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Online learning environments: Online Learning Environments and the Pedagogy of Computer Programming -- 179 -- Demonstration

14:45 - 15:45 on Tuesday, 11 September 2012 in 3.204

When teaching computer programming, many consider traditional lectures to be inadequate (Daly et al. 1979, Schank 2001). A common approach is to supplement lectures with hands-on practical workshops, where a tutor acts as a “guide on the side” while the students engage in practical exploration. During a workshop a tutor will offer feedback on request, but also based on observations of the students’ work. The student's response to this feedback will alter the tutor's perceptions and potentially future feedback – thus a “learning loop” is established between students and tutors. When peer assisted learning is introduced (e.g. Poindexter, 2003), the learning loop is broadened even further. Unfortunately, large cohorts and the demand for distance and flexible learning (BBC 2010) impact upon feedback quality and the ability to give real-time responses, which is incompatible with this learning loop.

This demonstration will showcase a virtual programming laboratory designed to mitigate these issues. 15-20 minutes of the session will be devoted to a tour of the browser-based environment. Participants will be shown how materials analogous to a framing lecture are delivered alongside an area in which the student can create, modify and execute program code. This will use actual learning materials from a Level 4 (first year of university) module, including formative practical exercises designed to guide the students towards acquiring the skills required for their summative assessment tasks. The students’ solutions to these exercises prompts real time feedback from the environment, which might be invoked by a student's request (i.e. “test my solution”) or as a result of the environment's “observation” of the student's actions.

The remainder of the session will examine how the environment offers the opportunity to investigate pedagogic issues around the teaching and learning of programming. The environment creates extensive usage logs, and it is expected that common patterns will emerge, some of which can already be identified as drivers for real-time feedback, for example the “SOS signal” – a student who is repeatedly receiving an error but who makes no alterations between run attempts. We expect other “signatures” to emerge once the data has been correlated with student performance and other metrics.


Here is a draft (I reserve the right to make last second changes!) of our presentation - although as this is a demonstration, most of the content during the session will using the live version of our learning environment)

Monday, 10 September 2012, 08:32