Pair programming and underrepresented groups in Information Technology in South Africa
Litlhakanyane, Teboho David
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It is troubling that in a nation where the lion's share of the population is made up of Black South Africans, they are the minority within the IT industry. Furthermore, the gender inequality in IT remains a matter of concern where females remain the minority in IT classes and the workplace. It is widely known that the saying “two heads work better than one” can be applied in all aspects of work and life. Programming has become part of curriculums in classrooms around the globe. The aim of this study was to examine the impact that pair programming has on shaping the experiences and perceptions of underrepresented minority students in Information Technology (IT) in South Africa. There are limited mixed-method studies in South Africa that investigated the factors that impact the experiences of students using pair programming as an educational tool. The study included a total of 284 first-year BSc. in IT students that were from different ethnic groups, cultures, genders and socio-economic backgrounds. The students were taking the User Interface programming module at the Potchefstroom Campus of the North-West University (NWU) in South Africa. The participants for this research study included students who had experience with IT subjects in high school, in addition to students who were completely new to programming. The students were divided into pairs, and the students were given the opportunity to pick a desired programming partner for the duration of the semester. At the end of the semester, the students received a questionnaire that was developed, based on the Unified Theory of Acceptance and Use of Technology (UTAUT2) model to better understand the students’ intentions to use pair programming in an IT course. The findings from the quantitative and qualitative data suggested that the group of students had a positive experience with pair programming. However, the underrepresented minority students had an even more positive learning experience with pair programming. The female students (White and Black) and male black students perceived pair programming in an exceedingly positive light, as it improved their overall programming skills, critical thinking and social skills. It can be recommended that with timely training and adequate implementation of the pair programming principles, all students, but indeed more so the underrepresented minority students in a programming course can reap the benefits of the use of pair programming. This approach may attract and increase the retention rate of underrepresented groups in IT and encourage them to further pursue IT careers in South Africa.