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SEED projects 2020 – Designing for learning

In-class and asynchronous student response systems for enhanced learning in engineering classrooms

Alex Shaw

Dr Alex Shaw

Dr Alex Shaw (Computer Science, Faculty of Science)

Software development is a field that requires both theoretical knowledge and practical skills. Traditional forms of assessment such as written exams are effective at testing theory, but ineffective at testing practice. As a result, many students who do Computer Science degrees can graduate without possessing the practical skills necessary to function in the workforce.

Computer graphics is a domain where this is particularly true. In the last few years computer graphics assessment within the School of Computer Science has moved to an online assessment system, Coderunner, where students perform short, automatically-marked programming activities. These activities form small, weekly assignments. This improves their abilities, but is heavily geared towards small exercises, meaning that students get little exposure to how the parts of what they are learning fit together, and are still not aided in developing the skills necessary to work at a larger scale.

This project proposed to develop a larger scale programming project that extends existing Coderunner activities. All components of the project were created using small scale Coderunner activities and then assembled into the big-picture project. This is something that students assembled over the course of the semester from the results of their weekly assignments.

This was a challenging task, as exercises in Coderunner need to function as standalone exercises, while a larger programming project expects a degree of interconnectivity. Furthermore, computer graphics covers several topics which might not normally exist within the same application. As a result, the exercises that made up this project need to be very carefully designed.

It is important to retain the small-scale exercise focus of Coderunner: it is too difficult for all but the very best students to be able to create a complete application with a large scope, particularly one covering such a range of topics. However, allowing them to assemble the more focused exercise exercises into a broader application should greatly improve their ability to do so in the future.

Once such an application is developed, it would be useable year after year, while allowing for small changes to the component exercises in order to avoid concerns associated with repeated material.