Asee peer logo

K-12 Digital Skills Programs as Preparation for Engineering Study: A Systematic Literature Review

Download Paper |


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

Pre-college Engineering Education Division Technical Session 4

Tagged Division

Pre-College Engineering Education

Page Count




Permanent URL

Download Count


Request a correction

Paper Authors


Katherine Dornian University of Calgary

visit author page

Katherine Dornian is a Masters student in Electrical and Computer Engineering at the Schulich School of Engineering, University of Calgary. Their interests are in the intersection of informal engineering education, digital skills, and diversity in engineering. They are currently looking at pre-university audiences and how the development of digital skills in under-represented groups in engineering can improve diversity as well as technology.

visit author page


Mohammad Moshirpour University of Calgary

visit author page

Dr. Mohammad Moshirpour is an instructor of Software Engineering at the Schulich School of Engineer, University of Calgary. His research interests are the area of software architecture, software requirements engineering, design, implementation and analysis of multi-agent systems, intelligent data analytics, data mining and machine learning, and Software engineering and computer science education. He is a senior member of IEEE, and is the IEEE Chair of the Computer Chapter of the Southern Alberta Section.

visit author page


Laleh Behjat P.Eng. University of Calgary

visit author page

Dr. Laleh Behjat is an associate Professor in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering at the University of Calgary. Her research interests include designing computer chips, electronic design automation and developing software for computer hardware. She has won several awards for her work on the development of software tools for computer engineering. In addition, Dr. Behjat has a passion for increasing the statues of women in Science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM). Dr. Behjat was the recipient of 2015 Association of Professional Engineers and Geoscientists of Alberta (APEGA) Women in Engineering Champion Award.

visit author page

Download Paper |


According to Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada, “Digital skills, like coding and understanding how to use new technologies to solve real world problems have become increasingly vital across all sectors of the global economy.” Sources like the United States Department of Labour’s Bureau of Labour Statistics and the Government of Canada’s Job Bank rate the job outlooks for software engineers as rising much faster than average and generally good in the two countries for the next 3-10 years.

Given these job outlooks, programs to teach digital skills (like computer coding) to pre-university and pre-college students have been developed to prepare the emerging labour force. Many of the programs aim to increase skills and prepare students for a variety of different career paths. This paper takes particular interest in how such programs prepare future engineers—with a specific look into software engineers—for their future career.

The IEEE Glossary of Software Engineering Terminology defines software engineering as "The application of a systematic, disciplined, quantifiable approach to the development, operation, and maintenance of software.” We use this definition and other key articles to guide our assessment criteria.

In this review, we compare, categorize and assess the existing published research on digital skills (i.e. coding) programs in Canada and United States. We start by categorizing the programs presented in published research into three main genres: (1) outreach and university recruitment tools, (2) engineering skill building and/or (3) technology skills training. We then compare various setups and outcomes of programs in these genres with the criteria set out by the needs and definition of software engineering in literature. We go on to find best practices for engineering outcomes in digital skill programs. And finally, we identify gaps and discrepancies to suggest key areas for further research.

Dornian, K., & Moshirpour, M., & Behjat, L. (2020, June), K-12 Digital Skills Programs as Preparation for Engineering Study: A Systematic Literature Review Paper presented at 2020 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access, Virtual On line . 10.18260/1-2--34889

ASEE holds the copyright on this document. It may be read by the public free of charge. Authors may archive their work on personal websites or in institutional repositories with the following citation: © 2020 American Society for Engineering Education. Other scholars may excerpt or quote from these materials with the same citation. When excerpting or quoting from Conference Proceedings, authors should, in addition to noting the ASEE copyright, list all the original authors and their institutions and name the host city of the conference. - Last updated April 1, 2015