WEB-FACILITATED PROGRAMMING COURSE: A BOON OR BANE TO THE STUDENTS
UX researcher, data architect
To assess the affordances and limitations of a web-facilitated programming course taken by an extremely diverse group of students at UC Berkeley School of Information.
I was part of the class I was researching on and being an insider provided me a head start. I conducted 14 semi-structured qualitative interviews of students part of the class and 3 semi-structured qualitative interviews of instructor and teaching assistants handling the course to understand their perspectives about the usage of the Course Management System (CMS).
To start with I recruited the interviewees by a careful selection process so that there were students who were proficient in programming and those who were completely new to it are involved in the research. As the interviews were progressing, I gained a lot of insights into various problems faced by students and teaching assistants. I transcribed, coded and analyzed each interview and noted the outcomes.
To support the hypotheses that was framed by the induction process, I collected usage data of various computer-mediated communication channels that were being utilized in the class and utilized the quantitative data to plot graphs.
By the end of all seventeen interviews, I was able to gauge the affordances and limitations of utilizing CMS in a programming course.
I wrote a detailed paper about my findings and analysis recording all the data collected carefully.
Some of the important results from the analysis were:
- CMS is under-utilized due to the following reasons
- It is not synchronous and students don't prefer it.
- Lack of clarity.
- Difficult to learn and teach programming over a computer-mediated communication platform.
- Preference for face-to-face communication as it involves lot of social cues.
- There is no all in one CMS that provides all the features needed for a course. Hence, instructors tend to use multiple CMS for a single course.
- Backchannels with synchronous messaging, if present take priority over CMS.
With the data collected from students and teaching assistants through interviews, I carefully crafted suggestions that would help overcome the limitations of the CMS and in turn make the learning experience better for the students.
The research process helped me uncover various affordances and limitations of CMS and their implications on the classroom environment. With a detailed research, I was able to make recommendations to improve the course structure that are being considered for implementation.