Wednesday, November 18, 2020

Blend and Flip for Teaching Communication Skills to Final Year International Computer Science Students

My paper "Blend and Flip for Teaching Communication Skills to Final Year International Computer Science Students" has just been published. This was presented at a conference in Jogjakarta last year, but I guess COVID-19 held publishing up. In this I describe using a "chunky" approach to blended learning. The notes for the presentation are also available.

Abstract: In addition to technical knowledge, graduates in computing and engineering disciplines are expected to have communication skills, and the ability to undertake lifelong learning. These skills are difficult to acquire using conventional lecture and tutorial based teaching. Final year international graduate computer science students at the Australian National University, College of Engineering and Computer Science, were found to have particular difficulty when asked to write about their learning. In response, lectures were replaced with online exercises, group workshops in a new purpose-built flat floor classroom, and peer-assessed progressive assessment. This approach was trialed with eighty students in 2019. Preliminary results indicate students performed at least as well as with conventional lecture-based instruction.

What I did not mention in the paper, but turned out very useful, was that in 2018 I had designed this to allow rapid conversion from blended to pure online mode, if students were unable to get to campus (which I identified as an issue in 2016). So when COVID-19 struck in early 2020, it was only necessary to replace the face-to-face workshops with video conferences. Everything else, including assessment, was already online and so needed no changes. 

The difficult question will be what to do when some students return to campus. It would be possible to again offer face to face workshops. However, not all the students are ever going to return to campus, so should they be able to participate in hybrid or parallel modes? That is, should the face to face class be linked online to the remote students, or a separate class run for the online students?

In the past I assumed that the hybrid mode would disadvantage the remote students. However, this week I attended a face to face class where the instructor kept apologizing because their materials and presentation technique were for online delivery. It may be the students in the room who are disadvantaged.

Reference

Worthington, T. (2019, December). Blend and Flip for Teaching Communication Skills to Final Year International Computer Science Students. In 2019 IEEE International Conference on Engineering, Technology and Education (TALE) (pp. 1-5). IEEE. https://doi.org/10.1109/TALE48000.2019.9225921

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