The level two Computing Science accelerator course was designed in response to the large number of 'at risk' students at the end of their first year, and the history of high failure rates in the course. Across the U.K., and certainly at this university, applicant numbers for Computer Science degrees has dropped drastically in the last couple of years. In response, the Computing Science Department slackened their second year entry requirements from two C grades to a D pass. However, these students have tended to struggle in theire second year, with the majority failing to progress into third year.
In response, an accelerator course was introduced in 2005 for those students that did not achieve a C grade pass, or for those who had, but felt that they required further assistance. Accelerator sessions involved senior students acting as learning facilitators to the accelerator course participants. Some success was achieved by this first attempt, although attendance was poor. Limited data analysis suggests that higher average grades were correlated with higher average attendance.
Based on the 2005 experience, the aim of the current accelerator program was to increase attendance, performance and progression in addition to acting on more theoretical pedagogic principles (learner self regulation, time on task). A number of major activities were agreed upon, such as:
- Expert advice and scaffolded support - includes individual and generic formative feedback with gradual withdrawal of support in relation to structured exercises
- Formative feedback through peer discussion and paired study
- Promotion of self-regulation and reflection - the provision of learning diaries (programming logs), designed to promote goal orientation and increase student monitoring of time on task and successful/ unsuccessful learning strategies
- Phone calls - made by the course lecturer on a regular basis to students not attending session in order to improve attendance.
- Practice under exam conditions - a number of past papers given to students in exam style conditions, which were marked and then discussed as a group