T5-STEM1-1 - Updating our Understanding of the Impact of Pre-College Computing Experiences on University Students

3. Research Work In Progress
Sean Mackay1 , Adrienne Decker1
1 University at Buffalo

This WIP Research paper is a follow-up to a study conducted in 2013 by McGill, Decker, and Settle that investigated the effects of pre-college computing experiences on students’ decisions to study computer science at university. Their results indicated that the exposure to pre-college computing activities impacted students in different ways, particularly when looking at perceived impact by men and women participants [1, 2]. After six years and a myriad of changes to the K-12 computing landscape, it was time to see if impacts to current undergraduates were different than previously observed. This current study is a pilot qualitative study in which we interviewed seven undergraduate students about their experiences with computing prior to college. We were particularly interested in finding out about the nature of their computing experiences, whether they enjoyed them, and what they would change to make such experiences better for future participants. We used grounded theory and thematic coding to encode the interview transcripts, enabling us to look for common themes among the interview subjects. We are looking for elements in the interviews that could point to key differences in the pre-college computing landscape that have impacted student experiences that are different from those previously observed and thus impacting their experiences in university with computing. The goal of this preliminary study was to get a sense of what aspects of students’ exposure to pre-college computing experiences have changed since 2013 and what changes should be made when creating a follow-up to this initial study.