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Learning Experiences of Social Science Students in an Interdisciplinary Computing Minor

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Conference

2021 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access

Location

Virtual Conference

Publication Date

July 26, 2021

Start Date

July 26, 2021

End Date

July 19, 2022

Conference Session

NSF Grantees Poster Session

Tagged Topics

Diversity and NSF Grantees Poster Session

Page Count

13

Permanent URL

https://peer.asee.org/37426

Download Count

40

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Paper Authors

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Valerie A. Carr San Jose State University

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Valerie Carr earned a PhD in Neuroscience from UCLA followed by a postdoctoral fellowship at Stanford University. She is now an Associate Professor in the Department of Psychology at San Jose State University where she conducts research regarding learning and memory across the lifespan. She teaches courses on human learning and neuroscience, and helped create SJSU’s new minor in Applied Computing for Behavioral and Social Sciences (ACBSS). Valerie currently teaches the first course in the ACBSS minor series, which covers the application of Python to current social science topics, as well as the use of programming in careers such as data analysis, user experience research, and econometrics.

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Maureen C. Smith San Jose State University

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Dr. Smith received her BA in Psychology from U.C. Davis and her Ph.D in Developmental Psychology from Cornell University. Dr. Smith is a Professor of Child and Adolescent Development in the Lurie College of Education at San Jose State University. She has significant experience with curriculum and program development, including the development of a combined BA-Credential for her department and a First Year Experience program for the university. Her research interests include development of self-concept/identity/professional development in college students, imagination/creativity, reading for pleasure, and maltreatment/foster care in economically, linguistically, and culturally diverse samples.

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Belle Wei San Jose State University

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Belle Wei is Carolyn Guidry Chair in Engineering Education and Innovative Learning at San José State University (SJSU). Previous roles include: Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs at California State University, Chico; a decade of service as the Don Beall Dean of Engineering in the Charles W. Davidson College of Engineering at SJSU; faculty member of SJSU since 1987; and visiting Associate Professor at Stanford University in 1993. She is founder and Board Chair of the Center for Advancing Women in Technology, which established the Technology Pathways Initiative (TPI) in 2015. The TPI provides computing education to more diverse students by developing new interdisciplinary computing programs through an alliance of universities and industry. In 2006, Dr. Wei spoke before the U.S. Congress about the “Innovation Agenda,” contributing to the America COMPETES Act (2007). Dr. Wei holds a Ph.D. in Electrical Engineering and Computer Sciences and a B.S. in Biophysics from the University of California at Berkeley, and an M.S. in Engineering from Harvard University.

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Morris E. Jones Jr. San Jose State University

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Morris is retired from the semiconductor industry, and teaches Electrical Engineering, and General Engineering classes at San Jose State University. He participates in a project to bring applied computing to non engineering majors.

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Abstract

The rapid growth of the digital economy and an associated increase in user-generated data has created a strong need for interdisciplinary computing professionals possessing both technical skills and knowledge of human behavior. To help meet this need and with funds from NSF IUSE, we developed an academic minor in Applied Computing for Behavioral and Social Sciences at San Jose State University. The minor involves a four-course sequence that includes programming fundamentals, data structures and algorithms, data cleaning and management, and a culminating project. At our institution and nationwide, social science students are more diverse than engineering students, with respect to gender, race, and ethnicity. By providing social science students with computing skills that complement their domain expertise, we aim to expand their career options and address the nation’s need for a diverse, technology-capable workforce. We administered an exit survey on student learning experiences to two cohorts of students completing the minor. Given that the minor is new and that the first cohorts were relatively small, the number of students completing the survey was modest (n = 15). Results indicate that students were motivated to minor in Applied Computing by a desire to improve their data analysis skills and better prepare themselves for the job market / graduate school, as well as a belief that programming is a necessary skill for the future. A large majority of students indicated that their peers, instructors, and homework assignments supported their learning very well, whereas they found topics covered and course projects to be less supportive, followed by pacing of course content. With respect to career plans, a majority of students agreed that the minor provided them with their desired skills and allowed them to learn about careers in applied computing, and a large majority indicated that they planned to pursue a career utilizing applied computing. They expressed interest in fields such as human factors, data analytics, project management, teaching, clinical psychology, and various types of research. Finally, common themes that arose when providing advice to future students included not being shy in seeking help, tips for managing the level of course difficulty, encouragement to regularly practice, suggestions for how to master course content, and advice for adopting a successful mindset. These results will be instrumental in helping to optimize students’ experiences in the minor, ranging from how we recruit new students to how we can better support their professional development. Given the largely positive experiences of our students and their plans to pursue careers involving applied computing, we believe that our approach of adding computing education alongside a social science degree demonstrates a promising model for meeting the increasing demand for diverse interdisciplinary computing workers in this digital age.

Carr, V. A., & Smith, M. C., & Wei, B., & Jones, M. E. (2021, July), Learning Experiences of Social Science Students in an Interdisciplinary Computing Minor Paper presented at 2021 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access, Virtual Conference. https://peer.asee.org/37426

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