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SIGCSE-LIBARTS-COMM <[log in to unmask]>
Thu, 15 Jun 2017 14:41:24 -0400
Douglas Baldwin <[log in to unmask]>
Douglas Baldwin <[log in to unmask]>
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To: Amanda Holland-Minkley <[log in to unmask]> cc: "Braught, Grant" <[log in to unmask]>, Henry Walker <[log in to unmask]>, Alyce Brady <[log in to unmask]>, Andrea Lawrence <[log in to unmask]>, [log in to unmask]
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On Mon, Jun 12, 2017 at 3:26 PM, Amanda Holland-Minkley <
[log in to unmask]> wrote:

> ...

As far as the larger question of, do we need a survey on these topics, I'm
> wondering what our end goal is as a group. I know that this is a short-term
> committee and that we need to assemble a report (this summer, I think?).

In some sense our end goal is defined by the Committee's charge from SIGCSE
(see, which is to
confirm or refute two apparent needs,but  also to identify any other needs
and suggest ways of meeting any or all of said needs. The two apparent
needs are (1) for a "voice" that can speak for liberal arts computing
programs to the larger computing community, e.g., on ACM curriculum
committees, and (2) for a place -- perhaps a virtual one -- where members
of the liberal arts CS community can get together with each other. I think
we already have a pretty good sense that (2) is widely felt, less of a
sense on (1), and the final "identify any other and suggest resolutions"
clause leaves us wide open to do almost anything.

There are lots of things that could mean for further surveys, starting with
more from Amanda's message:

If we think that we want to propose to SIGCSE that there is demand for a
> standing group, seeing the amount of information that people want about how
> liberal arts CS education is being structured and that we don't have could
> be a compelling part of the argument. Additionally, we don't currently have
> a good place to house any information we gather - hopefully becoming a more
> long-term group could justify establishing a home for this sort of content.

> If we do want to gather more survey data, I might be inclined to assemble
> more of a meta-survey to build on what we learned at SIGCSE and find out
> from a larger set of those involved in CS education if we've correctly
> identified the major issues and concerns faculty at liberal arts
> institutions have or not. We could likely assemble the survey from the
> summary document we already have.

To my mind, this says we treat most of the questions raised by the SIGCSE
conversation as demonstrating the need for an ongoing body that can conduct
studies of liberal arts computing and curate the resulting data over a long
period of time. The Committee can then recommend creation of such a body
and refer most further surveying to it, maybe focusing any survey and
reading we do in the next few months on item (1) from our charge. This
might lead us to identify a few new needs from the SIGCSE conversation, but
to only offering resolutions to items (1) and (2), both resolutions quite
likely being "form a permanent group." I think this is a very reasonable
way to go should we choose it.

But another way we could go is to treat the SIGCSE conversation as
identifying the other needs that the liberal arts CS community thinks are
important, leading us to try to understand and report on all of them.
Personally I think this is too open-ended, and takes us way into a gray
area of identifying genuine "needs" vs gathering data to answer questions
that follow from those needs. The long survey it suggests would be hard to
design and hard to get respondents to wade through. But if there was a big
turnout of volunteers for this approach, and/or it turned out most of the
questions/issues from SIGCSE were already addressed somewhere in existing
literature and data, we could try this.

And, of course, there are middle ways between the above: leaving most of
what we identified at SIGCSE for a permanent body to pursue, but taking on
a few items that we, in whatever way, decide are particularly important
now, etc.

So, do others of you have feelings about which of these courses, or others,
you'd like to follow?

In all cases I prefer not designing a survey and gathering data that
already exists somewhere else though, thus the literature and other data
sets search part of the project. (I didn't quote it, but another part of
Amanda's message mentioned looking at reports from the NDC and Taulbee
surveys and finding that the results don't have a "liberal arts" category
per se).

Finally, we do need to produce a report. I think it would be nice for that
report to be in essentially final form in time to give an oral version at
SIGCSE 2018, with a written one appearing soon after.