My project pitch is to design:
- A Moodle course around software Engineering with focus on Assessments and Exam.
- A Moodle course around Entrepreneurship with focus on Mentoring.
Good day Prof. Klopfer, sorry I’m rather late, nice to catch up with you today. Would you spare me a minute of your time to listen to this great ideas I have for two courses I am planning to design. The first one is “Software Engineering without tears” and the second is “Business planning for success”. Software Engineering without tears will help students to learn and understand the principles of Software Engineering and processes and be able to apply them in real-life software development situations. While Business planning for success will equip students with the skills and understanding they need to bring their business ideas to life. With mentoring from an expert in the area of their business ideas, students will develop an actionable business plan at the end of the course.
I thought you might be interested in knowing more about my design plans for the courses, how about an appointment at your convenience so I can give you more details.
Thank you for your time.
I had to take this course earlier this year. I taught students who had failed the course previously called spill-over students. Some of them should have graduated but are being kept behind because of this one course, while some were in their final year but had to return to take this 300L course in order to be able to graduate with their cohort for the year. I was shocked to learn that some of the students were taking the course for the third year in a row. There were up to 30 of these students, some of the females were nursing mothers while some of the male were engaged in business and working to support themselves and possibly their family from what I heard from them personally. In an appeal to me, the students wanted me to make it easy on them.
In fact, I never got to know some of the students until the final exam for the course when they turned up at the exam hall to sit for the exam on a subject they’ve never attended a single lecture on. These particular set of students could not just make it to the lectures for various reasons best known to them. I wondered how they were going to perform judging from the attitude of the students I knew in class. They considered the subject difficult and have lost hope on doing well, they just wanted a pass mark in order to be able to move on to the next thing. The subject was indeed an obstacle they would rather not have in their life but for the requirements in their course of study.
During the exam for the course, one of the invigilators saw the exam questions and exclaimed that I have set them up for failure, saying I had set the exams based on foreign standard. I responded to the invigilator that if these students have been attending my lectures and have done all of their assignments and homework and completed all the required tests for the course. Then the exam would be too easy for them because I have not given them questions outside of what I had taught them and they had ample practice from the continuous assessments throughout the course. The outcome at the end of the semester taking this course was that majority of the students passed brilliantly, not just a “let my people go” like they had resigned themselves to in the course based on their past failures.
I was very pleased at the outcome but it was rather an amazement that drew negative reaction from the Lecturer that had taken the course previously. One of his remarks in reprimanding me on this was “how could a student who had failed woefully when he taught him passed brilliantly when I taught him ?”. Many more reactions followed but the most important thing is that those students passed that “dreaded” Software Engineering course that has been keeping them behind and were able to move on. Of course not all of them passed, I still had a couple of them that failed rather woefully to my amazement.
How I did it
Taking the course was a welcome challenge for me because I wanted to spend my service year challenging myself to achieve something significant. My previous experience teaching was K3 & 4 ICT at a private school in the UK and now I am in an entirely different social and academic context. I decided to take them like I would the K3 & 4 children even though they were adults. From my experience as a student, software engineering was one of the subjects I found rather easy to learn, understand and pass, so I could not understand what the problem was with these students.
The first thing I did was to assure them that software engineering is not a difficult subject, in fact it is the easiest to understand of all the computer science subjects from my experience. I let them know my background as a student and how I had performed brilliantly well in this particular subject at the different stages of my academic life where I had had to do this particular subject, Pre-degree level, degree level and post graduate level.
I set out to teach them taking into account their different issues and I how I could carry them along despite those. I used a combination of classroom lectures, lecturer’s handout, textbook references, Homework and Assignments. I did not follow any particular teaching philosophy other than teaching well enough for them to understand the concept of Software Engineering and its application in the context of software development. I did not just lecture, I also engaged the students in interactivity in class, checking their understanding by asking questions and at some point asking some of them to take the stage as the Lecturer repeating what they understood from the lecture so far.
