Retooled computer science course goes all-COVID, all-online

Class seeks software solutions to COVID-19 problems.

Our campus, like the global community, is contending with COVID-19 and working to adapt to a new normal. Many are rapidly working on solutions. See all COVID-19 developments from University of Michigan Engineering.

A COVID-era redesign of a long-running computer science undergraduate course will put up to 120 U-M computer science and engineering students to work designing software to tackle problems related to the crisis during the 2020 spring/summer semester.

Computer science and engineering lecturer David Chesney has run the class for years as an in-person offering called “Software for Accessibility.” It has focused on using software to create accessibility opportunities for those with disabilities. In its all-online format, students will gather virtually in groups of four to find relevant problems, then design solutions.

“I’ve always been amazed at the creativity of our students—both the problems they identify and how they solve them,” said Chesney, who is a Toby Teorey Collegiate Lecturer. “I’m looking forward to putting that creativity to work to fight the COVID-19 crisis.”

Chesney identified the logistics of keeping medical staff healthy as the type of problem that could potentially be addressed in part by computer software. 

“Should medical teams be kept to a certain size to help reduce the risk of disease transmission?” he said. “Should the same team members always work together? Should we keep some team members on the sidelines as a backup? These are the kinds of problems that may lend themselves to software solutions because they can be expressed in mathematical models.”

The course will collaborate with Michigan Medicine. Microsoft has agreed to provide the collaboration tools that will enable students to build software together without being physically in the same location.

Enrollment is now open for the spring/summer semester course, which is called EECS 495, Software for Accessibility.