorithms, AI, cybersecurity, mathematical analysis, databases, and much more.
In essence, computer science is in the background of everything related to modern digital technologies. Computer scientists solve problems and advance the capabilities of technologies that nearly all industries utilize.
In fact, this scientific field is so broad that explaining what is computer science requires more than a mere definition. That’s why this article will go into considerable detail on the subject to flesh out the meaning behind one of the most important professions of our time.
History of Computer Science
The early history of computer science is a fascinating subject. On the one hand, the mechanics and mathematics that would form the core disciplines of computer science far predate the digital age. On the other hand, the modern iteration of computer science didn’t start until about two decades after the first digital computer came into being.
When examining the roots of computer science, we can go as far back as the antiquity era. Mechanical calculation tools and advanced mathematical algorithms date back millennia. However, those roots are too loosely connected to computer science.
The first people who started exploring the foundations of what is computer science today were Wilhelm Schickard and Gottfried Leibniz in early and late 17th century, respectively.
Schickard is responsible for the design of the world’s first genuine mechanical calculator. Leibniz is the inventor of a calculator that worked in the binary system, the universally known “1-0” number system that paved the way for the digital age.
Despite the early advances in the mentioned fields, it would be another 150 years after Leibniz before mechanical and automated computing machines saw industrial production. Yet, those machines weren’t used for any other purpose apart from calculations.
Computers became more powerful only in the 20th century. Like many other technologies, this branch saw rapid development during the last one hundred years, with IBM creating the first computing lab in 1945.
Yet, while plenty of research was happening, computer science wasn’t established as an independent discipline. That would take place only during the 1960s.
As mentioned, the invention of the binary system could be considered a root of computer science. This isn’t only due to the revolutionary mathematical model – it’s also because the binary number system lends itself particularly well to electronics.
The rise of electrical engineering moved forward inventions like the electrical circuit, the transistor, and powerful data storage solutions. This progress gave birth to the earliest electrical computers, which mostly found use in data processing.
It didn’t take long for massive companies to start using the early computers for information storage. Naturally, this use made further development of the technology necessary. The 1930s saw crucial milestones in computer theory, including the groundbreaking computational model by Alan Turing.
Not long after Turing, John von Neumann created a model of a computer that can store programs. By the 1950s, computers were in use in complex calculations and data processing on a large scale.
The rising demand made the binary machine language too unreliable and impractical. The successor, the so-called assembly language, soon proved just as lacking. By the end of the decade, the world saw the first program languages, which soon became the famed FORTRAN (Formula Translation) and COBOL (Common Business Oriented Language).
The following decade, it became obvious that computer science is a field of study in itself, rather than a subset of mathematical or physical disciplines.
Evolution of Computer Science Over Time
As technology kept progressing, computer science needed to keep up. The first computer operating systems came about in the 1960s, while the next two decades brought about an intense expansion in graphics and affordable hardware.
The combination of these factors (OS, accessible hardware, and graphical development) led to advanced user interfaces, championed by industry giants like Apple and Microsoft.
In parallel to these discoveries, computer networks were advancing, too. The birth of the internet added even more moving parts to the already vast field of computer science, including the first search engines that utilized advanced algorithms, albeit not at the same level as today’s engines.
Furthermore, greater computational capabilities created a need for better storage systems. This included larger databases and faster processing.
Today, computer science explores all of the mentioned facets of computer technology, alongside other fields like robotics and artificial intelligence.
Key Areas of Study in Computer Science
As you’ve undoubtedly noticed, computer science grew in scope with the development of computational technologies. That’s why it’s no surprise that computer science today encompasses many areas that deal with every aspect of the technology currently imaginable.
To answer the question of what is computer science, we’ll list some of the key areas of this discipline:
- Algorithms and data structures
- Programming languages and compilers
- Computer architecture and organization
- Operating systems
- Networking and communication
- Databases and information retrieval
- Artificial intelligence and machine learning
- Human-computer interaction
- Software engineering
- Computer graphics and visualization
As is apparent, these areas correspond with the historical advances in computational technology. We’ve talked about how algorithms predate the modern age by quite a lot. These mathematical achievements brought about early machine languages, which turned into programming languages.
