“Computer Science for all”: Concepts to engage teenagers and non-CS students in technology

[in preparation, abstract accepted]

Bernadette Spieler,  Maria Grandl, Martin Ebner, Wolfgang Slany
Graz University of Technology, Graz, Austria

Abstract: Knowledge in Computer Science (CS) is essential, and companies have increased their demands for CS professionals. Despite this, many jobs remain unfilled. Furthermore, employees with computational thinking skills are required, even if they are not actual technicians. Moreover, the gender disparity in technology fields is a serious problem. Even if companies want to hire women in tech, the number of women who enter these fields is remarkably low. In Austrian highschools, most teenagers acquire only low-level skills in CS. Thus, they may never understand the fundamental concepts of CS, have unrealistic expectations or preconceptions, and are influenced by stereotype-based expectations.

Consequently, many teenagers exclude computing as a career path. In this publication, we present two promising concepts to overcome these challenges. First, we consider alternative paths to enter the field of CS. During summer term 2018, we introduced the voluntary lecture “Design your own app” at the University of Graz for students of all degree programs. In total, 202 students participated (64% without programming experiences, 45% female students). We applied a game-based approach with the visual coding tool Pocket Code, a mobile app developed at Graz University of Technology. The students were supposed to create simple games directly on their smartphone. The course received very positive evaluations from the students and led to our second concept: In January 2019, we started to design a MOOC (Massive Open Online Course) with the title “Get FIT in Computer Science”. The MOOC will be launched in August 2019 on the platform iMooX.at and will provide a general introduction to the field of CS. For exercises and the final submission, the students need to apply game design strategies by using again Pocket Code. The MOOC has several target groups: First, we want to encourage young women who have little to no previous knowledge in CS. Second, it should help teenagers and prospective CS students to get a more realistic picture of CS. Third, teachers can use the course materials in high school. Finally, the MOOC can be accessed by everyone interested in this topic, thus students of other majors can acquire CS skills.

Keywords: Computer Science Education, Digital Literacy, eLearning, MOOC, Pocket Code

Conference: 13th European Conference on Games Based Learning,
2-3 October 2019, Odense,  Denmark