Computer Science Lecturer Leo Ureel is the recipient of a $5000 Jackson Life Blended Learning Grant from the Jackson Center for Teaching and Learning. Grants were awarded to blended learning projects that are strategically transformative, have demonstrated need, and will have broad impacts. Mr. Ureel’s project, “Canvas Teaching Assistant”, will provide students with a highly interactive environment for testing and obtaining immediate feedback about their code.
The way students currently approach homework is similar to the outdated “waterfall” development model, progressing in a one-way, linear fashion: students are given program specifications, they go away and work on the code, the assignment is submitted when they are done, then they wait for grades and possible feedback. As one student said, “We work in isolation, then chuck the program over the wall and hope for the best.” Mr. Ureel wants to make the process of learning to program a more iterative, agile process that interleaves coding with testing and rewards interaction. This will bring our introductory computer science education closer to current “agile” methods of software development.
The project will leverage the department’s existing grading software and the Canvas course management system to provide students with immediate feedback prior to submitting programs for grading. This will encourage students to “code a little, test a little” in an iterative fashion that will empower them to tackle bugs and resolve functional problems earlier in the learning process. Additionally, the project will add intelligent assessment of programming style and comments, helping students mature into professional software engineers. When combined with new curriculum designed to teach agile development, students will be better prepared for a 21st century career in computer science.