Where I Lead: Making computer science accessible

Dr. Jianjun Yang, associate professor of computer science, loves his field of study and the opportunity to share it with others. This year, he earned two Presidential Incentive Awards to make computer science labs more accessible to students with disabilities.

What inspired you to pursue this project?

Each year my introductory computer science courses contain a few students with disabilities, and I have seen firsthand the barriers they face. My project is focused on designing accessible lab activities for students with disabilities, especially for those with visual impairment and specific learning disabilities.

How will this help students?

I hope to develop multimedia-based lab activities and visual logic block-based lab components to make the material accessible to students with disabilities. It will provide uniquely designed learning tools based on students’ specialized needs in introductory computer science courses.

How does your research support teaching?

Academic research aims to create new outcomes, ideas and experiments associated with the process of teaching. Research is especially important in computer science because it is a field that constantly develops and in which specific skills change quickly with advanced computer technology. In addition, the research process is about a specific inquiry through critical thinking and thoughtful reflection; it plays a pivotal role in keeping the teacher up-to-date.

Why have you enlisted members of the Coding Warriors Club to help with your project?

The club has many talented students and is geared for programmers and coders to gather and emerge in a simulated environment that mimics computer science jobs in the real world.

Undergraduate students who participate in research like this can develop independent critical thinking skills along with their regular course studies. The research process will have lasting influence for them to prepare for future careers.