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The Daily Tar Heel

Professor Kris Jordan is a walking meme

How a computer science professor went from 0 to 1,000 in about a year

Kris Jordan, Lecturer of Computer Science, explains boolean statements to his COMP 110 class. Jordan is liked by students for being relatable and fun.
Kris Jordan, Lecturer of Computer Science, explains boolean statements to his COMP 110 class. Jordan is liked by students for being relatable and fun.

UNC computer science Professor Kris Jordan will follow you back on Twitter — along with all 944 of his other students. 

Since Jordan began his teaching career at UNC last fall, the number of students enrolled in COMP 110 has increased every semester.

"I kinda set my eye on maintaining the course size that we offered last fall and spring, but knew that we would need to grow again this fall," he said. "All the prep work that myself and undergraduate TA's put in over last semester and over the summer was geared towards thinking and knowing that our enrollment size was going to grow by 60 percent."

There is a total of 945 seats available for COMP 110 this semester with students still trying to enroll in the class. 

Last year the COMP 110 team tried to combat the large class sizes by implementing recitations, but ended up deciding against them due to the amount of recitation sections that were needed for the large number of students.

The next largest course compared to Jordan's is Senior STEM lecturer Kelly Hogan's biology class, which has 626 seats available. 

"One of my favorite things about last fall was that I got to know the name's and faces of the majority of my 250 students," Jordan said. "Growing to 580 last spring and then 945 students this fall, that wasn't sustainable. Over the summer I developed a system that allows me to connect every student in the class with two members of my TA staff."

For all sections of COMP 110, there are 52 teaching assistants that help Professor Jordan, making it so there are more TA's for COMP 110 than in all other computer science courses combined. 

When students enrolled in the class they had to create a profile which matched them with two TA's, who are the first to answer students' questions and make sure they get the assistance they need.

"Probably the most rewarding thing has been building this undergraduate TA team," Jordan said. "Again, some of the best and the brightest from last fall and spring I've been able to convince to come back and work for the class and help the next generation of Carolina students learn how to program just the same way they did."

Jordan said the in-class questions and comments help him to differentiate such a large number of students. 

"Students can kind of show how much they put in by the output of the work that comes out," he said. "There are a number of ways students can stand out, but the important connection is that we've got this huge team of TA's and that's who we have supporting this class."

Teaching assistant Connor Hamlet, senior, has been a TA for Jordan since his first section last fall.

"He is by far the most energetic professor that I've seen and I think that's attributed because he's young," he said. "He actually founded a company, but he's doing this because it's something he loves."

UNC sophomore Olivia Wilkins took COMP 110 with Jordan last spring.

"My favorite thing about COMP110 was how unique the projects were and how they were very pop culture oriented," she said. "Professor Jordan has a personable teaching style that makes his students feel like he's their age and relates to them, but also understands how hard the subject matter is. He always gave us fist bumps when we turned in our tests and really cared how we did in the class."

Jordan said his favorite thing about teaching is the connection he makes with the students.

"Being an alum from here, I love this place, I love this school and I'm especially proud of the computer science department," he said "The one-on-one conversations, the lunches, the things like that have been a ton of fun to me."

Jordan said his ability to keep up with pop culture and the current interests of students comes with his background in website programming and working with social media.

"Last year I said you all can follow me on Twitter, that's great, I'll follow you back," he said. "So my Twitter feed becomes a feed of not just nerdy professional stuff, but also students at Carolina. It's fun to interact with students and see what they're retweeting."

This semester Jordan opened his class with a Poll Everywhere asking students to choose between "Kimye" or "I stand with Taylor." (Kimye won by a landslide).

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Last May, the seniors of the undergraduate computer science department nominated Jordan for the departmental teaching award.

Jordan said this was a big honor for him because he did not actually teach any of the seniors who nominated him, but they still noticed how hard he was working to bring the computer science program to a broader audience at UNC.

"A lot of people think that Carolina isn't a technical school, that we're a liberal arts school," he said. "I think the enrollments are starting to show that Carolina students absolutely have everything it takes to succeed in a real programming course and I think we're only getting started with what we're going to see in COMP 110."

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