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John McCormick <[log in to unmask]>
Reply To:
John McCormick <[log in to unmask]>
Thu, 2 Dec 1999 08:55:22 -0600
text/plain (41 lines)
>I really hate seeing a student drop out.  I think making
>it fun helps reduce that problem.  But it still happens.
>My Freshman dropout rate is a little more than 50% this
>semester by my current estimates.

As Department Head I'd have grave concerns with this high a dropout rate.
At UNI we had a dropout rate of about 40% in the beginning course when we
used C++.   Fixing this was a high priority issue for me and I demanded
changes in the course.  Changing to Ada improved the dropout rate to about
25%.  Sounds to me like VB is having the opposite effect that we want in
keeping freshman.

I'd be curious to know what percentage of your VB freshman students have
prior experience with it.  I'd hypothesize that you have a number of self
proclaimed VB gurus in the class.  I have found that these gurus intimidate
the novices in the class - particular women students.  These intimidated
students usually drop the course.  One of the only good things about Ada
not being a "hot" language is that I've never had an Ada guru in my
introductory class.  It provides a more level playing field.

I would like to echo some remarks others have made about scalar modeling.
We know that errors with scalars are responsible for the majority of hairy
software bugs.  If students aren't exposed to scalar modeling in the
beginning courses, they will probably never will be - I've yet to see it
covered in more advanced CS classes.  Because is so easy in Ada to use
constraints to model scalar values is a strong reason to use it as the
first language.  Modeling scalar classes leads right into modeling more
"abstract" ones.


John W. McCormick                [log in to unmask]
Computer Science Department      [log in to unmask]
University of Northern Iowa      voice (319) 273-2618
Cedar Falls, IA 50614-0507       fax (319) 273-7123