Let’s Code! – Teaching Pre-University Students Coding Using a Blended Learning Approach

Project Number
AFD 02/15 MHN

Project Duration
January 2016 - February 2018

Status
In-Progress

Abstract
Although Singapore students are generally proficient in the usage of computers for “office” applications, most pre-university (pre-u) students are not formally exposed to programming. Despite the government’s “Smart Nation” vision, fewer than four Junior Colleges (JC) offer “Computing” as an “A”-level subject. Programming has been recognized as an important skill to learn in North America with the recent “One Hour of Code” initiative. Teaching K-12 students programming expose them to a potential career in IT and engineering, and builds up analytical skills as well as a systematic approach in problem solving. It is beneficial for the pre-u students to experience basic programming even if they may not eventually choose a related career or university course. Current national-level initiatives to encourage IT competency amongst pre-university students include one-day programming competitions (Code::Xtremeapps, Hackathon@SG) and IT project competitions (Splash Awards, Imagine Cup), but these events are likely to attract pre-u students who already have some prior exposure to computing or IT. This project aims to train at least 600 pre-u students in basic programming via a 3-week course. There will be two runs every year (once in June, and another in December), and this project will run for at least two years (four runs in all). Teaching Assistants (TAs) will be recruited from teaching staff, recently-graduated, or current students from the School of Information Systems at SMU with a keen interest in mentorship and programming. Participants are expected to pay a nominal fee (estimated at $10) for this course. Funds will be required mainly for employment of TAs and operationalizing the event. Designed as a blended learning course, participants are expected to spend at least three hours a day watching video lectures, attempting self-check quizzes and take-home assignments. Over the three weeks, there will be seven face-to-face sessions at SMU, of which participants are required to attend at least four. Additional face-to-face consultation sessions are available on demand. Participants will take a final certification exam on the last day of the course to determine competency. A pilot run for this course was successfully conducted from 4-25 June 2015 at SMU with 50 voluntary participants from 11 JCs. This project will be a good show-case of how blended learning can be effectively used to teach a heterogeneous audience of pre-u students basic programming in a short period of time. Research-wise, this project will focus on the attributes of students (educational background, prior interest in IT, IT knowledge etc.) that make them particularly suitable to learn programming skills using this pedagogy. This study will contribute to the existing literature as to the suitability of blended learning in an intensive course for pre-u students in this context. Research findings over the three years will also be shared at conferences or in research journals. The pilot run was funded by the School of Information Systems SMU, and supported by the following organizations: - Infocomm Development Authority of Singapore (IDA) - Science Center Singapore - Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers, Singapore Section - Singapore Computer Society

Funding Source
MOE

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