Working groups: general

Working groups are formed by participants with a common interest in a topic related to the subject matter of the conference. The groups of 5 to about 10 participants work together electronically before the start of the conference. Working groups convene on the Friday evening before the conference, and start face-to-face work in their sessions the following day, Saturday, at 9am. Group members are expected to work together for the whole of Saturday and Sunday, and continue their work throughout the conference, which runs from Monday to Wednesday. However, members are able to attend some conference sessions and the Tuesday afternoon excursion if they wish.

Every working group member must register for and be present at the conference in order to be considered a contributor to the final report.

Participants present their preliminary results to conference attendees at a special working group presentation session, and submit a final report after the conference concludes. Final reports are refereed and, if accepted, are published in the ACM Digital Library.

Working groups: applying to join

Applications to join the working groups are now open and are due by 26 March 2017. Applications should be emailed to the nominated leaders of the working group in question, and should include the following information:

  • your name, institution, country, and email address;
  • an explanation of your interest in the working group;
  • your experience relevant to the goals of the working group;
  • any further information requested in the description of the particular working group;
  • an assurance of your availability and willingness to take active part in the work of the working group before, during, and after the conference;
  • an assurance of your intention to register for and attend ITiCSE (this is a condition of working group membership).

Working groups: brief list

WG1: Understanding international benchmarks on student engagement – awareness, research alignment and response from a computer science perspective

WG2: Game development for computer science education

WG3: Integrating international students into computer science programs: challenges and strategies for success

WG4: Developing assessments to determine mastery of programming fundamentals

WG5: "I know it when I see it'' -- perceptions of code quality

WG6: Developing a holistic understanding of systems and algorithms through research papers

WG7: Understanding the effects of lecturer Intervention on computer science student behaviour

WG8: The internet of things in CS education: current challenges and future potential

WG9: Searching for early developmental activities leading to computational thinking skills

Working groups: detail

WG1: Understanding international benchmarks on student engagement – awareness, research alignment and response from a computer science perspective

Michael Morgan, Monash University, Australia;

Matthew Butler, Monash University, Australia;

Jane Sinclair, University of Warwick, UK;

There is an increasing trend to use national benchmarks to measure student engagement, including NSSE (USA and Canada), SES (Australia and NZ), and UKSES (UK). Unfortunately, Computer Science rates poorly in these surveys, even compared to related STEM disciplines. Reasons may include a lack of awareness by CS academics of these instruments, the student engagement measures they use, and a misalignment between these instruments and the research focus of computing educators, leading to misdirected efforts in research and teaching practice.

Planned WG activities include:

  1. Examining the trends and variations in NSSE, SES, UKSES over time.
  2. Analysis of the instrument design and the student engagement measures they use.
  3. Meta-analysis of current CS research literature related to computing education, specifically focused on any initiatives to promote student engagement.
  4. Interviews with CS academics regarding perceptions of survey instrument questions.
  5. Drafting the report and conclusions.

Given the global nature of these benchmarks the WG members will ideally bring a broad range of perspectives on student engagement, computing education research and practice. When applying please briefly explain your experience and interest in the topic. Participants will be expected to contribute to analysis and literature review activities prior to the conference.


WG2: Game development for computer science education

Monica McGill, Bradley University, USA;

Chris Johnson, University of Wisconsin, Eau Claire, USA;

The goal of the 2017 Game Development for Computer Science Education working group is to build on the work performed in the 2016 working group and to collaboratively build a game to teach a targeted computer science concept with clearly defined and measurable learning objectives.

We invite collaborators who yearn for a deeper level of rigor surrounding learning games to consider joining this group. Collaborators are expected to believe that the design of games needs to be informed and validated by user testing with students and fellow educators. Since the goal of the working group is a functional game for the broader community, collaborators must also have working knowledge of and experience relevant to game development, preferably with Unity or perhaps creating game art.

Prior to ITiCSE 2017, group members will collaboratively choose a subject area, generate game ideas and learning objectives, design a game, and prototype and playtest levels (paper and/or digital). At the conference, the group will discuss findings from playtesting and continue with game development, following the format of a game jam. After the conference, group members will be expected to participate in deploying the game and collect and analyze gameplay and learning data.


