In 2016, ETR received a National Science Foundation grant to study, under Principal Investigator Louise Ann (“Lou Ann”) Lyon, PhD, a newly formed, real-world organization dedicated to helping women in the workforce learn to write computer code. This project formed a partnership between a research team with experience in computer science (CS) education and learning sciences research and a newly fashioned practitioner team focused on building a grassroots, informal, volunteer group created to help women help themselves and others learn to write computer code. This research-practitioner partnership had a twopronged focus, first on improving the program offered to learners through making adjustments based on evaluation findings, and second on investigating the phenomenon of how women in the workforce informally learn CS skills that enable them to rewrite their career paths to contribute to what we know from research. The context of the study was situated in the virtual community that has formed around the phenomenally successful Salesforce Customer Relationship Management software platform. This Exploratory Pathways project aimed to fill a gap in the research; we know little about the phenomenon of adult women in the workforce who are patching together resources to learn CS skills with a goal of job enhancement or job change.
Our overarching research question in this study was: In what ways are informal CS learning opportunities being used and created by adult women, what are their experiences with those opportunities, and how does this suggest ways to enhance those opportunities in the future to increase effectiveness in broadening access to and engagement in informal CS learning experiences for women?
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