Abstract / Description of output
Background and Context: The COVID pandemic had an unprecedented impact on Higher Education and potentially first-year students experienced a dramatic change to their expectations for university education as many had to start their studies in hybrid or completely online settings. In computer science programmes, female students may also have different — usually more negative — experiences than their male counterparts. Objective: The aim of this study was to understand the learning experiences of first-year Informatics students during this period with a focus on self-efficacy and satisfaction with online learning, attitudes to computer science, and gender differences (if any). Method: In a mixed-method study, 61 first-year undergraduate students completed an online questionnaire and 21 of them also took part in follow-up interviews. Findings: Whilst many students felt they were able to learn effectively online, social interactions with both peers and instructors were impacted and there were issues with a sense of belonging and confidence for many students, especially female students. In addition, female students consistently reported less confidence in their computer science abilities and their capacity to complete learning tasks online. Implications: Suggestions for teaching under these conditions include ensuring multiple communication methods between staff and students, as well as supporting student-student communication channels. In addition, teaching this cohort in future years will need further considerations as student may lack experience in interacting with staff and other students (social cohesion as a cohort).