The progress in data storage and the increased scope of the machines resulted in a need for more robust architecture, which necessitated the creation of operating systems. As computer systems started communicating with each other, better networking became vital.
Work on information retrieval and database management resulted from both individual computer use and a greater reliance on networking. Naturally, it didn’t take long for scientists to start considering how the machines could do even more work individually, which marked the starting point for modern AI.
Throughout its history, computer science developed new disciplines out of the need to solve existing problems and come up with novel solutions. When we consider all that progress, it’s clear that the practical applications of computer science grew alongside the technology itself.
Applications of Computer Science
Computer science is applied in numerous fields and industries. Currently, computer science contributes to the world through innovation and technological development. And as computer systems become more advanced, they are capable of resolving complex issues within some of the most important industries of our age.
Technology and Innovation
In terms of technology and innovation, computer science finds application in the fields of graphics, visualization, sound and video processing, mathematical modeling, analytics, and more.
Graphical rendering helps us visualize concepts that would otherwise be hard to grasp. Technologies like VR and AR expand the way we communicate, while 3D models flesh out future projects in staggering detail.
Sound and video processing capabilities of modern systems continue to revolutionize telecommunications. And, of course, mathematical modeling and analytics expand the possibilities of various systems, from physics to finance.
Problem-Solving in Various Industries
When it comes to the application of computer science in particular industries, this field of study contributes to better quality of life by tackling the most challenging problems in key areas:
Granted, these aren’t the only areas where computer science helps overcome issues and previous limitations.
In healthcare, computer systems can produce and analyze medical images, assisting medical experts in diagnosis and patient treatment. Furthermore, branches of computer science like psychoinformatics use digital technologies for a better understanding of psychological traits.
In terms of finance, data gathering and processing is critical for massive financial systems. Additionally, automation and networking make transactions easier and safer.
When it comes to education and entertainment, computer science offers solutions in terms of more comprehensible presentation, as well as more immersive experiences. Many schools worldwide use digital teaching tools today, helping students grasp complex subjects with fewer obstacles compared to traditional methods.
Careers in Computer Science
As should be expected, computer science provides numerous job opportunities in the modern market. Some of the most prominent roles in computer science include systems analysts, programmers, computer research scientists, database administrators, software developers, support specialists, cybersecurity specialists, and network administrators.
The mentioned roles require a level of proficiency in the appropriate field of computer science. Luckily, computer science skills are easier to learn today – mostly thanks to the development of computer science.
An online BSc or MSc in computer science can be an excellent way to get prepared for a career in the most sought-after profession in the modern world.
On that note, not all computer science jobs are projected to grow at the same rate by the end of this decade. Profiles that will likely stay in high demand include:
- Security Analyst
- Software Developer
- Research Scientist
- Database Administrator
Start Learning About Computer Science
Computer science represents a fascinating field that grows with the technology and, in some sense, fuels its own development. This vital branch of science has roots in ancient mathematical principles as well as the latest advances like machine learning and AI.
There are few fields worth exploring more today than computer science. Besides understanding our world better, learning more about computer science can open up incredible career paths and provide an opportunity to contribute to resolving some of the burning issues of our time.
Soon, we will be launching four new Degrees for AY24-25 at OPIT – Open Institute of Technology
I want to offer a behind-the-scenes look at the Product Definition process that has shaped these upcoming programs.
🚀 Phase 1: Discovery (Late May – End of July)
Our journey began with intensive brainstorming sessions with OPIT’s Academic Board (Francesco Profumo, Lorenzo Livi, Alexiei Dingli, Andrea Pescino, Rosario Maccarrone) . We also conducted 50+ interviews with tech and digital entrepreneurs (both from startups and established firms), academics and students. Finally, we deep-dived into the “Future of Jobs 2023” report by the World Economic Forum and other valuable research.
🔍 Phase 2: Selection – Crafting Our Roadmap (July – August)
Our focus? Introducing new degrees addressing critical workforce shortages and upskilling/reskilling needs for the next 5-10 years, promising significant societal impact and a broad market reach.
