Preprint version. Published in 43rd ACM Technical Symposium on Computer Science Education Proceedings: Raleigh, NC, February 29, 2012.
Copyright © ACM 2012. This is the author's version of the work. It is posted here by permission of ACM for your personal use. Not for redistribution. The definitive version was published in SIGCSE '12, (February 29 - March 3, 2012).
Many computer science programs suffer from low student retention rates. At Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, academic performance and retention rates among first year computer science students are among the lowest on campus.
In order to remedy this, we have developed a new CS0 course featuring different "tracks" that students can choose from (e.g. robotics, gaming, music, mobile apps). This allows students to learn the basics of programming, teamwork, and college-level study in a domain that is of personal interest. In addition, the course relies on classic Project-based Learning (PBL) approaches as well as a focus on both academic and non-academic factors shown to increase student retention.
Initial assessment demonstrates positive results in the form of increased academic performance in post CS0 courses and student retention.