June 22, 2008
June 22, 2008
June 25, 2008
Computers in Education
13.348.1 - 13.348.8
Customer Based Course Developments – Creating a First Year Programming Course for Engineers and Scientists
One of the difficulties encountered in developing an introductory programming course is that it is often expected to serve many competing purposes. An introductory course might be intended to convey fundamental concepts in computing or fundamental computing constructs such as looping and conditional execution. The course might provide practical knowledge such as the syntax of a particular programming language or the use of a computational package commonly used in a specific application area. The course might provide an opportunity to develop cognitive abilities in incoming students such as general problem solving skills and good study habits. Finally, first year courses are often expected to include socialization aspects to improve student retention rates and aid in the transition from high school to college. Often different departments requiring such an introductory course may have differing needs, further reducing the likelihood of a successful outcome. With all these disparate objectives, it is not surprising that such introductory courses often fail to meet the expectations of the instructor, the students, or the departments requiring the course
In this paper, we discuss a process used to successfully develop such a course. We discuss how the need for the new course was originally identified as a result of program assessments and how the requirements for the course were developed cooperatively between computer science faculty and faculty in physics and engineering. We discuss how funding was obtained for course development and present results from the first semester of course offerings.
Background Ten years ago, our institution created a common introductory programming course for all students who needed programming as part of their major field. Prior to this time, several introductory programming courses were offered, aimed at students majoring in business, computer science, and the physical sciences. This diversity of introductory courses, each with its own unique focus and using a different programming language, led to difficulties when students continued on in advanced courses. The new common introductory course, taught using the Java language, sought to alleviate these difficulties by providing a common language and a common set of learning outcomes for all students. Unfortunately, by 2004, assessment data from follow- on courses in engineering indicated that the course was not meeting all of its intended objectives. This data was supported by student surveys on program objectives and anecdotal information from faculty in physics, computer science, mathematics, and engineering. Discussions between faculty in computer science, physics, and engineering over the following year led to the conclusions that (1) a new introductory programming course was needed to meet the needs of engineering and the physical sciences and that (2) traditional curriculum review and informal communication between departments was insufficient for a timely and successful redesign.
Requirements Analysis The first step in the design of a new course was to understand the requirements for this course and how the current course fell short of meeting these requirements. Through discussions with
Jarvis, P., & Jalkio, J., & Johnston, M., & Greene, C., & Heltne, M. (2008, June), Customer Based Course Development – Creating A First Year Programming Course For Engineers And Scientists Paper presented at 2008 Annual Conference & Exposition, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. https://peer.asee.org/3212
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