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University of Michigan School of Information

A headshot of Barbara Ericson

Barbara Ericson

Assistant Professor of Information, School of Information and Assistant Professor of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science, College of Engineering Email: [email protected] Phone: 734/763-2285
Office: School of Information/105 S. State Faculty Role: Faculty Potential PhD Faculty Advisor: Yes


I completed my PhD at the Georgia Institute of Technology in Atlanta, Georgia with Dr. James Foley as my advisor. I earned my BS in CS at Wayne State University in Detroit, Michigan and my MS in CS at the University of Michigan. I have worked in a variety of research labs including: General Motors Research Labs, Bell Communications Research, and the Institute of Paper Science Research. I authored several books on media computation, which is an approach to teach programming by having students write programs that manipulate media. I have worked in a variety of areas including user experience, artificial intelligence, 3d graphics, medical applications, databases, and computing education. I hold two patents in database modifications for case-base reasoning. 

Areas of interest

My research interests include computing education, learning analytics, artificial intelligence, and user experience.  I create and test interactive electronic books for introductory computing courses. Interactive ebooks have a great potential for improving learning through active learning, immediate feedback, and spaced practice.  Log file data can be analyzed to provide teachers and students with actionable information. My ebooks use principles from educational psychology to improve learning. In particular, I reduce the frustration that many learners feel, by using a worked example plus low cognitive load practice approach. In this approach, students study expert solutions to programming problems and then solve similar practice problems. I focus on Parsons problems in which the correct code for a problem is given, but the code is broken into blocks and mixed up. The learner must select blocks and place them in the correct order. I invented adaptive Parsons problems to better scaffold learning. I am currently studying and refining adaptive Parsons problems. Future plans include creating and supporting a community of learners and authors in online learning environments. I am also passionate about increasing diversity in computing. I created Rise UP 4 CS to help underrepresented high school students succeed in their Advanced Placement Computer Science courses. This project provides additional help sessions to high school students in AP CS courses and uses undergraduate students as near-peer role models and mentors. It uses one of the interactive ebooks I created.

Honors and awards

Foley Scholar - Highest award to a PhD student at the Georgia Institute of Technology - 2016
A. Richard Newton Educator ABIE Award - 2012
ACM Karl V. Karlstrom Outstanding Educator Award - 2010 


PhD - Human Centered Computing (HCC) - Georgia Institute of Technology

MS in CS - University of Michigan

BS in CS - Wayne State University


UMSI Research Roundup. Robots, salad and anthropomorphism. Check out UMSI faculty and PhD student publications.
Robots, salad and anthropomorphism: UMSI research roundup

Check out UMSI faculty and PhD student publications. 


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"Eight UMSI faculty earn NSF CAREER and DARPA awards" inside a laurel leaf half circle. Words that describe their research float on the opposite side, including human-centered, voice technology, privacy, justice, Parsons problems, marginalized communities, disinformation, and social media.
Eight UMSI Faculty Celebrate Distinguished Early Career Awards

Since 2020, eight UMSI faculty members have earned some of the field’s most significant awards for their research endeavors. UMSI recently celebrated their achievements and heard research updates from the awardees.

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