SJR State earns grant to enhance computer education


St. Johns River State College has received funding in the amount of $196,367 from the National Science Foundation (NSF) Advanced Technological Education (ATE) program to increase the practical knowledge, critical thinking skills and work-readiness of computer science and information technology (IT) students. The "Enhancing Critical Reasoning in Computer Education" grant will support enhancements to the College's computer education curriculum and ultimately help to meet the demand for highly-trained technicians in the computer science and IT fields in Northeast Florida.

According to Vice President for Workforce Development and Executive Director of the Orange Park campus Anna Lebesch, "Through the project, students will develop excellent technical skills, cultivate critical reasoning and creative abilities to be prepared to innovate, adapt and thrive in the competitive and evolving computer science and IT industry."

The project will draw from successful problem-based learning programs in engineering and computer education to integrate additional critical thinking and hands-on learning with the strong technical aspects of SJR State's current computer science and IT curriculum. Considering SJR State offers 11 college credit certificates and four associate degrees in networking, programming, information technology and Internet services, the project will enhance the skills of more than 200 students per year who are enrolled in the College's foundational and higher level courses. The participation, retention and success of women enrolled in the computer science and IT programs are also anticipated to increase as a result incorporating problem-based learning into these programs.

SJR State’s Director of Computer Education John Etienne explained that in addition to the College’s foundational introductory classes being revised to teach key technical and critical thinking processes, critical thinking and problem-solving learning outcomes will be mapped and integrated into the higher level courses. Etienne stated that the revised curriculum will include solicitations and inputs from industry leaders and advisors in the community to identify novel solutions for current, real-life technical challenges that they face in day-to-day technical operations.

To benefit from the technical expertise of all computer science and IT fields, the entire SJR State computer science and IT faculty will be involved in the program design and implementation. “This will ensure that new pedagogies are implemented across the entire curriculum,” Etienne explained. Industry leaders and community advisors will work with SJR State faculty in ensuring that the curriculum meets the evolving needs of the industry. Tutors from SJR State’s academic support centers will also be included in trainings to assist students needing extra help in the new problem-based learning curriculum.

Pre and post-test assessments will be used to evaluate the gains in the critical thinking component of the program, and an independent evaluator will provide an annual summative and formative review. The curriculum development project will also be widely available for use and adoption by other computer science and IT training programs.

The three-year grant period for the “Enhancing Critical Reasoning in Computer Education” project (DUE1565586) runs from July 1, 2016 to June 30, 2019. John Etienne is the principal investigator, and the co-principal investigator is Walter Lara.

For more information, contact John Etienne at (386) 312-4063 or by email at .


SJR State earns a grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF) Advanced Technological Education (ATE) program to increase the practical knowledge, critical thinking skills and work-readiness of the College's computer science and information technology students. Pictured is SJR State Director of Computer Education John Etienne, the principal investigator for the project.



Susan Kessler
Director of Public Relations and Publications
(386) 312-4020