Dr. Volker Seeker is course organizer for Introduction to Object Oriented Programming at the University of Edinburgh and has taught multiple graduate courses. Volker has been teaching his Object Oriented Programming course for multiple years in a row and has seen the number of students rise over the years. This year, it was one of the largest courses at the School of Informatics and he taught over 420 students.
Before CodeGrade: only a Final Exam
“Before CodeGrade, there were no formative assignments. So the only assessment happened in the form of a final exam.” Volker mentions as the biggest difference.
“The course always just had a final exam. It had a lot to do with the difficulty of providing feedback and grading continuously for a cohort of students that large. Another reason they definitely wanted a final exam was to avoid plagiarism. There were no tools to check for plagiarism or make feedback more efficient.”
Volker explains that students were not satisfied with the final exams. “One problem the students always had with the final exams, was that you are in this confined situation and only have 2 hours to solve your programming exercises. As beginners, this was very discouraging.”
After CodeGrade: Formative and Continuous Assessment
“With CodeGrade, I could make the switch in my course to having no final exams at all and provide continuous assessment to my students, with multiple coding assignments throughout the course.”
This takes away many of the problems students had with the final exams in previous years. “Having these formative assignments was much nicer for the students. With CodeGrade, and the continuous feedback feature, students could submit their code, and right away see what did work and what didn’t and whether it compiled or not. Now students can see clearly what happens and what the problems were after handing in, they could fix it or ask me about it. I could then very easily just check it on CodeGrade and point them in the right direction. It’s all just way more clear and encouraging for the students.”
“With CodeGrade and the change to formative assessment, I was nominated for Best Course in the Student Awards at the University of Edinburgh!”
Students loved CodeGrade
“The students were extremely happy with the course this year. With CodeGrade and the change to formative assessment, I was actually nominated for Best Course in the Student Awards at the University of Edinburgh!”
Next to his nomination, Volker shared some great feedback from his students: “I got a lot of great feedback from students, saying ‘I learned so much, this is great.’ or ‘I love the assignment approach, where I can see half of the tests already.’” Volker gives the students half of the tests of the assignment up front, and has the other half hidden to be executed after the deadline. So that way, they can see how well they’re doing before the deadline, so they can feel more confident that they will not fail the assignments. “This made students feel really good and was a huge improvement from how they thought about the final exam. It also motivated them a lot throughout the assignment to get all the tests ‘in green’. During final exams, there's no way to have this.”
Next to great student satisfaction and motivation, Volker also saw a huge improvement in student performance: “Also, with the exam only variant of the course, I used to have a fail rate of 15-20%, this year I had a fail rate of only 1%, which is really, really good. And I do not think I made very easy assignments, on the contrary, I made them more challenging!”
How do you see the future of computing education?
Volker thinks there are many improvements and novel approaches possible with the right tools. “I really liked seeing the regular updates from CodeGrade throughout my course. Some of the things I saw coming out, like Git support and Analytics, are things I’d like to see used in the course next year.” In addition, Volker used the CodeGrade API to hook it up to his own Peer Feedback Framework, something CodeGrade did not offer yet at the time of his course: “We did a peer feedback approach this year, which I think worked well. The assessment is still a bit tricky, because you have to have a human who reads to the student feedback to judge whether that's good or not. But at least the process of providing that to students and giving them a tool to kind of learn it, that is something that can work very well too. And I think CodeGrade will offer that soon. “
Volker believes more and more teachers at the University of Edinburgh will switch to use CodeGrade: “I think, certainly if you have a large course that requires you to do a lot of programming, then some way of bulk correctness checking is required. And also some way of managing all of that. CodeGrade definitely hits a need there and I think that it is something that more and more courses will be needing in the future. Of course, some will build their own thing, but that is not something I would personally do. I believe more and more teachers at the University of Edinburgh got enthusiastic and are looking to use CodeGrade next academic year too.”