This summer, NCKU offered an experimental high-intensity progressive IT course called X-Village for college students majoring in fields other than information technology in Taiwan. With six hours of class a day, five days a week, and homework for the students to complete every day, the teachers and teaching assistants were running at full steam. While not all students could complete the course, the majority found the challenge a welcome opportunity to grow and develop. Upon completion of the first phase of the course, the students gained basic IT skills and built bonds of trust with one another, which opens up a range of possibilities for their careers. What surprised the teachers was how proactive the students were in learning.
X-Village is an experimental education project supported by the Ministry of Education. The course comprises two phases: one that ended in September and another which will go on to April . The goal of the project is to cultivate cross-disciplinary talent and provide a platform for cross-disciplinary exchange. Through suitable teaching materials and guidance, they hope to open the gates of computer science to students in different colleges, enable them to understand programming language and write programs, and even create a bridge for collaboration between information engineering and different academic fields. Professor Alvin Wen. Yu. Su and Associate Professor Kun-Ta Chuang of the Department of Computer Science and Information Engineering at NCKU serve as the conveners of the project. The curriculum was designed by a supervisor with more than 20 years of experience in the industry. This curriculum includes basic Python programming, the fundamentals of computer science, collaborative learning on computer science, and interdisciplinary project development.
When the X-Village project was announced, over 160 applications were received from universities throughout Taiwan. The applicants included all sorts of majors in literature, management, medicine, architecture, engineering, and design. In the end, 45 students and 45 auditors were admitted. To enable these students with non-IT backgrounds to grasp the thinking and language of computer science in the shortest time possible, 20 students in the Department of Computer Science and Information Engineering at NCKU were selected and trained to serve as teaching assistants during the course. Furthermore, a five-week weekend introductory course to programming was made available to 45 students from senior high school and vocational high schools, with priority given to disadvantaged students from rural areas. The 45 university students taking the X-Village course were required to serve as the teaching assistants to the 45 high school students and help them learn one-on-one. The final grade of the high school students served as the grade of their teaching assistant.
The X-Village students received intensive instruction for a full two months. Associate Professor Kun-Ta Chuang said that not all of the students could keep up with the pressure. Among the students involved, 5 students, 22 auditors, and 5 high school students dropped out. The students spent more than 10 hours every day learning about computer science, a domain unfamiliar to them, and on top of that, they had to teach high school students on the weekends. The pressure was high. The concept of using the grades of the high school students to stand as the grades of the university students is an innovative approach that took some adjustment from the students, but by the end of the course, many students commented on the immense value and meaning in the feedback they received from the high school students.
Professor Alvin Su explained that to complete the course, the high school students gave oral presentations. Some of them were so nervous, it was most likely their first time speaking in front of an audience. The care and effort they extended into their speeches were touching for everyone who participated. Afterwards, one high school student revealed that he studied as hard as he could after every class at NCKU because he was afraid that any poor performance on his part would affect the university student who taught him. Professor Alvin Su pointed out that upon observation, he found that the university students also examined their own understanding as they taught the high school students. This achieved the goal of teaching benefiting the teachers and showed them that knowledge can be used to help people.
Shao-Wei Chuang, one of the students and a business management major, said that he had applied for the X-Village course because he wanted to create more opportunities for himself. He said that he learned a lot and built his skillset during the two months, but more importantly, his whole mindset shifted, he found partners in various fields, and he gained both creative thinking skills and a wider perspective. He confessed that the first two weeks were the hardest. His days consisted only of eating, sleeping, and programming. He spent a lot of time trying to understand the problems and structures and figuring out ways to write the program he wanted. Sometimes he worked all night with no success. He described it as walking in a long dark tunnel with no end in sight, and he thought of quitting many times. Fortunately, the teaching assistants were very patient with him, helping him with programming, and listening to his complaints. It gave him the will to stick it out, and he slowly began to improve.
Aside from programming tasks, the students taking the course also had to propose projects and complete them in groups. They had to persuade other students to join their projects or be persuaded to join someone else’s project. In the beginning, there were 12 groups. After further screening and showdowns, some students were eliminated. In the end, only four groups containing about a dozen people went on to the second phase. The remaining students faced even greater pressure, but they were determined to succeed. Professor Alvin Su said that it was not easy for the students to work through such a strenuous course, but what they gained in the end was worth all their time and effort.
