Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile
Bellino A., Herskovic H., Hund M., Muñoz-Gama J. (2021)

A Real-world Approach to Motivate Students on the First Class of a Computer Science Course

Revista : ACM Transactions on Computing Education
Volumen : 21
Número : 3
Tipo de publicación : ISI Ir a publicación


A common belief among students is that computing is a boring subject that lacks a connection to the real world. The first class (one 80-minute session) in an introductory computer science course may be an appropriate instance to combat such a belief. Previous studies have used coursewide interventions, e.g., games and physical/tangible devices to improve students’ motivation. However, although other approaches help motivate students, they may lack real-world context or have a high cost of deployment. This article proposes a novel real-world based approach to introduce programming concepts in the first class of the introductory computer science course. This approach, called Protobject based, is applicable to courses with over 100 students, has a low deployment entry barrier, requires low investment, and may be used creatively to implement different experiences. Furthermore, the Protobject-based approach has an equivalent motivational effect—at least in the short-term—to a Game-based approach even if it is entirely focused on the real world. The low requirements of the approach make it especially suitable for an 80-minute first class in an introductory computer science course. The Protobject-based approach has been preliminarily validated and compared to a pure game-based approach with a study with 376 participants, and we present the analysis of motivation questionnaires, a pre-test and post-test, and a homework assignment given to the students. We posit that more research into initiatives such as this one—that can show students how computer science can impact the real world around them—is warranted.