The impact of placement in introductory computer science courses on student persistence in a computing major

Document Type

Conference Proceeding

Publication Date



Department of Computer Science


Multiple studies have shown that when novice and experienced programmers are enrolled in the same introductory programming course, the novice programmers are negatively impacted. We have two entry points into our course sequence for majors. One course is intended for students with little or no programming experience, while the alternate course is intended for students who have had previous programming experience. In 2015 we discovered that many students with programming experience were enrolling in the course for novice programmers. A change in our placement strategy in 2016 resulted in a greater portion of the students with programming experience actually enrolled in the course intended for students with programming experience. Last year we reported on the impact this change had on the courses and the students enrolled in these introductory courses. Although student performance improved only slightly, many fewer students with little or no previous programming experience reported that their first programming course was unreasonably difficult in 2016. In this paper we examine how this change in placement strategy and resulting changes in the courses is impacting student persistence in the major. Initial indications are that a greater percentage of students with little or no previous programming experience are persisting in their computing major when these students begin in an introductory course that does not also include students who have substantial programming experience.

Publication Title

ITiCSE 2018: Proceedings of the 23rd Annual ACM Conference on Innovation and Technology in Computer Science Education