CORRECTION: An earlier version of this story identified Compder Scifflin as Compder Schifflin. The story has been updated with the correct spelling of the name. The Daily Tar Heel appologizes for this error.
Sitting in a large lecture on the first day of class can be intimidating. In a room of 300 or more students, sometimes you can barely see your professor at the front — how are you supposed to ask him questions when you don’t know his name?
In Kris Jordan’s COMP 110 classes, almost 300 students got a first-day introduction that set them at ease and gave them some laughs with their new teacher.
Both of Jordan’s classes opened with a familiar piano riff over a shot of the Bell Tower. There are shots of Jordan and his TAs goofing off or talking to each other. This isn’t just any computer science class - this is Compder Scifflin, and the class is watching the first episode of “The Office Hours.”
Jordan and his TAs produced an entire video based around popular NBC show “The Office” and its fictional company Dunder Mifflin. It included references to quotes from the show and several teaching assistants transforming into major characters. Jordan played the main boss, Michael Scott.
“People say college courses are about two things: midterms and exams,” Jordan said in the video. “Compder Scifflin isn’t about that. We’re about three things: having fun, learning how to write code, having fun and people.”
In the video, Jordan suddenly realizes it’s the first day of class. He immediately runs out of Sitterson Hall, past Phillips Hall, onto McCorkle Place and into Hanes Art Center, where the video stops and he immediately bursts into the classroom to applause from students.
The video set the tone of the class from the start, according to students who witnessed it firsthand.
“I knew from the start that COMP 110 would be a fun class with Kris Jordan teaching because he has so much energy,” said Elena Russert, a sophomore biology major. “It was so well-planned out and he had all of his mentors, TA’s in on it so the whole class was surprised and erupted in laughter.”
The idea of a themed course came from a similar class at Brown University, where Jordan received his Master’s degree. Sarah Ganci said she and fellow TAs Carly Clark and Matthew Mason spent the entire summer writing different versions of the script and had five meetings to read through it. They filmed Saturday, and several students edited throughout Monday.
Jordan, who was dubbed a “” by The Daily Tar Heel in 2016, said his teaching assistants took ownership of the project with minimal direction from him. When Ganci, Clark and Matthew put possible themes to a vote, “The Office” won overwhelmingly.
“What I’ve loved a few of the past years is how much the undergraduate teaching team has taken ownership of various aspects of it, including some of what we’re doing in lecture,” said Jordan. “My hope is that the team continues to be at the center of shaping the experience other students have at Carolina.”
Jordan and his teaching assistants plan to incorporate the theme in future problem sets and even create more videos in character. The next video is going to be about how to best utilize office hours.
“I think this will make it more fun and more relatable,” said senior computer science major Carly Clark. “And it gives me an excuse to watch Netflix for work.”