Female under-representation in Computer Science education and workplace - A survey of issues and interventions, moving towards a game-based learning solution

Osunde, J.; Windall, G.; Bacon, E.A. and Mackinnon, L. (2013). Female under-representation in Computer Science education and workplace - A survey of issues and interventions, moving towards a game-based learning solution. In: altc2013 Building new cultures of learning, 10-12 Sep 2013, University of Nottingham.


The numbers of females studying and working in computing progressively decreases disproportionately from early secondary education (age 11-14) to the workforce stage. Many possible contributing factors have been identified and analysed in related research work. This paper presents the findings of a study into issues and interventions in this area and then proposes a path for future work in game-based learning with a focus on the use of Computer Science (CS) learning games.
Over the years, a number of intervention strategies have tried to address the problem but still the downward trend continues. This paper focuses on the role of educational software (ES), which historically may have been part of the problem. It has been argued that the typical educational software is imbued with stereotypic social values which are discouraging to females. Although attempts have been made to make ES more acceptable to females through the design of gender neutral and gender specific software, the female representation continues to decline.
Game-based learning has been used in CS to improve learner motivation; however, these types of games are less popular with females than computer games designed for entertainment. A number of methodologies currently used in elicitation of requirements in designing educational software models comprise of tools and techniques that are predetermined by researchers such as the heuristic assessment, cognitive walkthroughs and aloud protocol which may not be relevant to the audience. We have designed a methodology that elicits criteria from the users to investigate and identify elements in computer games that appeal to females (11-14). The methodology will investigate the demographics data of games played and the elements peculiar to games genera that attracts 11-14-year-old girls. The procedure due to its user-driven nature will ensure that elements used in the model design are motivational to the subgroup of females (11-14). The quantitative and qualitative data collected via our survey is will be reviewed to identify these key elements. The investigation has also examined the elements in computer games that appeal to boys of a similar age group. The similarity or differences in the datasets from our survey will provide an insight into commonalities of game features that appeal to both genders. Furthermore, the “non-cross over elements” will be identified as peculiar features. A combination of these results will be used in proposing a framework for designing Computer Science educational games that will appeal to females in a similar manner computer games has appealed to females (11-14). We then intend to carry out an empirical investigation of the effectiveness of this design model, capturing both qualitative and quantitative data to provide a strong basis for future development.

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