Tag Archives: computer science education

Students Envisioning the Future of University Studies – Paper presented at the Frontiers in Education Conference 2016

This paper that was presented last week at Frontiers in Education reports on a study addressing how students can be included as critical stakeholders in the systems and services provided by a university. We view this as an element of institutional democracy, and investigate how insights from the computing disciplines can inform this discussion.

The paper can be found here. 

I still remember how I had planned quite a wild didactic  idea about making the students act their future scenarios in a role play for each other. I was in charge of the student group, and worked together with my PhD student Thomas Lind on this. I was not sure about how the students would like this approach to presenting their visions, and I had had little time to prepare it. On my way to the vision seminar sessions the very morning of the role play my car broke down completely. I needed to call Thomas Lind,t  and say that unfortunately I would not show up. So I left him with the quite role play idea , and he was completely unprepared. Good thing he is excellent at improvising, and he made the best out of the situation. 🙂

When the paper was presented by Thomas Lind it was especially appreciated that the students were involved in the work, and that they were collaborative partners when the visions of the future were developed. There were other groups of users too, such as study administrators and study administrators.

The paper is written collaboratively by a whole group of people:

  • Thomas Lind, Åsa Cajander, Bengt Sandblad & Mats Daniels from Uppsala University
  • Marta Lárusdóttir from Reykjavik University
  • Roger McDermott from The Robert Gordon University
  • Tony Clear from Auckland University of Technology

In order to address the whole student experience we engaged students and employees at a large Swedish university in a vision seminar process to elicit how these groups envisioned an ideal future version of the university, and the necessary changes to technology and organisational structures required to achieve this ideal version.

The vision seminar process entailed six four-hour workshops with four groups consisting of six participants each. A survey instrument was used to follow up on the participants’ experiences of participating in the vision seminar process and their thoughts on the future of the university.

The results from the survey show that the participating students had a more positive view of the future in comparison to the university employees. The students envisioned systems to be harmonized at an interdepartmental level, as well as a seamless integration of a variety of services into one technical solution provided by the university.

For university employees the future work was viewed as being very flexible, made possible by information systems capable of providing excellent support whilst not hindering pedagogical and organisational development.

Finally we discuss the broader implications of these differing visions on the future of university education, and how such a visioning process may be successfully adopted in other institutions.

A Framework for Writing Learning Agreements – Paper Presented at Frontiers in Education 2016

I work together with colleagues and students on learning agreements in the IT in Society class, and we have developed a framework for writing these agreements that we use. The framework developed to support the students in writing learning agreements in the IT in Society course has been built on past cycles of experience in OEGP courses, theoretical insights from the HCI field and based on discussions with students.

Students often find it very difficult to write learning agreements as they are very unused to setting up goals for their own development, instead of being given these goals by a teacher.

We wrote a paper based on the development of the learning agreements that was presented at the Frontiers in Education conference in Erie last week. The paper is written collaboratively by Tony Clear from Auckland University of Technology, Roger McDermott from Robert Gordon University Aberdeen and the group of facutly and students from Uppsala University: Elin Parsjö, Mats Daniels, Nanna Lagerqvist and me. The paper has the title: “A Framework for Writing Learning Agreements”.

You find the paper here

The idea is to build an IT based system for this framework as an element of a research based development.  We have implemented this as a course Wiki set of pages. These pages contain:

  1. General information about the assignment of writing a learning agreement.
  2. Descriptions of the different professional competencies involved in the learning agreement (the nine graduate attributes from Curtin University).
  3. A template for writing learning agreements.
  4. Resources for developing different aspects of professional competencies.
  5. A reflection section with specific questions related to what has been developed for each of the professional competencies.
  6. A set of personas and scenarios.

We are still working on the implementation of the framework, and one step had been to try the personas in two course instances. So there is more to come in this area of didactic research 🙂


Action Research on Blending and Flipping the Classrom, a study by Ville Isomöttönen

In a seminar with the UpCERG research group Ville Isomöttönen  presented a paper on the use of Action Research in changing a classroom setting from a more classical seminar (passive) based course to a course based on blended learning and flipped classroom ideas. This is basically when you use e-learning in teaching and aim at using the seminars for discussing matieral that the students have studied outside of the seminar room. The pedagogic aim was to practice active learning with many practice sessions, online learning and review sessions.

Ville Isomöttönen described that they had a very optimistic start of the project with many pedagogic ideas for improvement.

Some of the things they found in the study was:

  • Students prefer informal communication. It is difficult to drive a self study course through asking students to pose driving questions.
  • Student pass rates went down after this change, but the number of students increased. Many students logg into the system and tried it out and experimented.
  • Students constantly say that they really enjoyed the freedom and self-paced and flexible sized studying, but that it is nothing for them and they don’t want it in the future.
  • Students need to practice “freedom in learning”, and they often have a mindset where they believe that there is a best way of doing something. “Which is the best way to do this?”

During the presentation we also discussed the many choices that we need to do as action researchers. What kind of participation are we aiming at in our projects? Who do we include when designing the change we want to do, and in what way? In how many action research projects are the students invited to participate in the changes made, and what would happen when they are? What are the different roles that we take as researchers in our projects? I take on different roles such as coach, seminar leader, meeting participant, interviewer, notes taker, meeting leader. All these roles include different levels of listening, talking and discussing.

We also had a very interesting discussion about Action Research in areas, or in projects where interia is so strong that you almost know from the start that this goal will not be reached. My opinion is that we cannot stop doing action research on the big and challenging problems such as “cancer care”, or ” gender in the a Swedish school system” or “usable ICT in organisations” because it is difficult. We need to work to change things in small steps. Grit and perseverance in research are crucial! 🙂

The full paper is published soon and is called: Isomöttönen & Tirronen (2016, ToAppear). Flipping and Blending: An Action Research Project on Improving Functional Programming Course. ACM Transactions on Computing Education.