About the Academic Enhancement Program

The Academic Enhancement Program (AEP) is a collaborative program between the School of Computing Science (CS) and the Student Learning Commons (SLC) at Simon Fraser University. The program co-developers and co-coordinators are Diana Cukierman, faculty member in the School of Computing Science, and Donna McGee Thompson, Head of the Student Learning Commons. The AEP program has  also been  expanded to the School of Engineering Science (ENSC) and we are working with other Faculties to incorporate this program .

The AEP aims to proactively help students succeed in their university studies. It incorporates learning activities within the course timetables of core first-year CS and ENSC courses and inform students about further resources. Several workshops have been developed for the program, to be  run specifically for the CS/ENSC courses, tailored to course topics and facilitated by at least one learning specialist and one discipline specialist. The AEP also provides the option of an "Assignment" component that encourages students to learn about a topic of their choice related to student success, wellness and connected to their discipline of study. The assignment directs students to write a self-reflective report, making use of already existing resources such as workshops, readings and videos at other departments, such as the SLC and world wide.

There is only one intervention per course, be it a course-associated workshop or the elective assignment. Students receive course marks for these activities, up to 3% of the course grade, in agreement with the course instructor. We also suggest optional related activities to do in class to reinforce concepts seen in the AEP activity.

To date, more than 5,000 students have been served, spanning more than 12 years, 3 semesters per year of offering this program. We collect data as we run the program, including anonymous surveys and data  which students consent to share for  our evaluations and educational research. The collection of data has been approved by the Office of Research Ethics at Simon Fraser University.

Besides the program coordinators, who usually co-facilitate the workshops, other people are and or have been actively involved in our program: Greg Baker, CS faculty member,  workshop co-facilitator, and CS coordinator during 2011, Cynthia Wright, Yosef Wosk Student Learning Commons Coordinator and co-facilitator of AEP workshops at the Surrey campus; Sheryl Gulloy, Psychology of Education Ph.D., research assistant; Farimah Salimi, Educational Technology and Learning Design Masters, research assistant; Piper Jackson, Computing Science Ph.D. research assistant and workshops co-facilitator; John Edgar, CS faculty member and workshops co-facilitator at the Surrey campus,  Rylan Egan, Psychology of Education Ph.D. , research assistant; Maggie Karpilovsky, Masters  in the Faculty of Education, workshop co-facilitator and research assistant; Jiang Ye, Masters in Computing Science and CS instructor, workshops co-facilitator , Alicja Pierzynska CS instructor,  workshop co-facilitator. Computing Science TAs and SLC graduate facilitators are also regularly actively invovled in the program.

The AEP program started in the Summer 2006 semester as a pilot. After some iterations and revisions the AEP program has become established and it is currently a requirement in select lower division CS  and ENSC courses. We are also working in a collaboration project with the Computing Science Institute and the Learning Unit at the Faculty of Engineering at the University of Uruguay, where a program analogous to the AEP was developed, having already offered several  workshop sessions  since   the Fall 2011 and Summer 2012 semesters.  Currently the AEP is supported by the School of Computing Science and the Student Learning Commons. Research has been supported by The Institute for the Study of Teaching and Learning in the Disciplines, at Simon Fraser University and by a Teaching And Learning large grant. The  Faculty of Applied Sciences Dean's office and the School of Engineering Science are also providing support.

In 2014 the AEP was recognized as one of two “2014 SFU Champions for a Healthy Campus Community”. A documentary film appears in: http://www.sfu.ca/healthycampuscommunity/features.html

Selected refereed publications and invited talks:

