Designing for engagement : building IT systems

Corney, Malcolm W. (2009) Designing for engagement : building IT systems. In ALTC First Year Experience Curriculum Design Symposium 2009, 5-6 February 2009, Queensland University of Technology, Brisbane.

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Context The School of Information Technology at QUT has recently undertaken a major restructuring of their Bachelor of Information Technology (BIT) course. Some of the aims of this restructuring include a reduction in first year attrition and to provide an attractive degree course that meets both student and industry expectations. Emphasis has been placed on the first semester in the context of retaining students by introducing a set of four units that complement one another and provide introductory material on technology, programming and related skills, and generic skills that will aid the students throughout their undergraduate course and in their careers. This discussion relates to one of these four fist semester units, namely Building IT Systems. The aim of this unit is to create small Information Technology (IT) systems that use programming or scripting, databases as either standalone applications or web applications. In the prior history of teaching introductory computer programming at QUT, programming has been taught as a stand alone subject and integration of computer applications with other systems such as databases and networks was not undertaken until students had been given a thorough grounding in those topics as well. Feedback has indicated that students do not believe that working with a database requires programming skills. In fact, the teaching of the building blocks of computer applications have been compartmentalized and taught in isolation from each other. The teaching of introductory computer programming has been an industry requirement of IT degree courses as many jobs require at least some knowledge of the topic. Yet, computer programming is not a skill that all students have equal capabilities of learning (Bruce et al., 2004) and this is clearly shown by the volume of publications dedicated to this topic in the literature over a broad period of time (Eckerdal & Berglund, 2005; Mayer, 1981; Winslow, 1996). The teaching of this introductory material has been done pretty much the same way over the past thirty years. During this period of time that introductory computer programming courses have been taught at QUT, a number of different programming languages and programming paradigms have been used and different approaches to teaching and learning have been attempted in an effort to find the golden thread that would allow students to learn this complex topic. Unfortunately, computer programming is not a skill that can be learnt in one semester. Some basics can be learnt but it can take many years to master (Norvig, 2001). Faculty data typically has shown a bimodal distribution of results for students undertaking introductory programming courses with a high proportion of students receiving a high mark and a high proportion of students receiving a low or failing mark. This indicates that there are students who understand and excel with the introductory material while there is another group who struggle to understand the concepts and practices required to be able to translate a specification or problem statement into a computer program that achieves what is being requested. The consequence of a large group of students failing the introductory programming course has been a high level of attrition amongst first year students. This attrition level does not provide good continuity in student numbers in later years of the degree program and the current approach is not seen as sustainable.

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ID Code: 28859
Item Type: Conference Item (Other)
Refereed: No
ISBN: 9781741072662
Subjects: Australian and New Zealand Standard Research Classification > EDUCATION (130000) > EDUCATION SYSTEMS (130100) > Higher Education (130103)
Australian and New Zealand Standard Research Classification > EDUCATION (130000) > CURRICULUM AND PEDAGOGY (130200) > Curriculum and Pedagogy Theory and Development (130202)
Australian and New Zealand Standard Research Classification > EDUCATION (130000) > CURRICULUM AND PEDAGOGY (130200) > Science Technology and Engineering Curriculum and Pedagogy (130212)
Divisions: Past > QUT Faculties & Divisions > Faculty of Science and Technology
Copyright Owner: Copyright 2009 [please consult the author]
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Published by the QUT Department of Teaching and Learning Support Services, February 2009.
Deposited On: 27 Nov 2009 01:22
Last Modified: 23 Dec 2014 22:19

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