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Incorporating Practical Computing Skills into a Supplemental CS2 Problem-solving Course

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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

Computing and Information Technology Division Technical Session 3

Tagged Division

Computing and Information Technology

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Paper Authors


Margaret Ellis Virginia Tech

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Assistant Professor of Practice, Computer Science Department, Virginia Tech

My research interests include examining ways to improve engineering educational environments to facilitate student success, especially among underrepresented groups.

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Catherine T. Amelink Virginia Tech

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Dr. Amelink is Acting Vice Provost for Learning Systems Innovation and Effectiveness, Virginia Tech. She is also an affiliate faculty member in the Departments of Engineering Education and Educational Leadership and Policy Studies at Virginia Tech.

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Stephen H. Edwards Virginia Tech Orcid 16x16

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Stephen H. Edwards is a Professor and the Associate Department Head for Undergraduate Studies in the Department of Computer Science at Virginia Tech, where he has been teaching since 1996. He received his B.S. in electrical engineering from Caltech, and M.S. and Ph.D. degrees in computer and information science from The Ohio State University. His research
interests include computer science education, software testing, software engineering, and programming languages. He is the project lead for Web-CAT, the most widely used open-source automated grading system in the world. Web-CAT is known for allowing instructors to grade students based on how well they test their own code. In addition, his research group has produced a number of other open-source tools used in classrooms at many other institutions. Currently, he is researching innovative for giving feedback to students as they work on assignments to provide a more welcoming experience for students, recognizing the effort they put in and the accomplishments they make as they work on solutions, rather than simply looking at whether the student has finished what is required. The goals of his research are to strengthen growth mindset beliefs while encouraging deliberate practice, self-checking, and skill improvement as students work.

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Clifford A. Shaffer Virginia Tech

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Dr. Shaffer received his PhD in Computer Science from University of Maryland, College Park in 1986. He is currently Professor of Computer Science at Virginia Tech, where he has been since 1987. He directs the AlgoViz and OpenDSA projects, whose goals respectively are to support the use of algorithm visualization in the classroom, and the development of a complete online collection of interactive tutorials for data structures and algorithms courses. His research interests are in Computational Biology and Bioinformatics, Problem Solving Environments, Digital Education, Algorithm Visualization, Hierarchical Data Structures, Algorithm Design and Analysis, and Data Structures.

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Computer scientists are often expected to obtain practical technical skills on their own. We have updated our supplemental CS2 problem-solving course to introduce students to technical skills across a variety of computer science topics in order to expand their incidental skills that often fall through the cracks. The goal of the course is for students to feel comfortable taking their problem solving skills to unfamiliar computing situations. This course helps bridge the gap for students with less computing experience by introducing them to current computer science tools and demystifying potentially intimidating topics such as version control, security, command line tools, web development and machine learning. This experience report details our motivation and approaches for this contemporary problem-solving course. We discuss outcomes regarding student perceptions of the course, and our innovative approach of measuring student comfort in situations that require solving problems with computer science such as undergraduate research, hackathons, and personal programming projects.

Ellis, M., & Amelink, C. T., & Edwards, S. H., & Shaffer, C. A. (2020, June), Incorporating Practical Computing Skills into a Supplemental CS2 Problem-solving Course Paper presented at 2020 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access, Virtual On line . 10.18260/1-2--34810

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