Publication Details

Baafi, E. Y., Boyd, M. J. and Lambert, S. R. (2005). Coping with diverse student backgrounds in a first year engineering computing subject. In Z. Pudlowski and M. Riemer (Eds.), Proceedings 8th UICEE Annual Conference on Engineering Education (pp. 159-162). Australia: UNESCO International Centre for Engineering Education.


Each year, students enrolled in the subject Engineering Computing 1 at the University of Wollongong, Wollongong, Australia, are surveyed on the first day of classes in order to assess their prior knowledge of the subject content. The survey results show considerable diversity in students’ backgrounds. On average, about 10% are not familiar with the use of personal computers (PCs), 5% have never used e-mail/World Wide Web, 30% have not used spreadsheets and 60% have not programmed in a high level language. However, within these averages are some students with advanced skills and others with quite limited skills. Many of those students with a limited knowledge of computers come from developing countries, including Sudan, Indonesia and the Indian subcontinent. In the paper, the authors discuss how computer based training (CBT) packages are utilised to form the basis of a student centred self-learning system. These CBT resources allow the lecturers to better manage class-time by having a mechanism to bridge the skills gap between those students with little or no experience in the subject content, and those who enter the course with higher-level skills.

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