N. Abdul Rashid, N.H. Malim, S.M. Syed Mohamad

Universiti Sains Malaysia (MALAYSIA)
Computer science in USM started with a course in programming in 1974. It was embedded under the School of Mathematical Sciences. The Bachelor Degree of Computer Science with honor was initiated in 1983/1984 academic year. The curricular is been revised regularly and the latest curricular is being introduced in academic year 2009/2010. The students are exposed to algorithms and problem solving, programming techniques using high-level languages, data structure, computer organization, and a strong foundation in mathematics. They will start in one specialization that includes Intelligent System, Information System Engineering, Multimedia Computing, Network Computing, Distributed System and Security and Software engineering. In the year II, they learned operating systems, data communication , programming languages concepts and paradigm, algorithms and data structure and system analysis and design. They are also given practical courses like integrated software development, group projects and special topics and research methods as well as research in their specialization area. Although the program has been running for almost forty years, there were limited studies published (i.e. made known to the ‘outsider’) evaluating student’s performance under the curriculum outlined. Thus, motivated by the statistics collected from 2006, we launched a study to investigate factors influencing student performance under our curricular. While similar research concentrates on the first year programming courses, our study spans throughout the undergraduate years (i.e. from the first year to the final year). This large-scale study is ongoing with three surveys have been distributed to all students. Currently, there are 300-registered undergraduate students with 160 are either in their second or third year. We created the questions covering the aspect of their choice of courses, how they spent their time studying and what are their experiences in studying computer science courses. One of those questions is created based on our experience while the other two were adopted from the work of Wilson and Shrock (2001); and Ramalingam and Wiedenback (1998). We present here the first phase of our study, which consist of the method and preliminary results. The preliminary results show that most of our students do not have any background in programming or knowledge on the computer hardware. Their mathematical background is quite limited. Although they have learned about number systems in the end of their high school mathematics courses, they cannot relate it to the material they learn in computer organization. One main concern is that they cannot see the relationship among the mathematical courses, systems course and programming courses.