A Review of the Supports Available to Third-Level Programming Students in Ireland


  • Mark Noone Maynooth University https://orcid.org/0000-0002-4618-5982
  • Aidan Mooney Maynooth University
  • Amy Thompson Maynooth University
  • Frank Glavin National University of Ireland, Galway
  • Monica Ward Dublin City University
  • Keith Nolan Technological University Dublin, Tallaght Campus
  • Emer Thornbury National College of Ireland
  • John Andrews National College of Ireland
  • David Williams Dublin Business School


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.

Author Biography

Mark Noone, Maynooth University

Mark Noone is a University Tutor in the department of Computer Science at Maynooth University since 2019. He holds a B.Sc. degree in Computer Science and Software Engineering. His work within the department involves the running of the Computer Science Centre, a supportive environment where students can get free one-on-one tuition in the modules they are struggling with. He is also monitoring the progress of the Leaving Certificate Computer Science curriculum.

He is working towards a PhD entitled "VisTex: An Investigation on the Role of Visual and Textual Languages when Learning to Program". This topic is focused on whether visual languages and textual languages provide differing outcomes for students at the early stages of their education, and whether some hybrid form of these languages could provide an alternative CS1 solution.






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