A Comparative Study of Computer Programming Challenges of Computing and Non-Computing First-Year Students


  • Alain Mbiada
  • Bassey Isong North-West University
  • Francis Lugayizi North-West University




IP, Programming concepts, Programming challenges, Computing/Non-computing students, Learning


The learning of computer programming comes with unique difficulties that vary among students depending on their backgrounds, learning methods, and objectives. This paper investigates the programming challenges first-year students from non-computing at the North-West University, South Africa, and computing backgrounds at the University of Dschang, Cameroon face. A questionnaire-based data collection method is utilized and categorizes participants based on their gender, age, fields of study, prior experiences in mathematics, statistics, English, and programming languages, lab use/access, learning strategies, and material preferences. The aim is to identify and analyze the student's understanding of the basic programming concepts and the specific challenges met during introductory programming modules. Analysis of the collected data shows that while a considerable percentage of non-computing students have prior experience in mathematics and English, they lack familiarity with programming. Equally, while most computing students are proficient in spoken English, they face significant challenges in programming, mathematics, and written English. Notable difficulties are experienced in grasping concepts like recursion, arrays, error handling, and function/procedure methods. Moreover, a comparative study reveals that both groups of students encounter similar challenges, however, non-computing students’ difficulties are more than their computing counterparts. This paper, therefore, suggests designing teaching methods and learning materials to specifically meet the needs of non-computer science students, and enhance their understanding and proficiency in computer programming.