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Building Confidence And Skills: A Prep Course For Computer Programming

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2001 Annual Conference


Albuquerque, New Mexico

Publication Date

June 24, 2001

Start Date

June 24, 2001

End Date

June 27, 2001



Page Count


Page Numbers

6.252.1 - 6.252.7



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Paper Authors

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Steven McDermott

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Michael Sterner

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Kenneth Whelan

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John Schmalzel

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Jennifer Kay

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Jason Wollenberg

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Glenn Arr

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Christopher Foster

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Linda Head

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NOTE: The first page of text has been automatically extracted and included below in lieu of an abstract


Building Confidence and Skills: A Prep Course for Computer Programming

Linda Head, Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, Jennifer Kay, Department of Computer Science, John Schmalzel, Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, Glenn Arr, Christopher Foster, Steven McDermott, Michael Sterner, Kenneth Whelan, and Jason Wollenberg, ECE Student Teaching Team, Rowan University, 201 Mullica Hill Rd., Glassboro, NJ 08028


Students entering the Rowan University College of Engineering arrive with a very diverse set of computing skills. Typically, they are familiar with the common packages such as Microsoft’s Office suite and most have used e-mail and played computer games of some type. However, a significant portion (greater than 50%) have not had rigorous programming experience. Since our common first year program has a C++ programming course in the second semester, we are concerned about both our students’ preparation for this course and their level of confidence in mastering the basics of computer programming.

To meet the needs of our students we have initiated a Programming Preparation Course. This course is a collaborative effort of faculty in the College of Engineering and the Computer Science Department in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences and a dedicated teaching team of six junior level Electrical and Computer Engineering students. Together we have designed a curriculum that will be taught outside of class time and will introduce the students to some fundamental concepts of computer programming. There are three sessions offered to the first year students, each is one hour long and focused on a limited topic set. The topics which we are using to introduce the fundamentals of programming are: (a) variables, output and the “if” statement; (b) loops (while and for) and input; and (c) function calls. The curriculum is based on a “show and do” method. The teaching team prepared a set of simple programs that the first year students ran and then modified in order to gain some skill and insight into how the programming sequence works.

This year is the first time that we have attempted this type of class. We offered the course over a four week span during the second half of the Fall, 2000 semester. Thirty-seven students enrolled in the course. We will be tracking the progress of these students and a control group who also have not had prior programming experience to assess the effectiveness of our initial course offering. In this paper we describe the program and report the current progress of our assessment.


Introducing students to engineering and orienting them to engineering practice is the usual goal of first year programs in an engineering school. In addition, this introduction to the disciplines

Proceedings of the 2001 American Society for Engineering Education Annual Conference & Exposition Copyright 2001, American Society for Engineering Education

McDermott, S., & Sterner, M., & Whelan, K., & Schmalzel, J., & Kay, J., & Wollenberg, J., & Arr, G., & Foster, C., & Head, L. (2001, June), Building Confidence And Skills: A Prep Course For Computer Programming Paper presented at 2001 Annual Conference, Albuquerque, New Mexico. 10.18260/1-2--8972

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