Our decision? To channel our energies on full BScs and MScs, and steer away from shorter courses or corporate-focused offerings. This aligns perfectly with our core mission.
💡 Focus Areas Unveiled!
We’re thrilled to concentrate on pivotal fields like:
- Advanced AI
- Digital Business
- Metaverse & Gaming
- Cloud Computing (less “glamorous”, but market demand is undeniable).
🎓 Phase 3: Definition – Shaping the Degrees (August – November)
With an expert in each of the above fields, and with the strong collaboration of our Academic Director, Prof. Lorenzo Livi , we embarked on a rigorous “drill-down process”. Our goal? To meld modern theoretical knowledge with cutting-edge competencies and skills. This phase included interviewing over 60+ top academics, industry professionals, and students and get valuable, program-specific, insights from our Marketing department.
🌟 Phase 4: Accreditation and Launch – The Final Stretch
We’re currently in the accreditation process, gearing up for the launch. The focus is now shifting towards marketing, working closely with Greta Maiocchi and her Marketing and Admissions team. Together, we’re translating our new academic offering into a compelling value proposition for the market.
Stay tuned for more updates!
Far from being a temporary educational measure that came into its own during the pandemic, online education is providing students from all over the world with new ways to learn. That’s proven by statistics from Oxford Learning College, which point out that over 100 million students are now enrolled in some form of online course.
The demand for these types of courses clearly exists.
In fact, the same organization indicates that educational facilities that introduce online learning see a 42% increase in income – on average – suggesting that the demand is there.
Enter the Open Institute of Technology (OPIT).
Delivering three online courses – a Bachelor’s degree in computer science and two Master’s degrees – with more to come, OPIT is positioning itself as a leader in the online education space. But why is that? After all, many institutions are making the jump to e-learning, so what separates OPIT from the pack?
Here, you’ll discover the answers as you delve into the five reasons why you should trust OPIT for your online education.
Reason 1 – A Practical Approach
OPIT focuses on computer science education – a field in which theory often dominates the educational landscape. The organization’s Rector, Professor Francesco Profumo, makes this clear in a press release from June 2023. He points to a misalignment between what educators are teaching computer science students and what the labor market actually needs from those students as a key problem.
“The starting point is the awareness of the misalignment,” he says when talking about how OPIT structures its online courses. “That so-called mismatch is generated by too much theory and too little practical approach.” In other words, students in many classes spend far too much time learning the “hows” and “whys” behind computerized systems without actually getting their hands dirty with real work that gives them practical experience in using those systems.
OPIT takes a different approach.
It has developed a didactic approach that focuses far more on the practical element than other courses. That approach is delivered through a combination of classroom sessions – such as live lessons and masterclasses – and practical work offered through quizzes and exercises that mimic real-world situations.
An OPIT student doesn’t simply learn how computers work. They put their skills into practice through direct programming and application, equipping them with skills that are extremely attractive to major employers in the tech field and beyond.
Reason 2 – Flexibility Combined With Support
Flexibility in how you study is one of the main benefits of any online course.
You control when you learn and how you do it, creating an environment that’s beneficial to your education rather than being forced into a classroom setting with which you may not feel comfortable. This is hardly new ground. Any online educational platform can claim that it offers “flexibility” simply because it provides courses via the web.
Where OPIT differs is that it combines that flexibility with unparalleled support bolstered by the experiences of teachers employed from all over the world. The founder and director of OPIT, Riccardo Ocleppo, sheds more light on this difference in approach when he says, “We believe that education, even if it takes place physically at a distance, must guarantee closeness on all other aspects.” That closeness starts with the support offered to students throughout their entire study period.
Tutors are accessible to students at all times. Plus, every participant benefits from weekly professor interactions, ensuring they aren’t left feeling stuck on an educational “island” and have to rely solely on themselves for their education. OPIT further counters the potential isolation that comes with online learning with a Student Support team to guide students through any difficulties they may have with their courses.
In this focus on support, OPIT showcases one of its main differences from other online platforms.
You don’t simply receive course material before being told to “get on with it.” You have the flexibility to learn at your own pace while also having a support structure that serves as a foundation for that learning.
