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Putting the Computer Science in Computing Education Research

By Diana Franklin

Communications of the ACM, Vol. 58 No. 2, Pages 34-36

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In April 2013, San Jose State University announced an expansion of its pilot MOOC courses with EdX based on a successful offering of EE98 Circuits Analysis. In July 2013, San Jose State University suspended its MOOC project with EdX when half the students taking the courses failed their final exams. In August 2014, Code.org released a K–6 curriculum to the world that had been created a few months earlier, not having been tested rigorously in elementary school classrooms.

What do these events have in common? Computer scientists identified a critical need in computer science education (and education in general) and developed something new to fill that need, released it, and scaled it without rigorous, scientific experiments to understand in what circumstances they are appropriate. Those involved have the best of intentions, working to create a solution in an area with far too little research. A compelling need for greater access to computing education, coupled with a dire shortage of well-supported computing education researchers, has led to deployments that come before research. High-profile failures hurt computer science's credibility in education, which in turn hurts our future students. This imbalance between the demand and supply and the chasm between computer science and education creates an opportunity for some forward-thinking departments.


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