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Efforts in Outreach Programmes to Realistically Inform Secondary Students on Studying ICT at Third Level

Author Brett Becker, Graham Glanville & Padraig MacDonagh
Abstract The Irish national secondary school curriculum has no dedicated Computer Science or Information and Communications Technology (ICT) provision (Stokes, 2010). In addition the academic study of ICT programmes is often misunderstood by prospective students with little real-world or practical insight into these fields (Tangney, et al., 2009). As such, there have been several efforts to introduce secondary school students to elements of third-level experience before actually attending third-level full-time, normally taking the format of summer camps or similar outreach programmes at third-level institutions (see Appendices I & II). However it could be argued that some of these programmes add to the misunderstanding. A primary reason for this is many of these programmes focus on explaining the ICT curricula and giving limited examples of such in the form of past student projects, demonstrations, and other eye-catching and interest-generating presentations or activities often referred to as 'show' (Frieze, 2005). Though the message is sound, the impression of studying at third-level received by potential students may not be. The reality is that these programmes involve coursework and accredited assessment. Starting in summer 2012 and expanding in 2013, the College of Computer Training has delivered a programme called ICT Taster Courses, in partnership with Microsoft Ireland and Fasttrack to IT (FIT) as part of the Youth2Work initiative (Fasttrack to IT, 2013). The programme consists of intensive, three-week courses, each focussing on a particular ICT core skill area. These programmes were provided free of charge to senior-cycle secondary school students. Unlike any programme previously offered in Ireland, students undertake actual coursework and importantly, accredited assessment. Successful completion of the programme can result in two awards; a nationally accredited FETAC level 5 component certificate and an industry accredited Microsoft Technical Associate (MTA) certification. In addition to presenting student expectations, experience and results, this paper presents institutional successes and lessons learned. We outline the results of surveys designed to determine the depth of understanding of ICT when students arrive and the degree to which this understanding is improved as programmes progress. We also investigate how this experience influences future choice on studying ICT at third level. This is of obvious interest to students, parents, school teachers and counsellors, third-level ICT educators, professionals, and policymakers.
Keywords ICT Education, Taster Courses, Summer Camps, Third-level College Outreach
Published In ICEP Proceedings 2013
Date 2013
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