As the pandemic continues, it seems teachers will have to continue to bear teaching online through Zoom. Although some teachers have it figured out, it seems that the adoption of Zoom to host these classes may not work across all subjects. Programming is especially hard using Zoom’s platform to teach. Screensharing while trying to get your students to “code along” is just not efficient. From the ease of understanding students’ code, the ability to provide fast and efficient feedback, and internet bandwidth— these are all issues that Zoom exacerbates rather than solves when it comes to teaching an online programming class.
Coding is detail-oriented and focuses a lot on minute details and syntax. Before students become acquainted after lots of practice and development skills, they are going to struggle with a lot of errors in their code. Effective coaching is needed and that starts with instructors being able to easily access student codes during “lab sessions”. As we transition to remote teaching as more of a long term solution during COVID-19, we need to figure out how technology can help encourage more engagement and interactive teaching. Zoom encourages the teacher to broadcast but limits the amount that students can do other than post messages in the public chatbox. This is not the fault of Zoom, as they pride themselves in a simple interface that is not complicated. The key here is they are not optimized for the classroom, especially programming.
While lectures are straight forward on Zoom, lab sessions become an issue to effectively conduct over Zoom. Teachers have enough to keep in mind and control during class from mute options, answering the public chatbox, monitoring “in-class” exercises, and screen-share by demonstrating coding concepts while presenting a lecture. Managing a classroom has also gotten harder without the ability to help students “over-the-shoulder”. Prior to COVID, TAs, or the teachers/professors themselves could walk around and provide sights into coding errors encountered by students by directly looking at their screen. Now, there is not an easy way to quickly provide help and feedback that students need. Separate meetings need to be scheduled and some code file sharing needs to take place. The nature of Zoom is to really present lectures in the PowerPoint style without the need to switch between screen sharing and the whiteboard.
Not having sufficient internet bandwidth is something we all suffer from. It proves to be especially frustrating for programming teachers when your code screen-share looks blurry, lags, or overheats your computer because you’re trying to screen-share and run code. For introductory programming classes, having your students engaged, and following the material is crucial to onboard them. With frequent outages and technical issues reported on Zoom and the usually tight curriculums of computer science courses — programming teachers have to take on a lot of risk in terms of student retention purely based on technical accessibility.
Computer science and programming classes already have a high learning curve, so adding to the stress of understanding the material due to technical difficulties may hinder enough students to continue pursuing knowledge in coding. In the meantime, there are alternatives for programming teachers to conduct their classes. Online IDE, playback features, and real-time “Google-doc like” collaborative coding workspaces made for programming educators such as Coding Rooms provide a specialized interface to help programming teachers during these challenging times with remote teaching.
Learn more at https://CodingRooms.com/
Coding Rooms is the world’s first virtual classroom for teaching programming that finally answers the question of “How do we do labs?” (and more!) in this remote and socially-distanced learning environment. Our unified instructor dashboard enables you to see all your students’ code, answer their questions, and take control of their IDEs — all in real-time. In addition, our administrative features, code playback, and feature-rich IDE enables you to run your entire programming class on a single platform. From an instructor’s perspective, it also provides insightful metrics into your student’s progression in the classroom and how engaged they are in your material.
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