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Increasing academic diversity and inter-disciplinarity of Computer Science in Higher Education

Research output: Contribution in Book/Report/Proceedings - With ISBN/ISSNConference contribution/Paper

Publication date11/11/2019
Host publicationCEP'20 Proceedings of the 4th Conference on Computing Education Practice
Place of PublicationNew York
Original languageEnglish


Computer Science education has changed significantly over the last decade, including UK national curriculum changes and the Office for Students' Institute of Coding, resulting in an increased focus on widening participation. Key stages 3/4 have moved away from ICT provision towards more rigorous Computer Science, while Higher Education has sought to draw in students who do not see themselves as future Computer Scientists nor see the relevance of those skills to their future careers.
We present the design for a 40 credit, whole-year programme at Lancaster University comprising one-third of a student’s first year. Targeting non-Computer Science students with no previous experience, the objective is to develop realistic, practical Computer Science skills that students can independently apply to relevant problems in their major degree programme and future career. We focus on two significant aspects of the programme.
Firstly, the overall programme requires flexibility to accommodate studying in parallel with a student's major. Blended learning replaces lectures with online videos, slides, and quizzes, supported with face-to-face staff time in weekly studios designed around collaboration. We discuss overcoming the challenges this presents around motivation, engagement, equality, student support, and general course design. We also compare our year-long course design, intended to give practical inter-disciplinary skills across Computer Science topics, with recent literature mostly involving short-duration workshops or modules, usually heavily focused on programming.
Secondly, recruitment materials were carefully designed to encourage interest from an academically diverse range of major programmes that typically do not take Computer Science modules. Core to this was addressing the gender and social diversity challenges present, and to illustrate the impact Computer Science skills could have on other majors and society. We discuss the impact of our re-designed learning spaces and curriculum, along with the student diversity data, and staff feedback.