  • Cukierman D., McGee Thompson D., Sun W. (2019). The Academic Enhancement Program: Assessing Programs Designed to Support Student Success. Proceedings of SIGCSE 2019, the 50th ACM technical symposium on Computer science education. February 2019. Minneapolis, MN, USA. ACM.
  • McGee Thompson D., Cukierman D., Guloy S., Salimi F. (2017). Preparing a diverse student population for postsecondary and beyond: The Academic Enhancement Program. Learning Specialists Association of Canada - National (LSAC). May 2017, Montreal, QC, Canada.
  • Guloy S.,  Salimi F. , Cukierman D. , McGee Thompson D. (2017)  Insights on supporting learning during computing science and engineering students’ transition to university: A design-oriented, mixed methods exploration of instructor and student perspectives.  Higher Education Journal. Special Issue: Transition to Higher Education, DOI: 10.1007/s10734-016-0097-6: Springer
  • McGee Thompson, D., Cukierman, D., Guloy, S., & Salimi, F. (2016) How do we encourage students to self-regulate? A workshop designed to support student learning in first-year computing science and engineering. Paper presentation, Learning Specialists Association of Canada (LSAC) Pacific Region Conference: From Self-Regulation to Mindfulness, May 2016, Capilano University: North Vancouver, BC, Canada.
  • Cukierman, D.(2015)  Predicting Success in University First Year Computing Science Courses:  The Role of Student Participation in Reflective Learning Activities and in I-clicker activities. Proceedings of  ITICSE 2015, 20th Annual Conference on Innovation and Technology in Computer Science Education, Vilnius, Lithuania, July 2015: ACM
  • McGee-Thompson D., Guloy S., Cukierman D.,  Salimi F. (2015) "Aligning values and practice in academic settings: Reflections from a study involving instructors’ and students’ perspectives about learning" .  STLHE 2015, Society for Teaching and Learning in Higher Education conference, June 2015, Vancouver, Canada.
  • Cukierman D.,  McGee Thompson D., Guloy S., Salimi F., & Karpilovsky M. (2014).  Challenges students face in first-year university Computing Science and Engineering courses: Overview of a needs assessment and workshop. Proceedings of WCCCE 2014 Western Canadian Conference on Computing Science Education, Vancouver, Canada: ACM
  • Cukierman D.,  McGee Thompson D., Salimi F., & Guloy S., (2014). Challenging first-year computing science and engineering students' ideas about learning: The making of a workshop. 14th Annual Symposium on Teaching and Learning: Provocative Pedagogy.  Burnaby, Canada, May 2014.
  • Guloy S., Salimi F., Cukierman D.,  McGee Thompson D.,  & Karpilovsky M. (2014).
    "What kind of learning? Exploring faculty and student perspectives on learning strategies and attitudes in engineering and computer science". European Association for Research on Learnign and Instruction conference (EARLI 2014),  Special Interest Groups SIG 4 & SIG 17 "Higher Education" and "Qualitative and quantitative approaches to learning and instruction". Leuven, Belgium, August 2014.
  • Cukierman D. (2013). "Seminario: Aprender a Aprender. Como Ayudar a Nuestros Estudiantes" (Seminar: Learn to Learn. How to help our students). Invited presenter, half day professional development seminar for university faculty members,   University of Palermo, Buenos Aires, Argentina, May 2013.
  • Cukierman D., daRosa S. (2012). "Programa de Mejoramiento de la Experiencia Educativa: Introduciendo a los estudiantes a estrategias de estudio y reflexión" . (Educational Experience Enhancement Program: Introducing students to study strategies and reflection"), Escuela Superior de Informatica (Superior School of Informatics), Universidad de la Republica, Montevideo Uruguay, May 2012.
  • Cukierman D. (2011c). "Apoyando a los estudiantes a "aprender a aprender". El Academic Enhancement Program (AEP) y el Programa de Mejoramiento de la Experiencia Educativa (PMEE): Un proyecto conjunto Uruguay/Canada". (Supporting students to " learn to learn". The Academic Enhancement Program (AEP) and the Education Experience Enhancement Program  (PMEE). A joint project Uruguay/Canada). Invited talk at the Instituto de Computación (InCo), (Institute of Computing Science), Facultad de Ingeniería (Faculty of Engineering), Montevideo, Uruguay, October 2011.
  • Cukierman D. (2011b). "The Academic Enhancement Program (AEP) in Computing Science at Simon Fraser University: Introducing students to learning strategies". Invited talk at the School of Electrical Engineering and Computing  Science, University of Ottawa, Ottawa, September 2011.
  • Cukierman D. (2011). "The Academic Enhancement Program (AEP) in Computing Science at Simon Fraser University: Introducing students to learning strategies". Invited talk at the Department of Education in Technology and Science, Technion, Haifa, Israel, January 2011.
  • Egan R., Cukierman D. and McGee Thompson D (2011). "The Academic Enhancement Program in Introductory CS: A Workshop Framework Description and Evaluation". Proceedings of ITICSE 2011, 16th Annual Conference on Innovation and Technology in Computer Science Education,  Darmstadt, Germany, June 2011, 278-282: ACM
  • Cukierman, D., & McGee Thompson, D. (2009). "The Academic Enhancement Program: Encouraging students to learn about learning as part of their computing science courses". SIGCSE Bulletin, 41(3), 171-175, September 2009. Also in Proceedings of ITICSE 2009, 14th Annual Conference on Innovation and Technology in Computer Science Education, 2009, Paris: ACM
  • McGee Thompson, D., Cukierman, D. & Karpilovsky, M.(2009). The Academic Enhancement Program (AEP) in Computing Science at SFU: Incorporating explorations of learning styles into first-year CS courses. McGraw-Hill Ryerson First Year in Focus conference, SFU, May 2009.
  • Cukierman D., & McGee Thompson, D. (2008). "The Academic Enhancement Program in Computing Science: Helping students succeed in post-secondary studies; Listening to students' voices as we expand". Proceedings of WCCCE 2008, 13th Western Canadian Conference on Computing Education, Victoria, B.C.
  • McGee Thompson, D. & Cukierman, D. (2008). The Academic Enhancement Program in Computing Science at SFU. Invited talk at the Learning Specialists Association of British Columbia (LSABC) spring conference, Capilano University, May 2008.
  • McGee Thompson, D. & Cukierman, D. The Academic Enhancement Program (AEP) in Computing Science at SFU: Understanding today's students and helping them succeed by integrating learning strategies into the classroom. McGraw-Hill Ryerson Teaching, Learning & Technology Conference, SFU, May 2008.
  • Cukierman D., & McGee Thompson D. (2007). "Learning strategies sessions within the classroom in CS". SIGCSE Bulletin 39(3), 341. Also Proceedings of ITICSE 2007, 12th Annual Conference on Innovation and Technology in Computer Science Education, Dundee, Scotland:ACM
  • McGee Thompson D. and Cukierman D. (2007). "Learning instruction in the classroom: A model partnering the learning strategies specialist and the course instructor. What do students say?" Invited talk at the Canadian Learning Commons Conference, Vancouver, April 2007.
  • McGee Thompson D. and Cukierman D. (2007). "Bringing Learning Support into the Q Classroom: A collaborative project between the Student Learning Commons and the School of Computing Science”, 9th Symposium on Innovative Teaching, Vancouver, May 2007.

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