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Active Learning in Computing ALiC


... Tyne, University of Leeds and Leeds Metropolitan University as project partners. ... diversity and enable students to control the pace and style of their learning ... – PowerPoint PPT presentation

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Title: Active Learning in Computing ALiC

Active Learning in Computing (ALiC)
  • Marie Devlin
  • School of Computing Science
  • Newcastle University

Active Learning in Computing
  • Centre of Excellence in Teaching Learning
    project - (CETL)
  • Durham, University of Newcastle upon Tyne,
    University of Leeds and Leeds Metropolitan
    University as project partners.

  • Increase engagement in the curriculum
  • Better equip students for employment
  • Demonstrate how to better integrate research and
    teaching activities
  • Revolutionise the learning environment to embrace
    diversity and enable students to control the pace
    and style of their learning

Why is Active Learning important?
  • Helps to foster a deep approach to learning
  • Independent Learning
  • Personal Development
  • Problem-based learning
  • Reflection
  • Interaction and group work
  • Learning by doing
  • Developing learning skills
  • Assessed tasks similar to real world situations
    and problems
  • Access to learning resources

ALiC Activities
  • Newcastle CS currently involved in
  • Techno-Café Development
  • Tool Enhancements NESS
  • Both of which are inter-related to our main
    activity Cross-Site Software Development

Cross-Site Software Development
  • Industrial software often produced
    collaboratively between teams located at
    different geographical sites.
  • This activity simulates real working practice via
    a shared Software Engineering Project between
    teams of second year students at Durham
  • Align group activities to students future
    work-based practices

Benefit to Students
  • Simulates real working practice
  • Help students develop communication and
    team-working skills as part of transferable
    skills required by employers.
  • Enable students to take control of and
    responsibility for their own learning.
  • Allow students to employ the technologies and
    facilities in their own way in order to afford
    efficient communication and effective team-work.

Expected Outcomes
  • A better understanding of the types of projects
    that are suitable for this activity.
  • A better understanding of the assessment
    procedures and approaches we can use to ensure
    that no student fails on account of the poor
    performance of another in team projects.

Academic Year 2005-2006
  • 12 companies formed between Newcastle Durham
  • Team size 4-6 Durham, 6-7 Newcastle
  • Develop software for a holiday company
  • Newcastle PDA, Durham Mobile Phone
  • Collaborate on Look and Feel of application

  • Agreed that a of marks be given to each team
    for collaboration effort
  • Newcastle not given explicit marks part of
    their deliverables reports on collaboration,
    presentations etc.
  • Durham given explicit marks and had to compile a
    personal diary of all collaborations, meetings,
    concerns, problems etc. Legacy Report

  • Newcastle VC room, belonging to School project,
    had to be staffed temporary solution (1 year)
  • Access Grid facilities 4 capture cameras, 2
    PCs, 4 projectors, 3 large screens,
    echo-cancelling mics
  • Durham simple set up, PC, Web cam, microphone,

Communication Technologies
  • Technologies provided initially were
    video-conferencing, telephone and email.
  • Some SMS text messages were used to a lesser
  • MSN with the option of web cameras.
  • Web Forums, Wikis, Weblogs, shared network areas
    for documents and bulletin boards set up by
    students themselves.

  • Communication problems were expected, students
    gradually became used to the technology, shy at
  • Teams need to be well organised and have chosen
    an effective team structure with clear roles and
  • Some technical problems audio and visual
  • Video conferencing successful in emulating face
    to face communication.

  • Newcastle teams had to be supervised during video
  • Scheduling became a major issue
  • Students had different times for practicals and
    this exacerbated the scheduling problems
  • Newcastle hardware (PC) was not great

Outcomes 2005-2006
  • Disparity of schedules, deliverables and
    deadlines caused the students more problems than
    we anticipated.
  • Aims and motivation of the assignment needed to
    be outlined more clearly.
  • Assessment measures and procedures needed to be
  • Groups needed shared space to facilitate sharing
    and collaboration

Outcomes 2005-2006
  • Students enjoyed trying out new roles and felt
    more confident about their abilities
  • Students liked the video conferencing mainly and
    found collaborating with another team at another
    site interesting, different and sometimes
  • Some students were disappointed with the
    collaboration because of the technical,
    scheduling and interpersonal difficulties
  • Students feared they would be accused of
    plagiarism if they collaborated too closely on
    look and feel

