Digital Natives, Online Learning, and the Production of Capable Computer Science Graduates: The Case for Virtual Synchronous Learning Activities

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The context of this talk includes the problematic enrollment trends of students in computer science programs nation-wide, the dire consequences for economic and physical security such trends potentially entail, and rapidly changing University course delivery modes. Within this context, this work will include some thoughts regarding how best to go about educating "digital native" students in introductory programming courses to foster basic skill development, interest in the field, and retention. Although delivery of introductory computer science courses has traditionally involved significant face-to-face teaching and mentoring, one view of these activities is that they entail digital immigrant teaching strategies applied to digital native learners. Additionally, online course delivery raises particular challenges in technical fields including how genuine mentoring can be achieved, the preferences of learners for technology-based learning, the quality of learning that is achieved through various means and its assessment, and the development of the types of communication and interpersonal skills that have become so important for computer specialists. This presentation will address these issues in turn to develop a case for virtual synchronous learning activities, to relate some of the author's experiences with synchronous meeting software, and to foster discussion of effective virtual synchronous strategies in technical fields.


Keywords: Computer Science Education, Digital Natives, Distance Learning, Synchronous Virtual Learning Activities, Student Retention, Learning Outcomes
Stream: Technology in Education
Presentation Type: Paper Presentation in English
Paper: Digital Natives, Online Learning, and the Production of Capable Computer Science Graduates


Dr. John W. Coffey

Associate Professor, Department of Computer Science, The University of West Florida
Pensacola, FL, USA

Dr. John W. Coffey holds a B.S. in Psychology from the College of William and Mary; a B.S. in Systems Science, an M.S. in Computer Science, and an Ed.D. in Instructional Technology from the University of West Florida. His dissertation demonstrates extensions to a method of representing a knowledge domain for which Drs. Ken Ford, Alberto CaƱas and he received a patent in 1996. Since 1992 he has worked for the Computer Science Department at UWF where he holds an Associate Professor position, and the Institute for Human and Machine Cognition (IHMC), Pensacola, FL. Coffey has taught 11 different computer science courses. In his work for IHMC, he served as the principle software developer on the NUCES Project, and developed the software for the VNet portion of the Quorum project. He has served as a knowledge engineer on projects with NASA Glenn Research Center, Boeing, the U.S. Navy, the Electrical Power Research Institute, and many others. His research interests include knowledge elicitation and representation, advanced technology for education, student modeling, and educational applications of semantic web technologies. He has authored more than 50 journal papers, book chapters, technical reports and conference proceedings.

Ref: T08P0313