Asee peer logo

The Alice Curriculum: Impact On Women In Programming Courses

Download Paper |


2006 Annual Conference & Exposition


Chicago, Illinois

Publication Date

June 18, 2006

Start Date

June 18, 2006

End Date

June 21, 2006



Conference Session

Climate Issues for Women Students

Tagged Division

Educational Research and Methods

Page Count


Page Numbers

11.1251.1 - 11.1251.10



Permanent URL

Download Count


Request a correction

Paper Authors


Ashlyn Munson

visit author page

Ashlyn Hutchinson ( received her B.A. in Mathematics from the University of Colorado at Boulder, and her M.S. in Applied Mathematics from Colorado School of Mines. She is currently working on her Ph.D. in Statistics at Colorado School of Mines. Ashlyn is a Research Assistant for Dr. Barbara Moskal in the Mathematical and Computer Sciences Department at the Colorado School of Mines. Her research interests include engineering education and assessment.

visit author page


Barbara Moskal Colorado School of Mines

visit author page

Barbara M. Moskal ( ) received her Ed.D. in Mathematics Education with a minor in Quantitative
Research Methodology and her M.A. in Mathematics from the University of Pittsburgh. She is an Associate Professor in the Mathematical and
Computer Sciences Department at the Colorado School of Mines. Her research interests include student assessment, K-12 outreach and equity issues.

visit author page


Wanda Dann Ithaca College

visit author page

Dr. Wanda Dann is an Associate Professor of Computer Science at Ithaca College. Her research has encompassed program visualization and object-oriented and event-driven programming. Dr. Dann has provided leadership in the international computer science education community, serving as SIGCSE 2004 Program co-Chair and SIGCSE 2005 Symposium co-Chair.

visit author page


Stephen Cooper Saint Joseph's University

visit author page

Stephen Cooper is an Associate Professor of Computer Science at Saint Joseph's University. He taught previously at Rivier College, serving as Computer Science program director. He has also worked at IBM as a systems programmer. Dr. Cooper's research interests lie in the semantics of programming languages as well as in program visualization. He has been the principal investigator for several National Science Foundation and private grants.

visit author page

Download Paper |

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

The Alice Curriculum: Impact on Women in Programming Courses


The recruitment and retention of women to the field of Computer Science is a concern that has received a great deal of research attention. In particular, the number of women majoring in Computer Science has decreased over the last fifteen years, and remained low over the past five years. These continuing trends are contributing to a shortage of qualified professionals in computer science. One cause may be that traditional introductory programming courses have been found to have a greater appeal to men than to women. In addition, many women who enroll in introductory computing courses often have less previous programming experience than men. These factors negatively impact many women’s attitudes towards programming, leading them to drop a computer science major. This paper discusses an effort to combat the problem of female attrition at the community college level by offering an innovative introductory programming course. Course implementation and data collection occurred during the fall 2004. Paired t- tests and analysis of covariance were used to evaluate whether changes had taken place for men and women with respect to learning and attitudes. This work was supported in part by the National Science Foundation (DUE-03020542).

I. Introduction

The Java-based Animation: Building virtual Worlds for Object-oriented programming in Community colleges (JABRWOC) project is a three year effort, funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF).1 JABRWOC utilizes the Alice software in an innovative introductory programming course. Alice is a 3D animation programming environment developed by Dr. Randy Pausch at Carnegie Mellon University. The Alice software is freely available online.2 Drs. Stephen Cooper, Saint Joseph’s University, and Wanda Dann, Ithaca College, recognized the potential of the Alice software as a teaching tool and created a curriculum (henceforth known as the Alice curriculum), pedagogy, and instructional materials for the innovative approach.

The Alice curriculum was developed with the intent of effectively teaching introductory programming skills, while maintaining positive attitudes towards the subject. This curriculum simplifies first year programming by focusing on problem solving and algorithmic thinking before introducing syntax. In traditional first year courses, students must master algorithmic thinking and syntax simultaneously. By using a drag and drop editor in the Alice software, students are freed from the difficulties of syntax errors, such as missing commas or semicolons, allowing them to focus on problem solving and algorithmic thinking. Early on in the curriculum, the concept of object oriented programming is introduced.1 A feature of the Alice software is the use of three dimensional graphics (3D) to create virtual worlds. Using the Alice software, students may test their programs in 3D virtual worlds, an environment that has great appeal to a generation of students that grew up in a multimedia environment. In traditional programming curricula, it can take several semesters before students develop the programming skills necessary to create and test 3D animations. Alice curricular materials include a textbook and classroom implementation aides such as lecture notes, slides, solutions, sample projects and tests.3,4

The effectiveness of the Alice curriculum is currently being measured by evaluating student learning and attitudes at three community colleges. This paper discusses the results of the assessment efforts during the fall 2004. Specifically, the results are discussed in terms of the differing effects on men and women. These results constitute the first of four semesters of summative data collection.

Munson, A., & Moskal, B., & Dann, W., & Cooper, S. (2006, June), The Alice Curriculum: Impact On Women In Programming Courses Paper presented at 2006 Annual Conference & Exposition, Chicago, Illinois. 10.18260/1-2--91

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: © 2006 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