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Preparing Undergraduate Computer Science Students to Face Intercultural and Multidisciplinary Scenarios

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7 Author(s)
Verdugo, R. ; Departamento de Ciencia de la Computación, Macul, Santiago, Chile ; Nussbaum, M. ; Claro, M. ; Sepulveda, M.
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Problem: This teaching case presents the authors' experience planning, teaching, and evaluating a semester-long course within a computer science undergraduate program; the aim of this course was to develop soft skills that enable students to actively contribute within multicultural and transdisciplinary teams. Research question: How can an undergraduate-level course help computer science students better understand the multicultural and interdisciplinary scenarios that compose today's working environment? Situating the case: The literature review contextualizes the case as part of a broader group of literature concerned with curricular reforms that replace the traditional emphasis on memorization of fixed disciplinary knowledge with what have been called “21st Century Skills.” In addition, it builds a theoretical framework followed by the course that brings together Hofstede's Cultural Theory and Vygotsky's ideas regarding the social formation of the mind. Methodology: The researchers conducted two studies with a group of 62 students who participated in the course. The first one measured how students appropriated the concepts presented in the course and learning outcomes. The second one evaluated the students' perception of the course a year after they had enrolled in it. About the teaching case: Results show that the vast majority of students appropriate the concepts of the theoretical framework used throughout the course. In addition, most students perceive the courses' contribution to their professional lives positively—particularly regarding understanding cultural and transdisciplinary issues. A small group does not consider a course like the one proposed to be useful. Conclusions: The implication of this teaching case is that the ability to communicate effectively with a range of audiences is something that can be addressed directly by a specifically designed course within a computer science curriculum (rather than exclusively bein- a secondary outcome of other courses). The limitations of the study are that it presents the authors' own teaching experience (therefore, it is not a third-party report) and that it uses pretesting and posttesting as an asessment tool for multicultural and transdisciplinary abilities. Future work would show how similar experiences could be conducted across other cultural scenarios and possible ways in which to engage the small group of students who do not consider the course useful.

Published in:

Professional Communication, IEEE Transactions on  (Volume:56 ,  Issue: 1 )

Date of Publication:

March 2013

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