Title: Understanding and Reducing Barriers to Programming in Non-traditional and Informal Learning Contexts
Advisor: Andy Ko (iSchool)
Supervisory Committee: Andy Ko (Chair, iSchool), Cecilia Aragon (GSR, HCDE), Katharina Reinecke, and Mike Ernst
Abstract: More and more people around the world are learning programming, and much of this learning is happening in non-traditional and informal contexts. As different groups of people learn programming, they each face unique barriers. In order to learn more about these barriers and how to reduce them, I have completed three projects with my co-authors: 1) I studied how culture influences the use of an online debugging tool, in particular how self-directed learning related to using a back-step feature 2) I studied the barriers faced by coding bootcamp students, finding cultural barriers as well as difficulty using available resources to learn how to use application programming interfaces (APIs) and 3) I developed a theory of what knowledge is actually needed to work with APIs, including explained code templates. Based on this work I propose finishing my dissertation with a project to automatically extract explained code templates from available online resources, and then visualize them as smart API templates for developers, testing to see if they improve ability to work with APIs. Together, these projects will have increased our knowledge of some of the barriers different people learning programming face in non-traditional and informal contexts face, and started work in reducing some of those barriers.