What happens when professionals take on-line CS classes: When Life and Learning Do Not Fit
The journal article on the research that Klara Benda, Amy Bruckman, and I did finally came out last month the ACM Transactions on Computing Education. The abstract is below. Klara has a background in sociology, and she’s done a great job of blending research from sociology with more traditional education and learning sciences perspectives to explain what happens when working professionals take on-line CS classes. This work has informed our CSLearning4U project significantly, and informs my perspective on MOOCs.
We present the results of an interview study investigating student experiences in two online introductory computer science courses. Our theoretical approach is situated at the intersection of two research traditions: distance and adult education research, which tends to be sociologically oriented, and computer science education research, which has strong connections with pedagogy and psychology. The article reviews contributions from both traditions on student failure in the context of higher education, distance and online education as well as introductory computer science. Our research relies on a combination of the two perspectives, which provides useful results for the field of computer science education in general, as well as its online or distance versions. The interviewed students exhibited great diversity in both socio-demographic and educational background. We identified no profiles that predicted student success or failure. At the same time, we found that expectations about programming resulted in challenges of time-management and communication. The time requirements of programming assignments were unpredictable, often disproportionate to expectations, and clashed with the external commitments of adult professionals. Too little communication was available to access adequate instructor help. On the basis of these findings, we suggest instructional design solutions for adult professionals studying introductory computer science education.