- The students overwhelmingly take crypto. One year 150 students took Crypto (one section of 50 in the fall, two sections of 50 each in the spring) and 8 students took automata theory. Both courses are always taught by people who are regarded as good teachers, so that is not the issues.
- I tend to think that Automata Theory is more important, but I may be biased. I also think that Automata Theory can be understood pretty well, whereas to understand crypto you really need to understand some Number Theory and even some security. Hence it is a strange stand-alone course.
- Some students think that the crypto course will get them a job. A course in security may get them a job, but just crypto I kind of doubt.
- Since more students choose Crypto we offer it more often. Since we offer it more often more students take it. (I exaggerate the circularity.) Also, its cross listed with Math so some math majors take it. This may account for some of the difference but not even close to all of it.
- So, how does your school do this? In particular, do you let the students tell you what course is more important, or do you tell them? Is it bad if they tell us? YES if we end up with courses on twitter, NO if the students are more aware of what is important then we old academics are.
Monday, February 22, 2010
What is more importantt: Automata Theory or Crypto?
The way the requirements are set up at Univ of MD at College Park, without getting into details, has set up a competition between Crypto and Automata Theory That is, a student might take one or the other, but taking both does not serve her well for the requirements. Hence the students get to decide which one is more important, Crypto or Automata Theory. We did not plan it this way, it just happened. Automata Theory is Reg Languages, CFG/PDA, Computability theory, NPC. (A later post will expand on this since I am teaching it this semester.)