Higher Arts and Design Students' Attitudes Towards Learning Computer Programming

Eduardo Morais, Carla Morais & João C. Paiva (2019)


A review of undergraduate arts and design programmes offered in Portuguese public higher education revealed some form of computer programming is included in about half of the curricula. This paper aims to address a gap in scholarship about arts and design students’ acceptance of programming.

A study was conducted which applied a survey instrument based on the Unified Theory of Acceptance and Use of Technology to a sample of students enrolled in those arts and design programmes that include computer programming units. Out of 270 valid responses, 44.8% of students reported to be already familiar with computer programming and 28.5% reported to be currently learning. Their level of familiarity was found to correlate with students’ views of the utility, effort, peer approval, self-efficacy and anxiety associated with programming. Among students familiar with programming or currently learning, it was also found those perceiving the activity as voluntary were more likely to harbour a positive perception of its utility and effortlessness, while reporting less anxiety. Positive perceptions of utility, effortlessness and peer approval were also found to correlate with students’ intention to program or to learn computer programming, while higher anxiety had a strong negative impact on that intention. Female students, comprising 57% of participants, were more likely to see with greater anxiety the perspective of programming computers. Students’ anxiety is therefore a challenge for educators, and efforts to demystify the topic and to mitigate differences between genders in programming acceptance should be encouraged.

Given the present prevalence of computer programming in arts and design curricula, scholars are also encouraged to conduct further research, including case-studies and wider technology acceptance surveys.