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Active Learning with Alemira Coding Lab

10 Mar, 2022





As the world was forced to move quickly to remote options due to the pandemic, we collectively understood and experienced the challenges of the rapid transition to online. Corporate and education sectors have been heavily impacted, especially if digital technologies were not properly implemented or simply non-existent. Some of the overall challenges with a remote setting pertain to engagement, collaboration, and communication. 

Furthermore, there are several challenges that accompany the learning of coding, such as the nature of the programming language, the development of problem-solving skills, limited knowledge, the shortage of instructors and the need for platforms that support real programming environments, adding to the difficulties of adapting to a remote environment. 

To respond to the challenges, it is important to understand that the environment brings its share of change, but it does not mean that outcomes should be impacted negatively. On the contrary, by applying teaching methods adapted to a virtual setting combined with a platform that supports these methods and facilitates learning the programming course content, both instructors and students can greatly benefit. The Alemira Coding Lab provides users with a platform that make implementing active learning strategies quick, easy, and efficient. 

Contents

  1. Increasing engagement
  2. Instant feedback
  3. Critical thinking
  4. Conclusion

Increasing engagement

Learning in a virtual environment can foster engagement and collaborative work. Designed with an engaging user experience in mind, the Alemira Coding Lab offers a collaborative workspace where both instructors and students can work together and learn from one another.

Many active learning strategies can be implemented in a single activity. For example, a weekly “group debugging exercise”, as outlined in a research part of the Systems Thinking and Moral Imagination book, was an important highlight that contributed to what was considered good class performance in an undergraduate programming course. The concept is simple and involves a problem-solving approach. Let’s observe how this type of exercise could be created with the coding lab.

  1. The instructor can create the coding exercise ahead of time and can choose to omit a portion of the code or to include wrongful information. Another option can be to use the real-live coding feature, where the instructor builds the code in real-time for the group to see. 
  2. Through chat and videoconference functions, the instructor can initiate a discussion to take place amongst the students on how to go about continuing the code.
  3. The instructor can also specifically select students or allow every student to take turns in contributing to resolving the issue(s).
  4. Throughout the activity, students can invite their peers and instructors to modify their code directly in their own workspace.
  5. Another collaborative approach can see students comment through the chat feature and provide suggestions or even alternatives to help build the code.

Instant feedback 

Each student learns at their own pace and has their own style of learning. Allowing learners to complete activities and assessments on their own provides flexibility in the learning process and can greatly impact the student’s journey and contribute to their success. 

The auto-grading feature allows students to practice and complete assignments that get instantly graded. The ability to view their results in real-time helps identify the areas for improvement, and students may then choose to repeat the exercises or ask for help from peers or their instructor to deepen their understanding.

The instructors have access to an interactive and customizable dashboard allowing them to review insights to student progression and performance in the course to their level of understanding of each section. The instructor also has the ability to manually grade assessments which means that they can add detailed comments where errors have been made so that students receive personalized feedback about where and why there is an error. The instructor can also highlight areas of excellent performance so that the student can get a clear and distinct picture of both.

The blend between automatic and manual grading helps both instructors and students gain in-depth knowledge and can allow for more complex programming skills to be taught. 

Critical thinking 

Learning how to code requires logical reasoning that cannot be learned solely through passive learning like one-way information transmission and textbooks. In this regard, an active approach is necessary to help develop critical thinking skills. In the Alemira Coding Lab, instructors can implement various teaching approaches in one activity type, as mentioned above, so that learners can receive, verbalize, and implement what they learn into action.

By adopting an active learning approach, two important processes in the learning journey are highlighted and can help accelerate knowledge discovery and retention: analysis and synthesis.

Analysis

With hands-on activities, students can practice coding while observing right away. They can analyze the code’s outcome: what worked, what didn’t work and continue writing, deconstructing the codes, and analyzing them to deepen their understanding.

Synthesis

Through repetition, problem-solving and practice, students gain enough knowledge to lead them towards creation and innovation. Mastering a concept nurtures creativity. The coding lab allows students to create their own code from scratch while in a safe environment. 

Conclusion 

Coding isn’t mastered through a passive approach. The use of interactive activities such as exchanges, games and challenges boosts participation and creates memorable personal experiences for learners helping them retain and apply their knowledge. Allowing students to take and score their own assessments, receiving instant results in addition to personalized and meaningful feedback are all factors that contribute to the overall quality of learning. 

Through various features observed in this article, the Alemira Coding Lab enables the application of an active learning approach and supports both instructors and students in learning the complexities of coding.

Get your learners to practice coding in an environment mirroring real-life situations so they can develop important logical reasoning patterns and critical thinking skills to prepare them for their future projects and/or careers. Try a demo today!

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