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CSUF Offering Software Degree Program in China
Master's in software engineering will be online, taught by CSUF faculty.

June 28, 2007 :: No. 241

In the fall, Bin Cong and four colleagues in the College of Engineering and Computer Science (ECS) will start exporting a valuable commodity they have developed to China: knowledge of software engineering.

Cal State Fullerton and the China-based Dachieve are partnering to offer an online master of science software engineering (MSE) degree program, with the administrative support of Cal State Fullerton’s University Extended Education.

The pilot program will be launched in September in Dalian, China, about 300 miles northeast of Beijing, and Dachieve, an international organization, will promote the program and also support it by performing some administrative tasks in that country.

“This is a significant milestone in delivery of this degree. There is a tremendous need in China for computer software engineers with advanced degrees, so we’re partnering with a support firm that can help us with this outreach,” said Ray Young, CSUF associate vice president for academic programs.

“Our primary target in this pilot program is Dalian Software Park. Many big technology companies are there, including IBM, Sony, Rockwell and Panasonic. They have internal programs to train their own employees, but then the employees know only their corporate systems, and they have no advanced degree certification. Many of their employees have degrees in related disciplines, but few with software engineering degrees. With this degree we offer, they will have the knowledge to work with any system, and the degree will give them broader professional mobility globally.” Besides, Young pointed out, “Those companies are not equipped to become educational institutions. They have a product to turn out. We can be their educational partner.”

Dachieve, Young noted, has offices all over the world and specializes in logistics support: recruitment, initial screening, placement and some financial management. “Those are things we can’t afford to hire and send permanent staff to do abroad,” Young said.

While the contract has been signed, Cong knows that is only the beginning.

“The first thing we have to do is go and sell it,” Cong said after the signing. “Our software engineering program here is established as very valuable, but China, and Chinese industry, have experienced a number of foreign countries offering software degree programs that weren’t up to their expectations. For example, the foreign countries would show their programs from their prestigious universities, but then would hire local people to teach, and those local people hadn’t been through their programs, so they just weren’t as good. The Chinese were left with the feeling that the foreign programs weren’t really committed.

“We, here, in this department [Computer Science], will be doing the teaching,” Cong, a Chino Hills resident, emphasized. “Since it is online, we don’t have to be in China, so we won’t need to hire anyone local. We will use the Internet, of course, and we will use the Blackboard program for teaching the material. That will be part of how we sell this to industry and to the Chinese government, whose blessing is very important.”

To that end, Cong, along with Dorota Huizinga, associate dean of ECS; James Choi, chair of ECS’s Department of Computer Science; and Jessica Busse-Jones, coordinator of ECS graduate and international admissions, went to China this spring to meet with potential students, executives, government officials and information technology staff at corporations in Dalian. The students in the pilot program are expected to be mostly working professionals upgrading their skills, Cong said.

“Online has proven to work well here,” Cong said, referring to both Cal State Fullerton, which offers a wide array of online classes, degrees and certificates, and to the United States, in general. “The MSE has been extremely successful in the U.S. and is becoming successful on the Fullerton campus, as well, both in online format and in-class format. The first cohort graduated in 2006, and the feedback is great.”

But the Chinese don’t all quite trust it yet, Cong said, adding that while in China, the Fullerton contingent made clear that “Our curriculum is designed to bridge gaps in the skill needs of the software industry. Our MSE program can do just that. Those facts will help us do well in China.”

Part of building the trust is an attempt to make the technology involved in transmitting the course material “bulletproof.” All of the servers for Blackboard and the course materials are currently on campus, Cong said, and have worked very well and very reliably, “but we’re investigating having a mirror site over there. That way, if anything were to happen here or somewhere between here and there, there would be minimal interruption.”

The CSUF contingent also visited Beijing Jiaotong University for meetings with Lu Wei,  associate dean of the School of Software, as well as the deputy director of 36 government-sponsored software colleges in China. “He was quite interested in our curriculum,” Cong recounted, “and may want to adopt our curriculum to train his faculty. The potential for our program suddenly got very big. We still have to talk it over here and decide what we want to pursue.”

Given China’s huge and rapidly growing economy, which is gaining influence on the world economy, there is a need for more highly trained software engineers now, Cong said, and the more the Chinese economy grows, the more it will need software engineers, and the more industry in China will be willing to send its IT professionals for more training.

“The entire program will cost a student in China $13,130. That includes the fee, books, application, all of it,” Cong said. That is significantly more than a local student getting the same master’s degree, “but a bargain for them,” Cong said.

The students would enter the program in cohorts and take 22 months to complete the program.

The courses would all be taught in English, so the students would have to qualify just like any international student, by passing the Test of English as a Foreign Language.

“In China,” said Cong, who has a bachelor’s degree in computer science from Nanjing University and a doctorate in computer science from the University of Texas at Dallas, “a U.S. degree is prestigious and is a good career move. Also, Cal State Fullerton’s University Extended Education has had many Chinese come here for one-semester certificate programs and for training in various subjects. They know our quality.

“Put all of that together with our top [computer science] instructors, the fact that we monitor our programs closely, our open lines of communication with China, and the fact that our Dachieve representatives in China are signing up for the program themselves — that can only be a positive factor — and we should do well.”

As the program takes flight, Young said, “We could look at expanding it, in China and elsewhere. The major benefit is that these kinds of partnerships demonstrate our position as a regional university with a global outlook. We believe in giving action to these mission statements. We’re trying to build linkages that serve needs that don’t end at the Orange County line.”

Media Contacts:

Cong Bin, Computer Science, 657-278-2031 or bcong@fullerton.edu
Robert “Ray” Young, Academic Programs, 657-278-3602 or ryoung@fullerton.edu
Russ L. Hudson, Public Affairs, 657-278-4007 or rhudson@fullerton.edu


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