On the first day of college, Shen Zihao, a liberal arts student, thought about the phrase printed in his high school textbook, “The 21st century belongs to computers.” He mentioned that he came from a rural background and didn’t own his first computer until he entered university.
Born in 2001, Shen Zihao hoped to secure a place in the “century of computers.” Shenzhen University is located in Nanshan District, Shenzhen, which has only one-tenth of the population and land area of the entire city but houses one-third of the listed companies and contributes one-fourth of the city’s GDP. The alumni of this university have established a digital empire with an annual income exceeding 500 billion, and its headquarters are nearby.
On the first day of school, Shen Zihao discovered that the dormitory building he was in faced this company to the south, and from the dormitory balcony, he could see two tall buildings named Tencent Binhai Towers. A senior student in the neighboring dormitory was interning there.
Among all the majors that Shen Zihao, as a liberal arts student, could apply for, educational technology was one of the few that involved courses like C language and software development.
However, in 2021, a national social science fund research project on the current development status of educational technology revealed that most of the positions related to educational technology were in the education industry, accounting for more than 60%. The research also pointed out that this young discipline, which has developed for only over forty years, was facing an “awkward period.” In 2019, 13 universities nationwide revoked their undergraduate majors in educational technology, ranking second in the number of discontinued majors nationwide.
In the year Shen Zihao enrolled, Shenzhen University’s educational technology major had three directions: Educational Software and Network Engineering, Digital Media Technology, and Teacher Education. Liberal arts students could only choose the third option, and the most relevant career in this direction was teaching information technology in primary and secondary schools.
Before registering, a senior student told him that regardless of the direction, the conversion rate to other fields was nearly 50%.
The content of education did not interest Shen Zihao. When studying C language, he felt that the textbook examples in the classroom were outdated, and “the illustrations were still stuck in the old version of the system.” According to the course schedule, students in this major also had to learn Flash. In late 2020, Adobe officially announced the discontinuation of Flash, but it wasn’t until 2022 that Shen Zihao noticed that the new curriculum still included Flash.
Most liberal arts students’ transition into coding begins with accidental opportunities. In the Douban forum posts about transitioning to coding, some people simply came across advertisements for coding training courses by chance.
Shen Zihao’s path to coding was also quite “accidental.” In his freshman year, he entered a classroom and realized that he had walked into the wrong room when the teacher on the stage opened a PowerPoint slide with the words “Programming” displayed. Stuck in the middle and unable to leave, Shen Zihao was forced to listen to the course offered by the School of Computer Science and Software Engineering.
Now he only remembers being excited after listening to that class, feeling like his mind suddenly opened up. He also realized that he could never go back to his original classroom again.