WG3: Integrating international students into computer science programs: challenges and strategies for success

Michael Oudshoorn, Northwest Missouri State University, USA;

Alison Clear, EIT, New Zealand;

Janet Carter, University of Kent, UK;

International students are an important and desirable constituent in most computer science programs. These students help enrich the program, bring new perspectives, diversify the student population, globalize the curriculum, broaden the perspective of domestic students, and generate revenue for the host institution. Each of these characteristics is desirable and increasingly important in today’s highly connected world and job market. Most institutions invest resources in attracting international students and provide orientation sessions for them. However, challenges for international students, and for the faculty teaching them, persist at many institutions despite these efforts to help international students deal with culture shock, differing academic expectations and teaching methods, and different attitudes toward issues such as plagiarism.

The goal of this working group is to bring together international educators:

  • to discuss the challenges faced at various institutions,
  • to explore those challenges, and
  • identify strategies to ameliorate them.

Participants in the working group will be asked to administer surveys, prior to the working group meeting, of the international students at their institution, and the faculty in their departments, to gather student and faculty perspectives of the international experience including its value, the challenges faced, and their thoughts on what can be improved.


WG4: Developing assessments to determine mastery of programming fundamentals

Andrew Luxton-Reilly, University of Auckland, New Zealand;

Brett A Becker, University College Dublin, Ireland;

Current CS1 learning outcomes are relatively general, specifying tasks such as designing, implementing, testing and debugging programs that use some fundamental programming constructs. These outcomes impact what we teach, our expectations, and our assessments. Although prior work has demonstrated the utility of single concept assessments, most assessments used in formal examinations combine numerous different concepts, resulting in complex and difficult tasks. These limit the nature and quality of feedback to teachers and students, and may contribute to the perceived difficulty and high drop-out rates observed in CS1.

This working group aims to decompose existing CS1 learning outcomes into their component parts, and develop assessment items focused on these individual components.  We will create exemplar assessments in Java and Python that may be used for formative or summative feedback on student understanding of specific components of programming knowledge. Focusing on independent components of programming increases opportunities for students to demonstrate what they can achieve, and may improve diagnosis of student difficulties. 

We wish to obtain input from a diversity of CS1 teachers and institutions with varied teaching approaches. We aim to have a literature review and collection of learning outcomes complete before meeting in Bologna.


WG5: "I know it when I see it'' – perceptions of code quality

Jürgen Börstler, Blekinge Institute of Technology, Sweden;

Harald Störrle, QAware GmbH, Germany;

Johan Hagelbäck, Linnæus University, Sweden;

Daniel Toll, Linnæus University, Sweden;

The ability to develop software of high quality is a key learning goal of computing programs. However, there are no universal measures to assess the quality of code and current standards are considered weak. Defining the concept of “good” code is therefore a challenge faced by many educators.

In this working group, we are interested in the perceptions of code quality of students, teachers, and professional programmers. In particular, we want to investigate which quality aspects are perceived as more or less important and which sources of information are used by these groups.

Working group members are expected to carry out at least three structured interviews with students, educators or professional software developers. An interview script will be provided by the working group co-organizers. The interview script will include 2–3 open questions that need to be transcribed and coded by the working group participants in advance of the meeting at ITiCSE. A guide for the coding will also be made available by the working group co-organizers.

In your application email, please briefly tell us about yourself, what your relation is to code quality and what you would you like to bring into our group!


WG6: Developing a holistic understanding of systems and algorithms through research papers

Ali Erkan, Ithaca College, USA;

John Barr, Ithaca College, USA;

Even though a computer science degree is unavoidably broken into semesters and courses, we always hope that our students form a holistic picture of the discipline by the time they graduate. Yet we do not have too many opportunities to make this point in a convincing manner. Our working group will address a well-defined portion of this problem: revealing the significant connections between algorithmic courses (such as Discrete Math, Data Structures, Algorithms) and systems oriented courses (such as Organization, Computer Networks, Operating Systems, and Hardware) that may be missed by students. In particular, we will explore how research papers can be used as the glue between the topics of a contemporary computing curriculum.

