Institute for Personal Robots in Education Blog

Survey Results: Do Robots Help in a CS Classroom?

Bryn Mawr College and Georgia Technical Institute were awarded a grant by Microsoft to develop a curriculum for computer science using robots as a learning tool. Both colleges designed and implemented an introductory computer science course based on this premise. Georgia Tech continued to offer their normal introductory class as well. At the conclusion of all Bryn Mawr and Georgia Tech introductory classes, students completed a survey about their experiences in the course, as well as some basic personal information (e.g. gender, ethnicity, etc.) and background (in programming and robotics). The survey included fifty-two questions about the course, although the non-robot classes (all at Georgia Tech) received a twenty-one question subset of the survey, excluding all questions referring to robots in the class.

I have developed a program to analyze the results of this survey, run this program, studied the data, and written up summaries of the results I found. The program compares two groups (e.g. robot classes vs. non-robot classes) on all relevant questions, and, based on a Chi / Confidence Test decides if the difference in answers are significant. I have analyzed eight pairs of relevant groups and I summarize my findings below.

Main Results:

- The major difference between Georgia Tech and Bryn Mawr students is that Bryn Mawr students seem to have found computer science more enjoyable and useful as a result of the class.

- Surprisingly, there were few differences between students in robot versus non-robot classes. Interestingly, though, students in the robot classes felt significantly more motivated to spend additional time on homework assignments as compared to those in non-robot classes.

- Bryn Mawr students in the robot class as compared to Georgia Tech robot class students seem to have a more positive attitude about the robot, though not necessarily of computer science as a whole.

- There were no significant or suggestive differences between the Georgia Tech students using the robots and students from the same college not using the robots, suggesting that that there may not have been a great focus on the robots in the Georgia Tech robot class.

- Although there are not many great differences between Georgia Tech students not using the robots and Bryn Mawr students using the robots, the Bryn Mawr students do seem to find the class more relevant and, perhaps, more motivating.

- Students with previous programming experience have, as expected, greater confidence in their computing-related abilities and more excitement about future use of computers and robots. Interestingly, they also felt more strongly that they had learned more about computing than robots than beginners did.

- There are not many differences in answers between previous robot users and those who had no robot experiences. (The main significant difference that appeared was that robot beginners wanted more information about robots.)

- Surprisingly, there were few differences between men and women.

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