Industrial Engineering Student Perceptions of Computer Science, Computer Engineering and Electrical Engineering

An opportunity to view three disciplines from an outsider’s perspective has provided some interesting insights. During a NSF funded (HRD-0225228) study of the surprising attainment of gender parity in the School of Industrial Engineering at the University of Oklahoma (IE at OU), patterns of response of Industrial Engineering students to questions such as “What is your favorite/least favorite course?”, “What is your best/worst experience with a faculty member?”, and “What are your experiences with computers?” were noted. Almost half of the students (20 out of 41) interviewed during 2003 made comments related to Computer Science (CS), Computer Engineering (CE), or Electrical Engineering (EE). This is a surprising result considering that none of the questions asked directly solicited information about these disciplines. Student responses fell into three categories: perceptions of the disciplines (12 out of 41), perceptions of the departments (6 out of 41), and perceptions about the introductory programming courses that are required for IE majors (15 out of 41). These IE students perceived these disciplines to be intangible, populated by isolationists, boring, and limited, although lucrative. Clearly, these disciplines need to communicate their professional contexts to students better in introductory classes. The perceptions of the departments came mostly from students who had previously majored in CE. Four students enjoyed the introductory programming course and 11 students made a variety of observations about why they disliked the class. In addition to a general agreement that beginning programming classes are extremely difficult, the students observed that the books and instructors were difficult to understand, the classes were large, cheating is common place, prerequisite programming experience should be required, and they perceive these courses to be weed out classes. These complaints indicate that continued attention should be paid to making beginning computer science classes more approachable to non-CS majors.

Available from:FIE Archive

Trytten, D. A., S. E. Walden and T. R. Rhoads (2005). Industrial Engineering Student Perceptions of Computer Science, Computer Engineering and Electrical Engineering. Proceedings of 34th ASEE/IEEE Frontiers in Education Conference, Indianapolis, IN.

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