We proposed and developed CS0 modules targeted for non-computing majors with two goals in mind: (a) increasing exposure to computing and computational thinking among all students, and better preparing such students for professional careers in the fields that require a certain level of computing, and (b) diversifying the population of students taking computer science courses. We developed and built a series of modules, each targeting a specific aspect or a group of related aspects of computational thinking which always include an ethics perspective on the material. Our work was rooted in modern CS educational research, for example, including explicit introduction to small patterns (map, filter, fold), etc., however, despite much hype about the great need for computing courses for non-majors, we found that across the three participating institutions there was NOT a large demand for this kind of course. Various factors contributed to low enrollments, including a worldwide pandemic and a pivot to undesirable online course offerings, nevertheless, we were only able to reach ~100 students in our two years and across three institutional offerings. The course was offered twice at each of the three institutions: California Polytechnic State University (Cal Poly); University of Colorado at Colorado Springs (UCCS); and College of Charleston. (An additional fourth institution, UC Santa Barbara was not able to offer the course due to academic personnel changes, another warning for other projects to consider in the volatile staffing of modern computing departments). At Cal Poly, the course was developed as a GE course, serving 37 students across the two offerings (2021: 26; 2022: 11) (in part because, as we learned, many majors require a specific course in the GE area in which our course is listed and students are less motivated to take courses that are not degree applicable). Colorado offered the course as a free elective (no credit to graduation) and served ~11 students total over the two offerings (2021: 6, 2022: 5). Finally, Charleston offered the course as a freshman seminar, serving ~44 students over the two offerings (2021: 22; 2022: 22). In this report, we reflect on where we went wrong, in both our own thinking and understanding of students’ interest in such a course and in institutional factors such as competing with other university course requirements. We reflect on aspects of our work that were successful, including an engaging SIGCSE workshop challenging computing instructors to embrace the importance of including ethics in their instruction and an unplanned and successful deployment of the course for adult job retraining and ongoing work to enhance the impact of our project.
Aaron Keen, Zoë Wood, John Clements, Jane Lehr, Zachary Rentz, Bruce DeBruhl, (California Polytechnic State University) Roxann Stalvey (College of Charleston), Tim Chamillard (University of Colorado), Emily Coyle (Saint Martin’s University)