Reason 3 – OPIT Can Adapt to Change Quickly
The field of computer science is constantly evolving.
In the 2020s alone, we’ve seen the rise of generative AI – spurred on by the explosive success of services like ChatGPT – and how those new technologies have changed the way that people use computers.
Riccardo Ocleppo has seen the impact that these constant evolutions have had on students. Before founding OPIT, he was an entrepreneur who received first-hand experience of the fact that many traditional educational institutions struggle to adapt to change.
“Traditional educational institutions are very slow to adapt to this wave of new technologies and trends within the educational sector,” he says. He points to computer science as a particular issue, highlighting the example of a board in Italy of which he is a member. That board – packed with some of the country’s most prestigious tech universities – spent three years eventually deciding to add just two modules on new and emerging technologies to their study programs.
That left Ocleppo feeling frustrated.
When he founded OPIT, he did so intending to make it an adaptable institution in which courses were informed by what the industry needs. Every member of its faculty is not only a superb teacher but also somebody with experience working in industry. Speaking of industry, OPIT collaborates with major companies in the tech field to ensure its courses deliver the skills that those organizations expect from new candidates.
This confronts frustration on both sides. For companies, an OPIT graduate is one for which they don’t need to bridge a “skill gap” between what they’ve learned and what the company needs. For you, as a student, it means that you’re developing skills that make you a more desirable prospect once you have your degree.
Reason 4 – OPIT Delivers Tier One Education
Despite their popularity, online courses can still carry a stigma of not being “legitimate” in the face of more traditional degrees. Ocleppo is acutely aware of this fact, which is why he’s quick to point out that OPIT always aims to deliver a Tier One education in the computer science field.
“That means putting together the best professors who create superb learning material, all brought together with a teaching methodology that leverages the advancements made in online teaching,” he says.
OPIT’s degrees are all accredited by the European Union to support this approach, ensuring they carry as much weight as any other European degree. It’s accredited by both the European Qualification Framework (EQF) and the Malta Qualification Framework (MQF), with all of its courses having full legal value throughout Europe.
It’s also here where we see OPIT’s approach to practicality come into play via its course structuring.
Take its Bachelor’s degree in computer science as an example.
Yes, that course starts with a focus on theoretical and foundational knowledge. Building a computer and understanding how the device processes instructions is vital information from a programming perspective. But once those foundations are in place, OPIT delivers on its promises of covering the most current topics in the field.
Machine learning, cloud computing, data science, artificial intelligence, and cybersecurity – all valuable to employers – are taught at the undergraduate level. Students benefit from a broader approach to computer science than most institutions are capable of, rather than bogging them down in theory that serves little practical purpose.
Reason 5 – The Learning Experience
Let’s wrap up by honing in on what it’s actually like for students to learn with OPIT.
After all, as Ocleppo points out, one of the main challenges with online education is that students rarely have defined checkpoints to follow. They can start feeling lost in the process, confronted with a metaphorical ocean of information they need to learn, all in service of one big exam at the end.
Alternatively, some students may feel the temptation to not work through the materials thoroughly, focusing instead on passing a final exam. The result is that those students may pass, but they do so without a full grasp of what they’ve learned – a nightmare for employers who already have skill gaps to handle.
OPIT confronts both challenges by focusing on a continuous learning methodology. Assessments – primarily practical – take place throughout the course, serving as much-needed checkpoints for evaluating progress. When combined with the previously mentioned support that OPIT offers, this approach has led to courses that are created from scratch in service of the student’s actual needs.
Choose OPIT for Your Computer Science Education
At OPIT, the focus lies as much on helping students to achieve their dream careers as it does on teaching them. All courses are built collaboratively. With a dedicated faculty combined with major industry players, such as Google and Microsoft, it delivers materials that bridge the skill gap seen in the computer science field today.
There’s also more to come.
Beyond the three degrees OPIT offers, the institution plans to add more. Game development, data science, and cloud computing, to name a few, will receive dedicated degrees in the coming months, accentuating OPIT’s dedication to adapting to the continuous evolution of the computer science industry. Discover OPIT today – your journey into computing starts with the best online education institution available.