California needs coders. According to recent data gathered by Code.org [Code 2018], California has over sixty-eight thousand open jobs in computing that could account for total salaries of $7,924,951,397. In addition to growing demand for software developers, computer programming (coding) is increasingly recognized as a vital 21st-century skill across many careers [Code 2013]. Interdisciplinary fields like Bioinformatics and Data Science are emerging where other disciplines are innovated by their convergence with coding.
While there is a shortfall of Computer Science graduates to meet the increasing demand for coding, there is also a severe lack of diversity in the field. In the technology industry, only about 26% of the workforce is female, while racial minorities are even more disproportionately underrepresented [Muro 2018]. The dearth of diversity extends into California education, where predominantly underrepresented minority (URM) school districts are less likely to have Computer Science courses available; of California students who took the AP Computer Science exam, only 8% were people of color [UCLA 2019]. However, with shifting demographics in California—particularly the increasing representation of Hispanic students enrolling in California universities—there is a distinct opportunity to prepare more students to fulfill the state’s demand for valuable skills by fostering inclusive computing education and graduating more URM students with coding skills.
To address this opportunity, this project aims to improve Computer Science education through the development of Coding Community—an online, inclusive, and hands-on tool for coding classes that connects a diverse population of students across different campuses. Coding Community will leverage students’ modern perspectives to communicate concepts with examples and explanations that their peers can relate to and understand. Students who come from backgrounds with less opportunity and encouragement to study Computer Science will record tutorial videos that explain coding concepts in their own words. Coding Community will further supplement the coding tutorial videos with hands-on coding exercises that will enable students to practice and develop their skills as they learn new concepts. With this combination of engaging learning materials, the project aims to improve student retention in coding courses that historically have high attrition rates. In addition to providing improved learning experiences, Coding Community will empower students who otherwise may not feel confident that they are capable and welcome in coding courses. By engaging these students in an inclusive environment where they can learn from peers they relate to, the project aims to broaden participation in Computer Science.[Code 2013] “Code – The New Literacy” Code.org. https://youtu.be/MwLXrN0Yguk [Code 2018] “State Facts: Support K-12 Computer Science Education in California” Code.org. https://code.org/advocacy/state-facts/CA.pdf [Muro 2018] Muro, M., Berube, A., and Whiton, J. (2018). Black and Hispanic underrepresentation in tech: It’s time to change the equation. The Brookings Institution. https://www.brookings.edu/research/black-and-hispanic-underrepresentation-in-tech-its-time-to-change-the-equation/ [UCLA 2019] “State’s AP Computer Science Exam: 29 African Americans, 21% Girls” UCLA IDEA. https://idea.gseis.ucla.edu/newsroom/our-ideas/themes-in-the-news/archive/august-2012/states-ap-computer-science-exam-29-african-americans-21-girls