ASEE Annual Conference and Exposition, Conference Proceedings
The rapid growth of the digital economy and an associated increase in user-generated data has created a strong need for interdisciplinary computing professionals possessing both technical skills and knowledge of human behavior. To help meet this need and with funds from NSF IUSE, we developed an academic minor in Applied Computing for Behavioral and Social Sciences at San Jose State University. The minor involves a four-course sequence that includes programming fundamentals, data structures and algorithms, data cleaning and management, and a culminating project. At our institution and nationwide, social science students are more diverse than engineering students, with respect to gender, race, and ethnicity. By providing social science students with computing skills that complement their domain expertise, we aim to expand their career options and address the nation's need for a diverse, technology-capable workforce. We administered an exit survey on student learning experiences to two cohorts of students completing the minor. Given that the minor is new and that the first cohorts were relatively small, the number of students completing the survey was modest (n = 15). Results indicate that students were motivated to minor in Applied Computing by a desire to improve their data analysis skills and better prepare themselves for the job market/graduate school, as well as a belief that programming is a necessary skill for the future. A large majority of students indicated that their peers, instructors, and homework assignments supported their learning very well, whereas they found topics covered and course projects to be less supportive, followed by pacing of course content. With respect to career plans, a majority of students agreed that the minor provided them with their desired skills and allowed them to learn about careers in applied computing, and a large majority indicated that they planned to pursue a career utilizing applied computing. They expressed interest in fields such as human factors, data analytics, project management, teaching, clinical psychology, and various types of research. Finally, common themes that arose when providing advice to future students included not being shy in seeking help, tips for managing the level of course difficulty, encouragement to regularly practice, suggestions for how to master course content, and advice for adopting a successful mindset. These results will be instrumental in helping to optimize students' experiences in the minor, ranging from how we recruit new students to how we can better support their professional development. Given the largely positive experiences of our students and their plans to pursue careers involving applied computing, we believe that our approach of adding computing education alongside a social science degree demonstrates a promising model for meeting the increasing demand for diverse interdisciplinary computing workers in this digital age.
Psychology; General Engineering; Electrical Engineering
Valerie A. Carr, Maureen C. Smith, Belle Wei, and Morris E. Jones. "Learning Experiences of Social Science Students in an Interdisciplinary Computing Minor" ASEE Annual Conference and Exposition, Conference Proceedings (2021).
©2021 American Society for Engineering Education