Dr. Monique Ross receives NSF Grant

PI – Monique Ross, Co-PIs – Peter Clarke, Geoff Potvin

Understanding the Implications of Online Learning and Engagement

Strategies with Elements of Competition on Women Students’ Engagement and Fit with Computer Science

The underrepresentation of women in computer science has begun to garner attention in both popular culture and scholarly works due to shifts in demographics and concerns about remaining competitive in a globalized economy. Post-secondary programs are working to attract and retain women in computing fields in order to keep pace with industry demands for computing professionals. This has caused the computer science community to reflect on current educational practices, community culture, and university departmental climate. This project will use a cyberlearning environment known as SEP-CyLE (Software Engineering and Programming Cyberlearning Environment) to study the potential of using online learning and engagement strategies with elements of competition (known informally as gamification) as a strategy to enhance the learning, engagement, and identity development of women in computing. The intellectual merit of the project is its explicit exploration of gender in a cyber-learning environment. Despite the wealth of literature that explores gamification on learning, there is no clear consensus on its effects on students by race and gender. Does gamification have value for improving female students learning and engagement in computer science courses? The results of this research will provide insight on gamification in student learning, identity development, and self-efficacy beliefs, and gender-fit in computer science. The results of this study will form the basis for more targeted learning and engagement strategies to attract and retain more women in computing fields.

The research activities consist of a mixed-methods study that explores the effects of gamification on self-efficacy beliefs and identity development for women and the usage patterns and learning outcomes for all students. The quantitative data will be disaggregated on the basis of race and gender to determine if there are differences in usage patterns and learning gains amongst participants of different races, genders, and intersections of race and gender. The results of the mixed-methods study will provide insight into both women’s experiences within computer science and the implication of gamification on their learning and engagement.