Increasing competency in C

Even to the most seasoned instructor, when 450 students take their seats on the first day of class, the landscape can feel intimidating. Confident achievers sit down in the lecture hall beside curious learners and annoyed students. Some arrive with years of coding experience, whereas others are just starting out. How can an instructor possibly meet the needs of such a disparate array of students and offer each a path to success? For Dr. Robert Gysel, a professor of Computer Science at the University of California, Davis, the solution is zyBooks.

“I use zyBooks mainly for one of our lower-division core computer science courses, which is taught using C,” Dr. Gysel explains. Since C is considered a general purpose language, it is a prerequisite not only for computer science majors, but for engineers as well. Consequently, students with diverse backgrounds and skill sets are required to enroll in Dr. Gysel’s course. Despite the learning and competency differences in his class, his zyBook was critical to addressing an all-too-familiar issue within college classes: completing regular reading, which, Dr. Gysel admits, “students are often either not willing to do on their own, do not understand the benefit, or do not make the time for due to the rest of their class load.” After introducing his zyBook into the syllabus, however, Dr. Gysel noticed that it was easier to enforce and monitor regular, scheduled reading.

Hand in hand with helping to raise reading rates, Dr. Gysel also attributes other areas of students’ growing capacity to his zyBook. “Students clearly understand more from the zyBook,” he acknowledged, noting a sharp distinction between his zyBook and the traditional textbook he had previously used. “I have noticed that the students are more competent in all areas; this includes one-on-one conversations with my students along with better work on homework and exam. It allows me to make the course simultaneously more accessible and more challenging, because I know the students have put in work outside the classroom.”