Access Type

Open Access Dissertation

Date of Award

January 2013

Degree Type


Degree Name



Instructional Technology

First Advisor

Monica W. Tracey


This study attempts to determine if authentic learning strategies can be used to acquire knowledge of and increase motivation for computational thinking. Over 600 students enrolled in a computer literacy course participated in this study which involved completing a pretest, posttest and motivation survey. The students were divided into an experimental and control group based on class meeting day. The experimental group was given access to an authentic learning tool called COTHAULE. COTHAULE, which is an acronym that stands for Computational Thinking Authentic Learning Environment, is a website that was developed using a variety of technologies. The intellection behind COTHAULE was to take every-day experiences that could pertain to life in a college campus environment and merge them with computational thinking concepts and the learning objectives of a common computer literacy course. Examples of experiences were formed into five case studies each containing seven scenarios that read like a conversation taking place between students. The basic functionality of the tool was to load a video clip into the website for the student to watch for each scenario then present the student with an authentic learning activity and problem to solve. The authentic learning activities involved such topics as searching, sorting and filtering tables using software such as Microsoft Word and Excel and translating the activities into computational thinking concepts. A control group received a set of traditional textbook style online learning materials. A pretest and posttest was used to measure learning for each group. The study concluded that although there was a significant increase in learning between the pretest and posttest for both groups, there was no significant difference in learning by one group over the other group. The study also concluded that the motivation of the control group was significantly greater than the experimental group. There were some gaps in the COTHAULE tool as it compares to the expectations of an authentic learning environment and should be revisited. Improvements to the overall design of COTHAULE should also be considered.