A Review of the Supports Available to Third-Level Programming Students in Ireland
Computer Science and programming courses are generally considered to be difficult,
particularly for students in the first year of a third-level course. As such, it is an important
role to support these students as they begin their education in order to better cement
their learning, and to reduce drop-out rates and other early issues. In Ireland, many
third-level institutions offer additional dedicated supports to their Computer Science
and programming students to augment the traditional lectures, tutorials, and laboratory
This paper provides a review of the current state of Computer Science Support in
Ireland. It features case studies from a sample of six third-level institutions, with authors
from each institution detailing the support services they offer to their students. A survey
was also sent to all third-level institutions in Ireland, asking for feedback about their
support services (or lack thereof). Fifteen responses were received from institutions
who provide additional supports (no responses were received from institutions without).
From the results of this survey, and the authors’ personal perspectives and experience,
recommendations will be made for those looking to develop their own support services,
or to improve upon existing ones. Some of the key findings from this survey are that
most supports in Ireland come in the form of dedicated tutors or support centres, more
support is offered on average earlier in undergraduate degrees and that most
respondents agree that we need to support novice programmers. Some of the
recommendations include all institutions offering some form of support service, offering
it as a free service and ensuring all ability levels are catered for. Advertising the service
appropriately is also important.
It is the correct time to undertake such a review due to the continued growth of
Computer Science as a subject, not only at third level, but now also at second level
with the introduction of Computer Science to the Leaving Certificate options. Further
work is ongoing in this area, with both a national group setup and an annual workshop
planned to enter its second iteration in 2022.
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