Students have different backgrounds and experiences with programming and computers.
...from A-level computing experience to computer-phobic.
Our experience was that demonstrators often received "low-level" queries about exercises, often requiring no more than signposting.
How do I start this exercise?
I don't understand - what does this mean?!
Or... students gathered around one competent student working on problems in a very non-interactive way
Handouts contained written exercises to complete.
Students work through the material at very different speeds, so timing feedback is difficult:
- Solutions released during session, end of session, the next week...?
- Work through on big screens, but when?
Programming is difficult to assess.
Little variation between student answers - difficult to detect collusion.
Marking is very time-consuming and repetitive.
The Numbas programming extension
Released earlier this year.
Uses WebAssembly/Emscripten to compile Python (Pyodide) and R (WebR) to run code entirely self-contained in a web browser.
No reliance on a server to run code; nothing tied to Newcastle. Therefore shareable!
Exercises embedded in the handouts as Numbas questions:
- immediate marking and feedback
- alternative answers to catch common errors
- randomisation to try similar questions over and over
- full worked solutions
And can be scaffolded with steps, or multiple parts to build up solutions.
Exercises are embedded directly in handouts:
New experience of handout exercises
Students are able tackle exercises and learn at their own pace.
During Covid, modules ran successfully with asynchronous handout material.
Since returning to campus, the handout exercises have transformed the demonstrator-student dynamic.
Formative "Test Yourself" question sets accompanying each week of content.
In-course assessments and final exams were hybrid, ~60% auto-marked: focus manual marking where it is most effective.
I like that I can work through the handout so that I'm learning in the best way for myself, at my own pace
Really efficient way off working, using the handouts and tests!!
The feedback from our assignments was detailed and personal to us and gave us information on what we did well and where we can improve.