Getting students engaged in programming (coding) activities could be tricky and time-consuming, particularly for first-year undergraduates. As a module leader in this domain, I felt additional moral responsibility for introducing programming to the students in a way that inspires continued interest in coding, because first impression of coding often frames students’ journey and long-term career decisions. This assertion draws on my 12-year Information Technology industry practice and interactions with entry-level programmers over the years.
Pre-COVID-19, the students attended two-hour weekly lab sessions, they used lab manuals to complete the lab tasks. In the process, I offered head-over-shoulder physical support to struggling students. At the end of the labs, students were assessed through viva sessions. On the other hand, during COVID-19, teaching and lab activities moved online. It was not as straightforward as it sounds, it was even more tenuous because mental stress was high, attention span appeared low, and there was increased reliance on digital technologies with associated steep learning curves. In this situation, with some degree of anxiety, I explored different teaching and learning approaches to stimulate students’ engagement.
At the end of the cohort, I reflected on how I navigated the module delivery, and I summarized the transition in Figure 1, highlighting key teaching and learning approaches.
Consequently, the exploratory adaptation of the module to online asynchronous delivery revealed the following practices that worked and got students engaged despite the challenges of the pandemic
No doubt, the COVID-19 pandemic period was a challenging time, but it taught me resilience and flexible ways of engaging students, particularly in hands-on modules such as programming. Students had their best creative moments. Now, I feel more equipped, and I look forward to my next programming labs with or without COVID-19.
The author has no competing interests to declare.