Providing Online Help To Students Learning About Web Development: A Real-time Question And Answer Forum

Open Access
Aritajati, Chulakorn
Graduate Program:
Information Sciences and Technology
Master of Science
Document Type:
Master Thesis
Date of Defense:
June 16, 2015
Committee Members:
  • Mary Beth Rosson, Thesis Advisor
  • Crowd-sourcing
  • Question and Answer Forum
  • Education
Many educators have called for Computer Science (CS) to be a mandatory subject in U.S. high schools (Guzdial, 2014). However even if states and school systems respond to such advice, they will soon discover that there are too few instructors who are qualified to teach this subject on a broad scale (Guzdial, 2014). The research presented here examines one possible approach to addressing a scarcity of CS expertise in the K-12 classroom: a question and answer forum (QAF) staffed by an online volunteer who can assist a teacher as part of a classroom lesson. The logic is that such a website can be located in any part of the world, and in principle be staffed by volunteers all over the world, who participate because they are motivated to improve CS education. I organized and conducted two workshops that introduced web development to undergraduate and graduate students. The workshops were identical except that one had a QAF available for use by the students. Participants answered pre and post surveys to evaluate their CS expertise, web development expertise, and changes of attitude towards CS education and careers. After the workshops, I also interviewed a few of the students about how the workshops improved their computing experience and how they used the QAF and other tools available in the workshop. In my statistical analyses I found modest positive effects of QAF on post-workshop positivity (about both the teacher and the general experience) and about CS attitudes. More broadly, the workshop activity improved students’ self-efficacy, CS career identification, and perspective on computer-related subjects. An in-depth examination of the QAF revealed that few participants read more than one post in the system, and only one student posted anything (two questions). Survey comments and the interviews suggest that students preferred asking questions of the in-class teacher because they believed that the face-to-face communication was faster and required less effort than the QAF. I discuss the implications of my findings, including these comments about the QAF, in light of the overall research goals and directions for further research.