USING BLENDED LEARNING TO DIFFERENTIATE THE LEARNING PROCESS IN A COMPUTER PROGRAMMING COURSE
University College of Southeast Norway (USN) (NORWAY)
Teaching freshmen in an engineering education is challenging due to different level of skills, interests, knowledge and prior experience amongst the students. At the engineering education at USN (University College of Southeast Norway) – campus Porsgrunn, there are several paths to admission. For instance, approximately 60 % of the students have a certificate of apprenticeship. It is difficult to create one course design to fit all students.
This study has focused on a course named “Object Oriented Programming and Databases”. During the last three years, this course has been under major reconstruction. The restructuring of the course gave an opportunity to review both the course content and the pedagogical approach, to create a renewed course with new course material.
It was of interest to develop a flexible study model adjusted to different needs. A way to accomplish that was to use blended learning. Blended learning is characterized as a combination of traditional classroom activities and online media resources. Many courses today will meet these criteria, but it can be challenging to find the optimal blending of face-to-face and online activities.
A constructivist learning approach is assumed, where students are expected to construct their own understanding of the topics by engaging actively in learning activities facilitated by professors. The course consists of lectures, exercises and individual and team-based work requirements. A student project implemented as a project-based learning element, is considered a key component.
To be able to challenge students at different levels and with various professional interests, a large amount of learning items are developed, including many videos. Students are also guided to additional resources, like online books and other online material. Some of these resources are basic and aimed at students that find it hard to learn programming, while others aim at students who want to expand their skills beyond what’s included in the curriculum.
To ensure a good blending of course elements, the course has undergone frequent evaluations the last three years. Feedback from students is used as a basis for new adaptations. In 2016 the students’ motivation and work effort were reported as high during the entire course. Many online resources were offered, but most of the students still attended the voluntary campus work. Students achieved very well on their projects. The learning videos were widely pointed out as being of particular importance. The students’ final grades were very good, except for a minor group that failed. Possible reasons for failing are discussed, as is the value of different learning elements and course resources used throughout the course. Some suggested improvements are to include even more flipped classroom-thinking and more videos related to especially basic items.