Riding The Rollercoaster: An Exploration of a Computing Student’s Journey

May, Lesley orcid iconORCID: 0000-0002-0976-0079 (2019) Riding The Rollercoaster: An Exploration of a Computing Student’s Journey. In: INTED 2019 - 13th International Technology, Education and Development Conference, 11-13 March 2019, Valencia, Spain.

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This paper explores themes around retention of students in higher education, an ongoing problem for universities across the world. Attending and finishing a university course is a central enabler of social mobility in the UK. It unlocks the gateway to a varied range of professional careers, and forecasts imply that there will be sustained development in the need for people with graduate-level skills. There are now more people in the UK enrolling at universities than ever before, with a wider variety of courses being made available, to a more diverse body of students.
This research project used an interpretive approach to student’s experiences during their first year of an undergraduate computing degree at a university in the North West of England. A series of semi-structured interviews were carried out with first year students enrolled on a computing related degree, at a number of points spanning their first year of study. The interviews were designed to explore their feelings and experiences at each point. The data collected during the interviews was coded and analysed using thematic analysis to identify trends and themes, in order to better understand their experiences and the issues they face.
The paper presents the research method and early analysis, using specific examples of data as supporting evidence in an attempt to understand the student experience. Making sense of student experiences and helping them meet their expectations is vital to any university. Each student who abandons their studies is likely to suffer a poor experience of higher education, which may impact their confidence, as well as their future career prospects. With higher education being the foundations of a lifetime of learning, it is important that all students have the opportunity to thrive and flourish, so examining student experiences may unpack areas that would enable enhancements and interventions to be tailored to provide better support.
The main finding to date is that each student’s journey through the first year of study is a heady mix of emotions, workload, expectations and life experiences, making for a fast and sometimes dangerous rollercoaster.

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