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Academic Year 2006-2007
  • Again 12 companies
  • Assignment more strongly coupled - must produce 1
    piece of software per company
  • Running Application user can monitor
  • Team size roughly the same as last year
  • Teams given hardware GPS receivers and PDAs

  • More strongly interdependent
  • Has caused problems
  • students unsure if marking is fair have agreed
    marking criteria across sites but still need to
    review assessment procedure
  • Students are still fearful of the impact on their
    marks of non-contributing members and cross-site
    work makes fear greater
  • Introduction of contribution matrix to mitigate

Improvements 2006-2007
  • Newcastle VC room in action, students can run,
    2nd room added
  • Skype some teams have tried it
  • Google Talk - as a back up
  • Contingency plans students made aware of risks
    and potential problems
  • NESS forums, repositories for Companies

Improvements 2006-2007
  • Team Games Newcastle and Durham together
  • Schedules for practicals the same
  • Given guidance on how to conduct virtual meetings
  • Students know they do not need the whole team for
    a video conference
  • Development schedules and deliverables are the
    same (except for exam period at Newcastle)

Team Games
Ongoing Activities
  • Assessing projects for feasibility
  • Improvements in cross-site assessment
    development of mechanisms and tools for ensuring
  • Evaluation

Techno-Café Development
  • Places where guided study is conducted in a
    relaxed environment that is supported, not
    driven, by technology.
  • Change student perceptions by demonstrating the
    importance of Active Learning.
  • Merging teaching, technology Active Learning
    into a single environment.

Techno-Café 2006-2007
  • Students can run the VC themselves
  • InSors software more interactivity
  • Google-Talk
  • QA tested
  • Capture Cameras, 1 Terrabyte of memory, 4 large
    screens, touch screen panel operation
  • Connect to room next door to teach/work together

Techno-Café 2006-2007
  • Ongoing Activities
  • Usage Monitoring
  • Student Survey, focus groups
  • Extending the café by putting two new screens in
    rooms across corridor new teaching/learning
  • Interactive overlays, networked screens

Tool Enhancements
  • Aim of this activity
  • Merge/enhance/adopt support tools which can be
    used to support the change process.
  • NESS, SIS, Durhams Automated Questionnaire
    Management System
  • Current support for group and project work for
    students is limited in these systems

Tool Enhancements
  • Need to design appropriate interfaces for staff
    and students .
  • Support communication mechanisms.
  • Define repository information that is available
    to students to support their work as well as
    staff for the purposes of assessment.
  • Reflect variations in practice that exist at each

NESS Newcastle E-Learning Support System
NESS 2005-2006
  • NESS allows students to
  • access their marks for coursework
  • access assignment descriptions
  • Submit assignments
  • Contact their tutor
  • Receive feedback on an individual, class or team
  • View School of Computing Notices
  • Store files and documents for team projects

NESS 2006-2007
  • Team Forums
  • Company Forums
  • Team Company Repositories
  • FAQ section
  • Access for Durham staff
  • Separately Access to subversion server to share

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  • Initially some difficulties regarding access and
    security but these have been overcome.
  • Was a steep learning curve for staff needed
    a.s.a.p. and term had commenced at Newcastle
  • Uptake of forums quite slow late development
    students had set up their own alternative means
    of communicating.

Future Work
  • Some mini-projects and planned developments
  • Blue tooth, Screens, Mobile Phones
  • Social areas for students
  • New approach to teach real-time programming
    robots, 4 rooms live interaction
  • Tablet PCs new ways to teach
  • Videos for Information Handling module video
    editing, audio production, story boarding, script
    writing new team element to the module

Future Work
  • Evaluation of projects with student participants
    (focus groups, reports, questionnaires)
  • Case Study designed with industrial partner
  • Improvements in assessment methods and criteria
  • Improvements in addressing student fears
  • Improvements in project and assignment design for
    cross-site work

Future Work
  • Participate in more ALiC activities
  • Develop new Active Learning techniques and
    implement them in the Computer Science
  • Incorporate other technologies into group work to
    enhance interactivity e.g. PDAs Robots.
  • Work with project partners to define best
  • Distribute NESS and collaborate on customisations
    and improvements.
  • Disseminate findings to wider H.E. community.