It was hard to get the students to participate in this way because they lack confidence and are not too sure of themselves and their understanding. But from homework and assignments, I could notice how well some of them are assimilating the topics of the Lecture. One of my point of emphasis was on “understanding” not memorising or cramming. I always tell the students not to give me textbook answers but give me answers based on their understanding of the text in their own words. When I asked questions, I never ask for definitions I asked for what they understood by the concept of software engineering, its application and so on. I gave them scenario questions in the context of the topic taught to help them think through how they can apply their understanding in that scenario. It was quite challenging for me too being my first time.
Another challenge was getting the students to relate to the Software Development Life Cycle in the context they are familiar with. Most of the textbook examples are foreign and unfamiliar. To bring the story close to home I used examples that they relate with on a daily basis like the students information management system they relate with when they have to register, pay fees, do exams and get results and I also challenged them to think of how they would apply the SDLC in the context of Medical Information System for their health Centre which currently operates manually, paper-based.
We stopped short of doing the practical application in the subject because another subject in the course takes care of the practical aspect of Software Engineering where the students apply the principles they’ve learnt to develop a software application in that other subject.
My teaching process was more or less Teaching for understanding but I had no words for it and I was not aware of the framework though it is similar to what I used to do in Lesson planning for my class teaching ICT in the UK. I think my teaching style was mostly influenced by the way I was taught as a student in the UK.
I employed continuous assessments through test, assignments and homework, giving appropriate feedback to help the students reflect on their learning, where they are doing well and where they need to improve. I also tried to help the students to relate their learning in the context they are familiar with for instance relating SDLC in the context of development a school information system they interact with and transferring this to challenge their understanding in a context they are not familiar with such as the Medical information system, which is non-existent here but everyone goes to the clinic at one point or the other.
Most importantly, I created a relaxed, open and cordial environment in the classroom, being fair and objective in my interaction with the students. I believe creating the right and appropriate atmosphere in the classroom plays a role in the students’ learning process and outcome.
Having said that. This is my very first time of teaching in a University and I am very lacking in experience in this regards at the same time my experience as a student and teacher in the UK was highly important in getting me through. From going through this Edtechx course, I can see how much I need to learn to be a successful Lecturer in academics.
Software Engineering without tears
My Goal for this project is to design a Moodle course around Software Engineering that will overcome some if not all of the problems I have indicated above.
I would like to use features in Moodle to development an easy to understand Software Engineering course upon the Tfu framework.
Implement the Assessments features of Moodle to provide assessments and constant feedback as students progress in their learning.
I would like to embed interactivity into the course that keeps the students actively engaged and not just passively learning.
Software Engineering is a collaborative activity, I would like to use the collaborative tools in Moodle to engage the students in collaborative learning and sharing of knowledge and ideas in the course.
I would like to exploit the features of Moodle to create effective and secure online Examination environment for the course.
The nature of this course would allow students to be able to access the course anytime and from where ever they are to give that flexibility needed by students with issues as indicated in my narratives.
Entrepreneurship with focus on Mentoring
There is a call for students to learn skills for entrepreneurship and this policy is being implemented across the institution’s curriculum. The aim is to make student graduate as creator of jobs and employers of labour, not job-seekers.
My goal for this project is to develop an entrepreneurship course in business planning with focus on mentoring using Moodle.
Business planning for success.
Students will come to the course with their business idea and the goal of the course is to help them develop their business idea into an actionable business plan.
Students will be grouped into mentoring units under a Mentor who will guide them in the process of learning and planing their business idea.
Each mentoring group will not be more than 5 students to ensure they are able to engage in one-one mentoring sessions with the mentor and at the same time the mentor is able to give time to each of the students within allocated mentoring hours.
Students grouping will be based on common or close business idea under a Mentor who is an expert in the area of business.
The course will be developed in such a way that students are able to work on their plan privately while still being able to discuss and collaborative with group members on common ideas.
The Mentor will actively engage the students in the process, providing necessary guidelines and feedback as and when appropriate.
There will be continuous assessments of understanding of each stage of the business plan throughout course.
The course will end with a completed business plan ready for assessments by the Lecturer.
The course will be based entirely on the constructionist idea of learning by doing. The students are learning as they are developing their business plan and are actively engaged in their learning.
This course will be developed using Moodle features for mentoring and collaborative learning.
For both of the courses as indicated, the plan is for a gradual development, seeing what works and what does not work, building upon the features that proves useful in the context of the learning to achieve the set goals of the course.