Exciting new paper on MediaComp with Majors and Year-Later Results
Beth Simon just let me know that her paper has just been accepted to ITICSE 2010. She shared the submitted draft with me, and I’ve been biting my lip, wanting to talk about it here. Now that it’s accepted, I can talk about it, while still leaving the real thunder for Beth’s paper and her presentation this summer. For me, it’s exciting to see two year’s worth of data with CS majors, including following the students into their second year. Beth deals head-on with one of the criticisms of Media Computation (e.g., no, it’s not a tour of all-things-Java — you won’t cover as many language features as you used to) and provides the answers that really matter (e.g., you retain more students, they learn more about problem-solving, and they do really well in the next course). I’ll quote her abstract here:
Previous reports of a media computation approach to teaching programming have either focused on pre-CS1 courses or courses for non-majors. We report the adoption of a media computation context in a majors’ CS1 course at a large, selective R1 institution in the U.S. The main goal was to increase retention of majors, but do so by replacing the traditional CS1 course directly (fully preparing students for the subsequent course). In this paper we provide an experience report for instructors interested in this approach. We compare a traditional CS1 with a media computation CS1 in terms of desired student competencies (analyzed via programming assignments and exams) and find the media computation approach to focus more on problem solving and less on language issues. In comparing student success (analyzed via pass rates and retention rates one year later) we find pass rates to be statistically significantly higher with media computation both for majors and for the class as a whole. We give examples of media computation exam questions and programming assignments and share student and instructor experiences including advice for the new instructor.