Lucas Layman, Laurie Williams, Kelli Slaten
L. Layman, L. Williams, and K. Slaten, “Note to self: Make Assignments Meaningful,” in Proceedings of the 28th SIGCSE Technical Symposium on Computer Science Education, (Covington, KY), pp. 459– 463, ACM, mar 2007
Publication year: 2007

In addition to “learning by doing,” programming assignments and projects are also the mechanism by which students learn about the utility of computer science — or not. Recent research indicates that the current generation of students is in search of a career with meaning, and women and minorities have long been known to desire careers that help society. In this paper, we provide student testimonials on the importance and benefits of practical and socially-relevant assignments. We then examined approximately 200 first year (CS1) and software engineering assignments at top computer science institutions. Only 34% of the CS1 projects had a practical or socially-relevant context, 41% had no context at all, and 15% were games. For software engineering projects, 62% were practical or socially-relevant, but still 16% had no practical context. We recommend that educators, through their assignments, place increased emphasis on demonstrating that computer science can be used to aid society and/or produce products of practical value to society.