Computer Science education

The only CS course I’m taking this semester is a Capstone Design project. This semester’s theme is CS education. There’s about 6 students in total including me in the course, and each week we write a summary about a research paper that a group of CS professors have done, and discuss them. Our assignments are all CS-education related; having to write an assignment or comparing algorithm visualization tools. We also have to do a project proposal, carry out the research, and present it.

I chose to study how internships really affect how we learn. At UofT, we have an internship program called PEY, so its a 16 month internship program. I want to sample students who are graduating this year, those who have done PEY vs. those who haven’t. It’s not obvious whether or not an internship year would have a huge effect on what students know, after all. So my plan is to interview a few students, and give them some technical questions, Amazon/Google style. One set of questions is broad and general but rather basic. This tests the general knowledge of the student. The other set is more in depth and the student will do a think aloud and walk me through what they are thinking – this part is going to be suited to the student’s knowledge domain. The main internship knowledge domains are Software Dev, Database, Networks, System/Low level design, Graphics/UI design, Web Dev, and Testing. Depending on what the student did, I’m going to ask them these type of questions. If they didn’t do PEY, then most likely I will ask Software Dev/Algorithmic related questions as the other ones we don’t quite focus on at UofT. Then I will compare the different sets of students to see if the way they answered the questions is statistically significant, and make my conclusions.

I’m having a hard time starting out gathering the data though – mostly because I have a hard time approaching people. It’s strange that I can be so open online yet when it comes to in person, the worst thought I have is of disturbing someone or having them ignore me. I have to overcome this fear and do what’s needed to start this project! This entire month is pretty much dedicated to this course – project has to be done by the end of this month, writing up a sample assignment, and doing the weekly summaries. For a half credit course, the workload seems like two courses. There’s also a test after this month, but it’s right after I come back from San Francisco, so I basically have to study for that this month because I have no time next month. Good news is there isn’t a final exam for this course, though the test could be thought of as one. Oh well… this month is looking to go by pretty fast, as usual.

Edit: I’ve decided to do a questionnaire instead because it’s more portable, but still having trouble with people answering the technical questions. They have very little incentive to do them, most are busy with midterms, and it takes close to an hour to write out the algorithms and everything. I’ve made all the questions not too easy (it would defeat the purpose of the project) and not too hard (no one would do it). But it still seems people are shying away from doing those questions. I’ll have to think of a better incentive than to just say its good job practice, but having a hard time doing so.