Re-imagining practical computing classes in an online setting

Murphy, Lisa and Sheridan, Frances (2021) Re-imagining practical computing classes in an online setting.


Practical lab work is an important feature of many modules in Computing programmes. Lab work not only provides an opportunity for summative assessment of learning but, it more importantly provides an opportunity for formative assessment for learning. Students can capitalise on this lab work to avail of support, guidance and feedback from lecturers and lab assistants. This in turn helps to keep students engaged in-class with the content and the module.

The instruction by government in 2020 to close third level campuses and move classes online presented a challenge in relation to how lecturers could provide this same support, guidance and feedback in an online classroom. National College of Ireland implemented Microsoft Teams (Teams) as the online classroom for delivery of content. While Teams does provide functionality to allow lecturers to share their screen with students and vice versa, it takes time to switch between one screen and the other and places an additional burden on students broadband connections. In this instance, the authors utilised another feature of Teams known as Class Notebook to provide the support, guidance and feedback previously afforded in practical lab work.

Class Notebook is based on OneNote technology and can be used as a standalone application or via a plugin feature in Teams. It provides students with a semi-private notebook which is visible to only themselves and the lecturer. The notebook allows students to keep notes, carry out exercises distributed by the lecturer, and receive feedback either in written or audio format. The lecturer can easily view each students notebook, moving between each providing feedback on work as it is carried out. This paper presents three case studies demonstrating the use of this technology in the delivery of three different modules in varying ways for both formative and summative feedback, assessment and in-class engagement.

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