University of Jyväskylä

Dissertation: 20.5.2016 Antti-Jussi Lakanen (Faculty of Information Technology, Information Technology)

Start date: May 20, 2016 12:00 PM

End date: May 20, 2016 04:00 PM

Location: Mattilanniemi, Agora, Auditorio 3

Antti-Jussi Lakanen. Photographer Nora Niemispelto
Antti-Jussi Lakanen. Photographer Nora Niemispelto
M.Sc. Antti-Jussi Lakanen defends his doctoral dissertation in Information Technology ”On the Impact of Computer Science Outreach Events on K-12 Students”. Opponent Adjunct Päivi Kinnunen (Aalto University) and custos Professor Tommi Kärkkäinen (University of Jyväskylä). The doctoral dissertation is held in Finnish.


Many countries have begun to adopt computer science (CS) and computational thinking (CT) into national curricula of compulsory education and upper secondary education. It is argued that learning rigorous CS concepts not only secures a workforce for the future’s digital industries but also benefits all students by improving their problem-solving and logical reasoning skills. However, the popularity of CS as a university major declined in the beginning of the 21st century, resulting in the development of a range of student outreach activities to engage young students in the study of computing.

This thesis originated from this need to attract and retain students in the CS field. The focus of this research is in understanding how the outreach impacts student’s development of an interest in computer science and engineering studies. The impact is considered from both long-term (from 3 months to 3–5 years) and short-term (ca. 1 week) perspectives. There were two contexts in this study: game programming workshops organized during summer holidays, and technology and programming club events. This dissertation comprises six articles that consider the impact using mixed methods: while qualitative methods were dominant, quantitative methods were also used.

The impact of outreach seems to be two-fold. On one hand, this study indicates that the outreach indeed impacts positively on students’ interest towards computer science and engineering studies from the long-term perspective. This positive impact was either "confirmatory" (confirms earlier career aspirations) or "emergent" (individual interest emerges due to participation). On the other hand, there were students whose plans were not affected by the outreach, or, moreover, were disengaged from CS due to the workshop. This latter finding can also be seen as a positive result as the students can make better informed choices due to these experiences. The results suggest that to be able to affect student interest in pursuing CS degrees, it is important to expose students to rigorous CS concepts in a hands-on manner. It is also important for the content to be engaging but at the same time comprehensible to all students. The results also call for more long-term evaluation of student outreach impact on interest development.

The dissertation is published in the series Jyväskylä Studies in Computing number 236, 74 s. (+ articles), Jyväskylä 2016, ISBN 978-951-39-6633-1 (nid.), ISBN 978-951-39-6634-8 (PDF). It is available at the University Library’s Publications Unit, +358 (0)40 805 3825, Introduction:




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Antti-Jussi Lakanen
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