Monday, November 10, 2014
(Cross-posted to the Google Research Blog.)
Last month we announced the Google CS Engagement Small Grants Program, which supports CS educators invested in improving engagement and retention in their classes. Today we announce the launch of EngageCSEdu, a comprehensive collection of high-quality open source instructional materials for introductory computer science courses that integrates research-based pedagogical practices for engaging and retaining students. Developed by the National Center for Women & Information Technology (NCWIT) in partnership with Google, the goal of EngageCSEdu is to support the retention of women and other underrepresented groups in undergraduate CS education.
The content in EngageCSEdu is unique in that each piece emphasizes student engagement in the classroom. The project team, consisting of computer scientists, learning scientists, and social scientists, applied current research on gender diversity, student engagement, computer science education pedagogy, and classroom environment to define a set of seventeen Engagement Practices for the classroom. These practices describe effective educational techniques such as incorporating pair programming, providing relevant and meaningful context, and avoiding stereotypes. The team performed a comprehensive review of all the material to ensure that each piece embodies or even exemplifies one or more of these techniques, "taking the guesswork out of finding and creating materials that offer introductory CS students an engaging educational experience,” says NCWIT CEO and Co-founder Lucy Sanders.
The content available at launch was amassed through an exhaustive survey of available online resources from over 3,000 colleges and universities across the country. This review process resulted in over 1,400 unique instructional materials from 120 institutions. All primary introductory programming languages and over 325 introductory computer science topics are represented, as well as the set of Engagement Practices mentioned earlier.
California State University Long Beach Professor of Computer Science, and EngageCSEdu project team member, Alvaro Monge says “The goal of the project team was to build something that is immediately useful for faculty, but will also persist and grow as a ‘living’ collection.” As such, the collection consists of individual teaching materials that can easily be integrated into the classroom, such as assignments, projects, labs, tutorials, and lecture slides. Additionally, all EngageCSEdu content is tagged with a comprehensive set of metadata that allows users to search and browse easily and efficiently.
While EngageCSEdu is not designed to address all problems of retention in computer science, we hope that it will nonetheless become a valuable resource for the community of undergraduate computer science instructors. Maggie Johnson, Google Director of Education and University Relations, believes that “EngageCSEdu is a viable solution to help a broader set of students complete their computer science degrees,” and it is our hope that instructors will continue to use and contribute to the collection, ensuring a dynamic resource that remains relevant and useful in the future.