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Experiences in Developing a Robust Popular Online CS1 Course for the Past Seven Years

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2020 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access


Virtual On line

Publication Date

June 22, 2020

Start Date

June 22, 2020

End Date

June 26, 2021

Conference Session

Computers in Education Division Technical Session 5: Online Teaching and Learning

Tagged Division

Computers in Education

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Paper Authors


Joe Michael Allen University of California, Riverside

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Joe Michael Allen is a Ph.D. student in Computer Science at the University of California, Riverside. His current research focuses on finding ways to improve CS education, specifically focusing on introductory programming courses known as CS1. Joe Michael is actively researching the impact of using a many small programs (MSP) teaching approach in CS1 courses. His other interests include educational games for building skills for college-level computer science and mathematics.

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Frank Vahid University of California, Riverside

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Frank Vahid is a Professor of Computer Science and Engineering at the Univ. of California, Riverside. His research interests include embedded systems design, and engineering education. He is a co-founder of

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Well-run CS1 classes are critical for getting CS majors off to a good start and for serving other non-major students across a university. Universities continue to offer more online courses, to handle more students with limited resources, and provide students more flexibility. Our university introduced an online CS1 course in 2013. The course has improved to the point that student outcomes match our in-person course: Students perform similarly on identical midterm and final exams, and do equally well in the subsequent CS2 course. Student evaluations match as well and are highly positive, consistently rating the course in the top 20% of all courses on campus. This paper highlights how the class has evolved based on experience, into the robust popular course that it is today. Key course features include: Synchronous online video meetings akin to the in-person course, an online chat forum during such meetings that students say increases participation, some active learning during the online meetings, use of modern online learning content instead of a textbook to ensure reading before class, and online auto-graded homework and programming assignments to provide extensive practice and immediate feedback. A key omitted feature is videos; we intentionally have not made use of video lectures in any substantial way. A common theme from students is that they did not originally want to take the course online, but afterwards saying they liked the course better than in-person courses due largely to the surprisingly-extensive live online interaction.

Allen, J. M., & Vahid, F. (2020, June), Experiences in Developing a Robust Popular Online CS1 Course for the Past Seven Years Paper presented at 2020 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access, Virtual On line . 10.18260/1-2--34629

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