The Computer Science field is growing in popularity both inside and outside the classroom. In fact, the British Computer Society found that in 2020, over 129,000 applications were handed in for computing courses in British universities - four percent more than the previous year, and an all-time high. So, teachers need more support than ever to provide quality education to a growing number of students. We spoke to Alex St. Aubin from the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, about his teaching and the challenges that arise.
As a Computer Science instructor, Alex teaches a number of courses. Currently, an introductory course in C++, which covers topics such as variables, conditionals, loops and functions. The course is taken by 330 students from a range of educational backgrounds such as Computer Science, Electrical and Computer Engineering, and even majors like Health Sciences.
The format of Alex’s course is broken down into lectures; where basic concepts of C++ programming are introduced, and labs; where students begin to dive deeper into these concepts and put them to work. Students have labs twice a week and hand in small assignments, as well as a larger, bi-monthly assignment. If you are a fellow teacher, I’m sure you can imagine how much time Alex and his Teaching Assistants need to grade all of these assignments - especially taking into consideration the sheer amount of students.
Teachers have a busy schedule and as STEM (Science Technology Engineering and Maths) courses continue to grow in popularity and necessity, less and less time is available to focus on teaching itself. Larger class sizes result in a lot more grading, particularly for programming courses, which have many practical assignments and where often each student’s submission must be downloaded, unzipped, compiled, assessed and re-uploaded with feedback.