成大今年暑假針對全國非資訊工程系的學生，進行一場高強度，由淺入深的資訊科技教育實驗課程 X-Village。每週學習 ５ 天，每天上課 6 小時，課後還有當天要完成的作業，師生、助教都被操到累翻，有的學生壓力大退出，但更多人選擇留下來。第一階段課程告一段落，被「苦毒」的學生們，均練出了跨入資訊領域的基本功，也建立起信任及革命情感，為彼此的未來帶來更多可能。最讓老師驚喜的是，學生主動學習的態度遠超乎預期，有些未能進入第二階段的學生，竟然不斷想方設法爭取留下接受挑戰，就盼能夠學到更多。
X-Village 是成大在教育部支持下進行的實驗教育計畫，課程分兩階段，第一階段在9月告一段落，第二階段至 108 年 4 月。計畫目的在培育跨領域能力人才及提供跨域交流平台，以期透過適當的教材與引導，讓不同學院的學生，也能跨入電腦科學的大門（懂程式語言、會寫程式），甚至成為不同學術領域與資工合作的橋樑。課程由成大資訊工程系蘇文鈺教授、莊坤達副教授擔任計畫召集人，委請業界 2 0年經驗以上的主管負責課程設計，內容涵蓋 Python 基礎程式設計、電腦科學基礎、資訊科技教學協同學習以及跨領域專案實作。
X-Village計畫公布後，來自北、中、南、東等大學報名人數超過 160 人，背景從文學、管理、醫學、建築、工程、設計等都有，最後錄取45名學員，45 名旁聽生，為了讓非資訊工程背景的學生能在最短時間掌握電腦科學的思維與語言，又精選並訓練 20 名成大資工系學生，課程期間全程在旁擔任助教。更特別的是，還以偏鄉弱勢優先，招收45名高中職學子參加為期 5 週，每週六、日來上程式設計入門課， 45 名X-Village大學生學員還必須擔任45名高中職生的教學助教，進行1對1教學協同學習，高中生學習到最後的成績，就是指導他的大學生的成績。
暑假不能出門玩樂，不能去實習也不能去打工，得結結實實被操兩個月。莊坤達不否認，確實有人因壓力太大或跟不上進度而「落跑」，45 名學員跑了５人，45 名旁聽生剩 23 人，高中生也有 5 人選擇退出。莊坤達回想起來有些不忍心的說，參加的學生每天幾乎被操10 多個小時，去探索不熟悉的電腦科學，還要負責教會高中生，那種壓力真的很大。有的學員因神經過於緊繃，而忍不住向老師、助教抱怨「為什麼別人學不會，竟成了教的人的責任，太不公平了。」不過，在宣洩情緒之後，仍然重新投入，而且他們也慢慢地從高中生的學習回饋中，感受到付出的意義與價值。
教高中生也是很特別的經驗，為了教人，必須不斷反思與咀嚼學到電腦科學知識，就怕被高中生問倒會很難堪，看到所教的高中生確實理解，而且提出作品，那種欣慰與成就感，至今難忘。莊少維也透露另一個「成果」，兩個月來日夜忙程式以及準備最後的實作專題，每天三餐加宵夜，大家平均胖了 4 公斤。
參加課程的學員除了學寫程式外，也要提出想做的專案之後再分組實作，而且學生必須去說服別人加入自己的專案，不然就是被說服加入其他人的專案，一開始組成 12 隊，經過一再篩選與對決，有些人因淘汰離開，最後只剩 4 隊 10 多人進入第二階段。留下來的學生，壓力有增無減，但都咬牙不放棄，強烈的學習動機，莊坤達、蘇文鈺都說，這麼累、如此苦毒學生的課程，還願意待著，真不容易，不枉費花那麼多的心力來做 X-Village。
莊坤達說，其實，第一階段課程才做一個月，當老師的已經驚喜地感受到學生積極主動的學習態度，暑假結束時，學生被淘汰得只剩下4隊專案，料想不到的是，竟有學生不甘心被迫離開，有的爭取加入最後的 4 隊，有的繼續提案想說服業師讓他們留下，或是接受業師提的專案以便能留下來，學生玩真的，當老師的最大的回饋莫過於此，真是令人欣慰。