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Teaching An Integrated First Year Computing Curriculum: Lessons Learned

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1998 Annual Conference


Seattle, Washington

Publication Date

June 28, 1998

Start Date

June 28, 1998

End Date

July 1, 1998



Page Count


Page Numbers

3.528.1 - 3.528.5

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Paper Authors

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R. Pimmel

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R. Borie

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J. Jackson

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D. Cordes

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B. Dixon

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A. Parrish

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NOTE: The first page of text has been automatically extracted and included below in lieu of an abstract

Session 3253

Teaching an Integrated First-Year Computing Curriculum: ‡ Lessons Learned

D. Cordes, A. Parrish, B. Dixon, R. Pimmel, J. Jackson, R. Borie University of Alabama

Abstract: This paper describes an integrated first year curriculum in computing for Computer Science and Computer Engineering students at the University of Alabama. The curriculum is built around the basic thrusts of the Foundation Coalition, and provides an interdisciplinary introduction to the study of computing for both majors.

Introduction The University of Alabama is one of seven schools (Arizona State University, Maricopa Community College District, Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology, Texas A&M University, Texas A&M University – Kingsville, Texas Woman’s University, and the University of Alabama) that are participating in the Foundation Coalition (FC), an NSF- sponsored undergraduate engineering education reform initiative. As part of this program, the College of Engineering has developed a new curriculum for freshman engineering. Using the FC’s four basic thrusts (curriculum integration, active learning and teaming, technology-enabled education, and continuous assessment and evaluation), the College has put into place an entirely new freshman experience. Initial assessment results indicate that this curriculum has significantly higher retention rates than our traditional first-year program.

However, the revised curriculum is designed for traditional engineering majors. Students interested in either computer engineering or computer science were not seen (originally) as part of this curriculum’s target audience. It was felt that students interested in the discipline of computing should instead focus on mastering fundamental computer literacy during their freshman year. This includes competence in programming, an idea of the internal operations of the machine (including data representation), and understanding of the various hardware components associated with a machine, and an appreciation for the fundamental concepts of discrete mathematics that provide a foundation for computing.

Nevertheless, as stated previously, the merits of a FC-based freshman experience are significant. Given this, the Department of Computer Science (CS) and the Electrical and Computer Engineering Department (ECE) requested (and received) funding from NSF to develop an integrated freshman year in computing.

Institutional Overview The University of Alabama has approximately 400 undergraduates enrolled in either Computer Science or Computer Engineering, evenly split between the two majors. The ‡ This work supported in part by NSF grants DUE-9652785 and EEC-9221460

Pimmel, R., & Borie, R., & Jackson, J., & Cordes, D., & Dixon, B., & Parrish, A. (1998, June), Teaching An Integrated First Year Computing Curriculum: Lessons Learned Paper presented at 1998 Annual Conference, Seattle, Washington.

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