Teaching programming languages online – challenges and how to address them

teaching programming online

In today’s digital world, there is hardly a process that would not be accessible or executable online. From the automated production of advanced machinery to guiding doctors online for surgeries, robotics and hybrid bionic architecture have taken the world by storm. In such a highly advanced technical age, skills to create, operate and maintain complex technology is an essential part of learning, a majority of which is attributed to programming languages.

The classical approach to teaching programming languages involves instructor-based, classroom-type sessions in a computer lab. Learners have access to a machine that they practice the learned programs on while an instructor oversees their progress. With the advent of online teaching software, it is now possible to teach coding online in real time. Not only this, but teachers can also check the code, correct it and guide distant learners in a virtual classroom.

Challenges in teaching programming languages online

Although teaching and learning of programming languages online have gone mainstream yet there remain some challenges and hindrances that put a big question mark on the efficacy of teaching and learning to code online.

Here, I cite the most critical challenges; also, how they can be addressed by using a highly advanced online classroom software. Take a look:

  • The technicality of the subject: Computer Sciences, especially courses on programming languages, are not only more time consuming but are also difficult to grasp, which is due to the highly technical subject matter. Only 67% of the programming students pass[1] as compared to the students enrolled in other courses, even when they are enrolled in offline, traditional courses. The reasons for high failure rate include the conceptual difficulty of the subject and the time required to learn to programme. Given the complexity of the subject, it is not only difficult to learn to code; but it is also more challenging to teach programming languages.
  • Isolation: Online education has enabled students to work independently of the trainer and in isolation from peers working on the same themes. While this may enhance the learner’s concentration and grasping skills, it may also rise as a potential challenge while teaching programming languages online, especially when taking self-paced courses. The subject matter that is already complex would become more taxing for the students in case there is no collaboration among learners. Therefore, it is important to have face-to-face interaction with the instructor as well as other learners even when learning to code online.
  • Experts blind spot: A key component of teaching programming languages is to think and understand the concepts like a novice, which not only eases the pressure on students but also facilitates unfolding of new ideas through elevating difficulty levels. When educators are not able to put themselves into the shoes of the beginners, it widens the gap between the instructor-learner understanding, collapsing the whole idea of teaching and learning to programme online.
  • Instant Feedback: Feedback on programming syntax, code construction, loops, etc., is fundamental to a student. While it is critical to provide swift and responsive feedback to the students, the dearth of comprehensive tools and features may affect the facilitation of instant feedback and guidance. Instead of this, availability of syntax highlight and code editing tools helps and troubleshoot syntactic problems of the programmers, alongside other open-ended queries.


The role of an advanced online classroom software

An advanced online classroom software comes with the tools that facilitate the teaching of programming languages in a virtual environment. Not only does it foster collaboration but it comes equipped with the features that automatically highlight the wrong code and suggest alternatives. Let’s see how an advanced virtual classroom makes it easy to teach programming online:

  • Collaboration: An online classroom expedites and smoothens teaching and learning to programme online by enabling student-teacher and student-student collaboration. Increased interaction via the audio-video interaction, public, and private text chats, quizzes, and polling results in a responsive environment, impacting the student engagement and learning outcomes.
  • Built-in code editor: Code editor is used by programmers to edit source codes while programming is a handy tool that may either be a standalone application or be made available within the shared integrated development environment (IDE). An advanced virtual classroom with the collaborative in-built code editor and syntax checker is a better choice, enabling students to learn to code online or work together on projects and find errors or incomplete codes right then. This considerably eases the task of teaching programming languages online.
  • Setting individual learning pace: Your students have a unique learning pace, and each of them would require a different stride to understand the concepts of programming languages. In most cases, learners would find it difficult to proceed to the next topic because they require more practice or further clarity on previously taught topics.
  • Server-side recording: Server-side recording (SSR) works in the background and records a live class for a quick revision of the online session. Without consuming the computing resources of either your or your students’ devices, the recording is directly saved on the server in a user-friendly MP4 format. The SSR neither requires a high-end CPU at your or your students’ end nor does the available internet speed hamper the recording quality. An advanced virtual classroom software technology tool with server-side recording would enable your students to run online streamed courses again for an in-depth understanding of the live lecture at their convenience.
  • Enhanced learner engagement: With features like live lecture streaming, audio-video, and textual interaction, virtual classrooms overcome another challenge faced by the educators while teaching programming languages online. The disinterestedness and mundanity of continuous coding and problem-solving can be resolved through interactive whiteboards, polls, and quizzes, which can further be utilized to upgrade the programming language courses as per the student requirement.
  • Seamless Integration: Smooth integration of a virtual classroom with your existing website, LMS or CMS further mellows the challenges in teaching programming language online. Once integrated, the live classroom can be directly accessed from any internet browser and require no additional software or plugins like Java and Flash. Look for an advanced virtual classroom that seamlessly integrates with your existing setup.

With the advent of the online classroom technology, it has become easy for instructors to teach coding online.




References
[1] http://www.ascilite.org/conferences/singapore07/procs/butler.pdf

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Content Specialist at WizIQ. 'Live to write and write to live' is her motto. Passionate about life and living it up!

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