looking for evidence that students who transferred one or both
of the introductory computer science courses CptS 121 and
CptS 122 (transfer students), had less success in the third computer science course CptS 223 than did students who took all
three courses at the university’s main campus (native students).
To give an idea of the nature of these courses, CptS 121 primarily focuses on programming, CptS 122 focuses on basic
data structures, and CptS 223 deals with more advanced data
structures and algorithms. All three courses are taught primarily in the programming language C++.
Working with the University’s Office of Institutional Research
(IR), we obtained grades for all students who completed CptS
223 between Fall semester 2012 and Spring semester 2016
along with the grades that those students received in CptS 121
and CptS 122; or, if they transferred either of those courses, the
grade they received and the name of the institution where they
took the course. Grades for CptS 121, CptS 122, and CptS 223
received at the university were also identified by semester. IR
reported all data to us using artificial student IDs. Therefore,
although individual student’s progress through the curriculum
could be tracked, the data did not otherwise enable identification of specific students.
In the data we obtained, computer science students transferred credit from 63 different institutions. Computer science
credit of some kind was transferred from 27 of these schools.
However, students transferred credit for one of the applicable
computer science prerequisites from only 9 of the 27 institutions, indicating that the review process already denies the
majority of institutional transfers as being applicable for these
courses. The vast majority of students transferring credit for
one of the prerequisites did so from a single institution, which
is a near-by community college.
In total, 558 CptS 223 students are included in this study. Of
these students, 28 transferred credit for CptS 121 (although one
student transferred a grade of “RP” which was excluded from
further analysis) and 23 transferred credit for CptS 122 from
another institution. While the majority of students with transfer credits came in with credit for both courses, nine transferred credit for CptS 121 only and four transferred credit for
CptS 122 only. The overlap means that together, between both
groups there is a total of 32 students with transfer credit for
CptS 121 and/or 122. Interestingly, 183 of the students are considered transfer students by the university, but clearly, for most
the transfer credits did not involve computer science courses.
Of the students who transferred CptS 121 or CptS 122 credit,
all but one did so from a two-year institution, of which there
were seven represented.
The University’s computer science department defines “suc-
cess in a course” as receiving a C grade or better as this is what
is required in order to take subsequent courses, to certify in the
major, and ultimately to count the course as part of a completed
program of study entitling the student to receive a computer
science degree. We used this as a measure for success in our
analysis. One limitation of the data is that we are not able to
determine if a student withdrew from a course prior to the end
of a semester and therefore received no grade for the course (IR
did not provide that information). Had the information been
available, it would have been appropriate to consider withdraw-
al as another form of not succeeding in a course.
Figures 1 and 2 show how students with and without transfer
credit performed in CptS 223. The figures show that there is
not a significant disadvantage for transfer students. However,
transfer students do appear more likely to end up at the far end
of the grade curve (making As and Fs more often than native
On a tangential note, Figures 1 and 2 show that the data do
not fall along a bell curve. Instead, the data resembles a mul-timodal distribution, with few students falling in the C to D
range. The causes of this are not clear, but it is an interesting
and notable departure from what some might expect an undergraduate grade distribution to look like: that the majority are
“middle-grade” with relatively smaller percentage at the “top”
and at the “bottom.”
Figure 1: Shows the grades of students in CptS 223 split into two
categories, one category for students with transfer credit for Cpts 121
and the other for those who took it locally (native).
Figure 2: Shows the grades students in CptS 223 split into two
categories, one category for students with transfer credit for Cpts 122
and the other for those who took it locally.