Spreadsheets and Databases - Alternatives to Programming for Non-Computer Science Majors

Document Type

Conference Proceeding

Publication Date



Microcomputers have become easier and easier to use an emphasis is placed on software design for users with little or no experience. With a minimal amount of training, students or employees can become productive. Yet, academic programs still teach programming as a fundamental part of computer literacy. This paper proposes that the programming portion of the class be eliminated and replaced with a study of spreadsheets and databases. The paper discusses the manner in which spreadsheet and database design can be approached to maximize learning. An important concept that is learned in any programming class is algorithm development. Students learn how to analyze the problem and to set up the step-by-step solution. This process must be done before any coding can begin. Spreadsheets offer the same type of learning and are much more appropriate for non-computer science majors. Students must formulate the problem, determine the equations and formulas necessary to solve it, and then set up the worksheet. Spreadsheet applications are found in every discipline and their design requires a minimal amount of computer knowledge and mathematics. Learning to set up a database and design the queries necessary to obtain information from the database is a concept important to computer literacy. Once again, students learn to "program" by learning to construct their questions in a manner that is meaningful to the software package.