Redesigning an introductory programming course to facilitate effective student learning: A case study

Cynthia Corritore, Betty Love

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


Aim/Purpose This study reports the outcome of how a first pilot semester introductory programming course was designed to provide tangible evidence in support of the concept of Student Ownership of Learning (SOL) and how the outcomes of this programming course facilitate effective student learning. Background Many instructors want to create or redesign their courses to strengthen the relationship between teaching and learning; however, the researchers of this study believe that the concept of Student Ownership of Learning (SOL) con-nects to student engagement and achievement in the classroom setting. The researchers redesigned the introductory programming course to include valu-able teaching methods to increase Student Ownership of Learning and con-structive approaches such as making students design an authentic mobile app project as individuals, partners, or within teams. The high quality of students' projects positioned them as consultants to the university IT department. Methodology This paper employs a case study design to construct a qualitative research method as it relates to the phenomenon of the study's goals and lived experi-ences of students in the redesigned introductory programming course. The redesigned course was marketed to students as a new course with detailed de-scription and elements that were different from the traditional computer sci-ence introductory programming course requirement. The redesigned intro-ductory programming course was offered in two sections: one section with 14 registered students and the other section with 15 registered students. One faculty member instructed both sections of the course. A total of 29 students signed up for the newly redesigned introductory programming course, more than in previous semesters, but two students dropped out within the first two weeks of the redesigned course making a total of 27 students. The redesigned coursework was divided into two parts of the semester. The first part of the semester detailed description and elements of the coursework including a re-designed approach with preparation for class, a quiz, and doing homework in class, which gives students control of decisions whenever possible; and work-ing with each other, either with a partner or in a team. The second part of the semester focuses on students designing a non-trivial working mobile app and presenting their developing mobile app at a significant public competition at the end of the semester. Students developed significantly complex mobile apps and incorporated more complex functionality in their apps. Both Man-agement Information System (MIS) major students and Computer Science major students were in the same course despite the fact that MIS students had never taken a programming course before; however, the Computer Sci-ence students had taken at least one course of programming. Contribution This study provides a practical guide for faculty members in Information Technology programs and other faculty members in non-Computer Science programs to create or redesign an introductory course that increases student engagement and achievement in the classroom based on the concept of Stu-dent Ownership of Learning (SOL). This study also deepens the discussion in curriculum and instruction on the value to explore issues that departments or programs should consider when establishing coursework or academic pro-grams. Findings This study found two goals evidently in support to increase Student Owner-ship of Learning (SOL). The first goal (Increase their ownership of learning SOL) showed that students found value in the course contents and took con-trol of their learning; therefore, the faculty no longer had to point out how important different programming concepts were. The students recognized their own learning gap and were excited when shown a programming con-cept that addressed the gap. For example, student comments were met with "boy, we can really use this in our app" instead of comments about how complex they were. The coursework produced a desired outcome for stu-dents as they would get the knowledge needed to make the best app that they could. The second goal (Develop a positive attitude toward the course) showed positive results as students developed a more positive attitude to-wards the course. Student actions in the classroom strongly reflected a posi-tive attitude. Attendance was almost 100% during the semester even though no points for attendance were given. Further evidence of Student Ownership of Learning and self-identity was students' extensive use of the terminology and concept of the course when talking to others, especially during the public competition. Students were also incorporating their learning into their identi-ties. For example, teams became known by their app such as the Game team, the Recipe team, and the Parking team. One team even made team t-shirts. Another exciting reflection of the Student Ownership of Learning which oc-curred was the learning students did by themselves. Recommendations for Practitioners Practitioners can share best practices with faculty in different departments, programs, universities, and educational consultants to cultivate the best solu-tion for Student Ownership of Learning based on student engagement and achievement in the classroom setting.Recommendations for Researchers Researchers can explore different perspectives with scholars and practitioners in various disciplinary fields of study to create or redesign courses and pro-grams to reflect Student Ownership of Learning (SOL). Impact on Society Student Ownership of Learning is relevant for faculty and universities to in-corporate in the creation or redesigning of coursework in academic pro-grams. Readers can gain an understanding that student engagement and achievement are two important drivers of Student Ownership of Learning (SOL) in the classroom setting. Future Research Practitioners and researchers could follow-up in the future with a study to provide more understanding and updated research information from differ-ent research samples and hypotheses on Student Ownership of Learning (SOL).

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)91-135
Number of pages45
JournalJournal of Information Technology Education: Innovations in Practice
StatePublished - 2020


  • Computer science
  • Introductory programming
  • Redesigning
  • SOL
  • Student achievement
  • Student engagement

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Computer Science (miscellaneous)
  • Education


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