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UNBOUND, SPRING 2014

Undergraduate Experience

Student-Taught Classes


Nishant Shukla (CS, Math ’14) is a Haskell evangelist. This high-level programming language is centered on mathematical functions, unlike common programming languages like Java or C++. Because it’s rarely taught at universities, Haskell has acquired a mystique among computer scientists.

Shukla taught himself Haskell in high school and used it during internships at WillowTree Apps and Microsoft. When a friend, Engineering Student Council co-chair Anish Simhal, suggested Shukla consider teaching a class on Haskell, the idea clicked. He got approvals from Edward Berger, the associate dean for undergraduate programs, and Kevin Skadron, chair of the computer science department, and enlisted Professor Jack Davidson as his adviser. Shukla offered Introduction to Haskell in spring 2013 as a one-credit/ no-credit course. He also decided to offer the course informally online, attracting 1,200 people from around the world, in addition to 69 on-Grounds students.

Shukla admits to being nervous at first, but soon found his comfort zone as a teacher. “Every homework assignment had a feedback form asking for suggestions,” he says. “One result was that I increased the amount of class time devoted to group work.”

Shukla’s efforts have had their impact. His success has inspired other students to secure approval to teach courses in such fields as data visualization and auto mechanics. A month after the class ended, Packt Publishing invited Shukla to write a book on Haskell data analysis. It will appear this summer.