Delivering the computing curriculum online: challenges and opportunities

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In March, 2020 many university programmes worldwide were rapidly redesigned to be delivered fully online as a result of the pandemic impact, that for many was the first experience of teaching and learning in the virtual environment. Higher education institutions had to focus on sustainability of their programmes and courses, that is not considered just as resources provided in digital format.
This paper discusses the experience of adapting the MSc Computing Foundations module to the distance learning model using the virtual learning environment (VLE) Canvas at the School of Electronics, Electrical Engineering and Computer Science (EEECS), Queen’s University Belfast in response to the challenges brought to higher education setting by the pandemic. The module is a fundamental compulsory module with over 100 students in the part-time class studying the conversional MSc course in Software Development and had the added challenge of being introduced to a mature audience.
This paper reflects on the experiences of learners and changes made to the curriculum to facilitate the move to online module delivery using the conceptual framework for effective online courses delivery, including course design, content delivery, assessment and feedback. Online learning has offered increased opportunity for choice and flexibility for students and to explore how technology can remove barriers in learning for the MSc students.
The paper reviews the impact of different curriculum items and online educational activities starting with content delivery – both synchronous and asynchronous – and moving on to VLE Canvas discussion forums, ungraded formative quizzes, in-term formative assessment in the form of mock exam and, finally, to online summative assessment delivered on VLE Canvas for the postgraduate cohort studying part-time. Sustained level of student engagement was evidenced through statistics collected from VLE Canvas that also has helped to adjust the instructor’s approach in teaching and become an integral part of successful module delivery. The paper reflects on student reviews of distance learning, e.g., how the students learn via online content delivery and proposes how the learning experience can be enhanced through their engagement with VLE. The paper focuses on how this effective learning environment contributes to education practice with a view what developments are worth retaining post-pandemic and what did not work well. It represents some practical examples of the applications and techniques that have been developed as a part of curriculum and widely used by students in learning computing subject, improving their computing skills and enhancing their learning experience at the EEECS.
As the effects of COVID-19 continued throughout 2021, classroom environments evolved to meet new requirements and patterns in higher education sector, particularly the pattern of distance and online learning. At the start of the 2021-22 academic year many institutions remained fully remote, others took on hybrid environments, and some went fully back to campus. Adaptation of the MSc Computing Foundation module to a new model of distance learning has proved to be successful, and the module has become a distance module delivered fully online for the class with over 120 students in the 2021-22 academic year helping to cope with the new normal in post-pandemic times.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publication15th Annual International Conference of Education, Research and Innovation (ICERI 2022): Proceedings
EditorsLuis Goméz Chova, Augustin López Martínez, Joanna Lees
ISBN (Electronic)9788409454761
Publication statusPublished - 25 Nov 2022
Event15th Annual International Conference of Education, Research and Innovation 2022 - Seville, Spain
Duration: 07 Nov 202209 Nov 2022

Publication series

NameAnnual International Conference of Education, Research and Innovation (ICERI): Proceedings
ISSN (Electronic)2340-1095


Conference15th Annual International Conference of Education, Research and Innovation 2022
Abbreviated titleICERI 2022
Internet address


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