Reflections on Course Blogs in First-year CS

Alicia M. Grubb, “Reflections on Course Blogs in First-year CS.” Proceedings of the 32nd IEEE International Conference on Software Engineering Education & Training (CSEE&T), 2020.

Abstract: Software engineers, and more broadly computer scientists, must be able to communicate clearly to exchange ideas with team members and stakeholders, making writing an essential part of computer science education. The Writing Across the Curriculum initiative endeavours to engage students in writing and creating a community that supports writing and its teaching in every discipline. As part of this initiative, computer science (CS) instructors at a large public university added a weekly blogging assignment to their CSII course with four aims: (1) improve student learning of writing and CS concepts; (2) understand local variations among language speakers; (3) provide writing feedback at scale; and (4) combine writing-to-learn with disciplinary writing. In this paper, we present the design rationale for the blog assignment, as well as the results of an empirical study of how the assignment is perceived by students and teaching assistants. Using both quantitative and qualitative analysis, we tease apart the mixed perceptions of the students and the outcomes of our assignment aims. We discuss problems as well as potential opportunities for improving the assignment, and explore recommendations for those interested in teaching writing.