As students and parents consider their CAO options, Lero, the Irish Software Research Centre and the CSIS Department at the University of Limerick (UL) have launched a new video series entitled: “Is a Computer Science course for you?”.

The goal of these six, short, video sessions (4-7 minutes each), is to help students make a more informed choice about computer science and software engineering type courses. Available on YouTube, the videos, which are presented by Dr Jim Buckley, Lero researcher at UL, show how to build and refine a tank robot using the Java programming language, in a “shoot-em-up” computer game called Robocode.15/09/2015 Lero AGM Hodson BAy Hotel, Athlone. Dr. Jim Buckley, Lero UL. ?Picture: Alan Place/Fusionshooters.Dr Jim Buckley

“The problem is that, unlike the UK, we don’t formally teach programming at second level, so students are effectively taking a leap in the dark when they select courses with high programming quotients, like Computer Science, Computer Engineering, Software Development, Software Engineering or Game Development,” commented Dr Buckley. “These videos are designed to let students decide if programming is for them and, equally important, if it is not.”

“We are facing a severe skills shortage in the ICT sector so it is important both for individual career choice and the economy that students interested in this field are equipped to make informed choices about further study in computer science. We hope that these videos, as well as initiatives such as the Junior Cycle Short Course in Coding, assist that decision,” added Clare McInerney, education and outreach manager, Lero.

This initiative comes on the back of a recent Higher Education Authority study which expressed concern regarding dropout rates in computer science areas which range between 15% in universities to 26% in institutes of technology.

Under the National Action Plan for Jobs 2014 the target was to provide an additional 1,250 undergraduate ICT places per year in higher education institutions and increase the retention rate of students on these courses.

“By giving students this brief introduction to programming, the initiative hopes to increase uptake of these course among those who might like programming but don’t realize it, but also to help those who might drop out of these courses because they have little interest in programming,” added Clare McInerney.

The “Is a Computer Science course for you?” videos are supported by Science Foundation Ireland and may be accessed at: https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLD_Bktf2HNTxGPdGTVtsg8fJmYDHWkb6j

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