Elke Boonen is lecturer for Programming Fundamentals, and other programming courses, at the ICT degree at the Thomas More University of Applied Sciences. Thomas More started using CodeGrade in 2019 to streamline their programming courses and to start doing graded weekly assignments.
“The education itself in the previous years was much the same as this year with CodeGrade. I also gave students assignments that they handed in. The difference was, I couldn’t manually grade all these assignments.”
Before CodeGrade, students handed in their assignments in Blackboard. Where teachers could view the assignments and download them. “To upload their assignments, the students either zipped them up in one big file or pasted the code in Word files *sigh* so at least we could view them on Blackboard.” The assignments themselves weren’t mandatory: “I’d only look at the assignments if the students performed poorly on the final exam. I just couldn’t grade all these assignments for each and every student on my own, and then also give feedback on them as well.”
This was a big frustration for Elke, but also for the students. “I couldn’t give them the real feedback they needed and couldn’t be proactive, like I can now. Another issue was checking for plagiarism, I used Moss [a code plagiarism tool from Stanford] at the time. But it required a lot of manual work to use that tool, and I had to do it all in bulk, it was all just tricky and error-prone.”
Adopting and using CodeGrade
To streamline their workflow, Elke and her team decided to adopt CodeGrade. “I said: Let’s do this and we’re starting immediately with weekly assignments and deadlines.” Besides some minor hiccups in the beginning, that come with adopting any new tool, Elke and her students quickly figured it out. “Everyone, students and teachers, knew very well what they were supposed to do. So, then, we decided to also use CodeGrade for the exams and that was very positive for the students as well. Students know the workflow with CodeGrade and that comforts them on the exam as well. It gave structure. Students even asked us to create even more CodeGrade assignments, so they could prepare even better for the exam!"