Our working group will produce a report that identifies crucial systems topics, recommend papers of appropriate nature, categorize algorithmic concepts necessary to master the selected papers, and develop a process to define a hybrid systems/algorithms course carrying capstone qualities.

Before the conference, participants will be asked to identify two to three candidate papers, participate in the development of a rubric for evaluating papers, and map the points at which these papers connect with the topics of their institutional curriculum.


WG7: Understanding the effects of lecturer intervention on computer science student behaviour

Claudia Szabo, The University of Adelaide, Australia;

Nickolas Falkner, The University of Adelaide, Australia;

A key challenge for educators is providing effective online and programming assignment feedback and support to students, to ensure they are engaged with the course. Due to significant problems of scale, effective lecturer intervention is difficult, the effect of intervention is challenging to measure accurately and often, detailed, in-depth feedback is replaced with output from failed testcases. 

This working group will (1) identify and survey existing literature on quantifying lecturer intervention in online discussion forums and on assignment feedback, (2) identify existing datasets that could be used to study intervention in depth, (3) identify key data characteristics and associated tools to effectively process data, and  (4) identify and outline key recommendations for effective lecturer intervention. Work will start in early April, with online discussions planning the systematic literature review, and subsequent meetings discussing findings and refining work.

We invite participation from learning analytics researchers, educational researchers, educators among others. In your application, please tell us about yourself, what would you like to bring to our group, and what would you like to take home. We look forward to seeing you in Bologna and having an enthusiastic discussion, accompanied by the delights, architectural and gastronomical, among others, of this wonderful city.


WG8: The internet of things in CS education: current challenges and future potential

Barry Burd, Drew University, USA;

Smart devices are everywhere, and the IoT revolution is only in its infancy. In the Internet of Things (IoT), everyday objects share data with or without human intervention. Cars, thermostats, door locks, light bulbs, and wearables all belong to the new Internet of Things.

As CS educators, we’ll soon be teaching students about IoT technologies. This will present challenges and opportunities. How will we integrate IoT technologies into existing curricula? How will we manage the mix of software and hardware topics in students' IoT projects? How will we address the legal and social issues? How will we choose from the growing number of IoT standards? What kinds of equipment and lab spaces will be optimal for small, medium, and large-scale programs? How will we leverage the enthusiasm students feel when they create projects involving tactile, three-dimensional, moving, real-world objects?

In this working group, we study and document the current state of IoT education. After interviewing people with IoT teaching experience, we make recommendations to help educators integrate IoT topics into CS curricula.

When applying, please describe any experience you have with IoT. Previous experience with IoT is a plus, but it is not a requirement for participation in this group.


WG9: Searching for early developmental activities leading to computational thinking skills

Quintin Cutts, University of Glasgow, Scotland;

Elizabeth Cole, University of Glasgow, Scotland;

Peter Donaldson, University of Glasgow, Scotland;

As countries adopt CS education for all pupils from primary upwards, there are challenging indicators: significant proportions choosing to study CS fail introductory courses; early studies suggest that not all pupils achieve intended outcomes using block-based languages; there is limited evidence for links between formal education outcomes and success in CS.  Yet, as we know, some students succeed without prior computing experience.  Why is this?

Some argue for an innate ability.  However, this working group is based on a hypothesis that the success of learners in CS courses is influenced by early childhood experiences outside formal education.  The purpose of the WG is to look for evidence for or against this hypothesis.

Between March and June, each WG member will use a pre-prepared on-line early experiences questionnaire to collect a minimum of 60 responses from tertiary-level students and adults, both with and without CS backgrounds. The questionnaire data will be analysed at ITiCSE.  If a trend is identified, unifying features of the experiences will be determined, and an attempt made to link these to CS skills.  Ultimately, it is hoped that positive findings can feed in to early years and primary education, to improve CS learning for all.