University of Ulster (UNITED KINGDOM)
About this paper:
Appears in: INTED2015 Proceedings
Publication year: 2015
Pages: 7630-7631 (abstract only)
ISBN: 978-84-606-5763-7
ISSN: 2340-1079
Conference name: 9th International Technology, Education and Development Conference
Dates: 2-4 March, 2015
Location: Madrid, Spain
This extended abstract summarizes a regional widening access University initiative to reintroduce computing programming back into Schools via providing an enhanced eLearning course.

UK Government led School league tables during the late 1990s and 2000s led Schools to move away from “more difficult” subjects to ensure excellent exam performance. Within Computer Science this resulted in Secondary Schools moving away from Computer Science at both GCSE (16 year olds) and GCE (18 year olds) to ICT based subjects. This resulted in a generation of school children not being exposed to computer programming until University.

Within our own department we found this dramatically affected our retention rates as students who had studied ICT at school (MS Word, Powerpoint, Excel and so forth) came onto a Computer Science degree to then struggle with programming and indeed in some cases feel they had made the wrong choice. This resulted in our department having the worst retention rates in the University. In addition to this, over time it limited what we could realistically do in year one at University. With substantial effort being put into first year support we eventually came to the conclusion that we needed to work with the schools directly to counter the “ICT effect”.

The full paper, if accepted, will report on the initiative; the online course, the interaction with Schools and the results.

“A UUJ course that has been invaluable to our young people is the Introduction to Programming using Javascript. For a number of years now this has been used as part of our Sixth Form Enrichment course at Wallace, with students interested in finding out about Computer Science completing the course. It is notable that a number of these students have gone on to Computer Science degree courses and similar higher education options. The course has allowed me to identify potential in students and provides confidence for students to know that they are interested and able to study computer science further. In particular Tanya features on the school website for her achievement in being offered a place on the Kainos Earn as You Learn scheme. Another student, who did not perform so well in his 'A' Level subject options displayed a natural ability in programming and developed a passion for it during the course, coming top of the class in the assessment. He is continuing his programming career in a local FE College. I am confident that both of these students and more that have benefited from this course over the past 5 years will be useful employees in the workplace in Northern Ireland, helping to fill the skills shortage in the local economy.”

To inspire one teacher is to reach a generation of students, we should never underestimate the benefit of running Train the Trainer courses which instruct and encourage teachers in their work as educators of our young people.”
Ruth Foster, Head of Computing, Wallace High
Computer Programming.