This is a National Science Foundation (NSF) funded research to revolutionize the professional formation of computer scientists and software engineers. The PPSE project started on 1 July 2017 and will end on 30 June 2022. Total budget for the project is USD 2 million.
Many computer science departments in general and less-research-intensive departments in particular, experience high dropout of undergraduate students. This is particularly worrisome given that the US Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts that by 2020, half of all STEM jobs will be in computing. Several research advances and technological innovations have fundamentally changed the computing discipline in recent years. Such advances include cloud and mobile computing, web technologies, high-performance computing, social media, big data, and machine learning. Also, similar advances have occurred in learning science and educational technologies. Learning science informs how students actually learn and educational technologies leverage mobile computing and learning analytics to enable formal and informal learning. Millennial students learn differently and the above advances provide unprecedented opportunities to enhance student learning.
The project seeks to dramatically improve computer science students' retention and graduation rates through a transformational process that involves curricular innovations, design and development of inclusive pedagogy, and faculty development. Both technical and professional skills will be interspersed throughout the curriculum to better prepare them for industry careers. The project addresses diversity in student learning through personalization. The project enables significantly increasing the participation of underrepresented groups in computing education and careers. Lastly, the project strives to increase the number of transfer students from community colleges and early college high schools completing undergraduate computing degrees in universities. The results of the project will be widely disseminated across the country to help other computer science departments improve their students' success.
The project is both innovative and revolutionary. The project will design a non-course-centric curriculum, develop an innovative and inclusive pedagogy, use free and open-source software to provide a compelling and contextualized teaching and learning environment. Professional skills development will be interspersed throughout the curriculum through team projects, internship and co-op opportunities, undergraduate research and entrepreneurship, and professional networking. The project will improve retention and graduation rates by employing research-based approaches such as providing motivating and inviting academic environment, proactive efforts in student advising and degree planning, and fostering positive faculty-student relationships.
Participation of underrepresented groups will be significantly increased through collaborative partnerships with community colleges and early college high schools. Personalization of teaching and learning materials is achieved through structuring and development of materials through fine-granular authoring and semantic markup. To overcome faculty resistance barriers, the project employs a change model which is based on Appreciative Inquiry (AI), which reflects local context and constraints. The change model drives the research questions we investigate in the project. It takes an unprecedented, bold, and systemic approach to the professional formation of software engineers.