Learning and leading online instruction in computer science

I am now entering the fourth iteration of teaching a computer programming course at my community college.  I picked this course up from another instructor at my institution. The course includes lectures, class exercises, quizzes/exams that are proctored in class, and a group project.  As I knew would happen, a student emailed me at the start of the quarter to ask if it is possible to take my course without attending class. The student has a physical handicap that makes attending class very difficult.  I had explored this question on my own in an effort to provide equitable access to my course content for a diverse student body – both local and remote. While I know it is possible to offer my course in a fully online format, I have substantial work to do on class exercises, quizzes/exams, and the group project for this specific course to make this happen, and I had to inform the student that the course was not set up for online only.

Fortunately, my participation in the Digital Education Leadership masters program at Seattle Pacific University has provided me time to explore my goal of building an online computer science course in more detail.  Specifically, we are currently investigating the ISTE standard for educators with a focus on becoming learners and leaders in using technology to improve the learning experience for our students.  In previous quarters, I started my ‘learning’ journey by experimenting with a blended or flipped model by using a project-based learning (PBL) approach.  I continue to seek out resources at the college level for project-based learning.  I soon discovered that there are many more resources available for K-12 education than for higher education.

Higher education has lagged behind K-12 education in adopting PBL. Pascarella and Terenzini (2005) indicated that while collaborative and constructivist approaches to teaching and learning have become more common in higher education over the past twenty years, the lecture model remains dominant.  (Lee et al, 2014)

Fortunately, I did find the Center for Innovative Research in Cyberlearning (CIRCL) website that offered resources for higher education.  One useful resource on the CIRCL website is the CyberLearning Community Report which highlights examples of integrating the latest innovations in learning science into computer science instruction.

The CIRCLE website also led me to the EdSurge website for higher education.  This site provides me with news and networks to explore the future of technology in higher education.  I have subscribed to the EdSurge weekly newsletter to get updates on learning technology for higher education.  I have already found posts and articles specific to my situation – even an article on how community colleges are the next frontier for digital innovation in education.

I now feel that I have a good handle on learning resources for online instruction in computer science.  The next step is to figure how to become a leader at my community college in adopting online learning technology.  In my readings, I came across an inspiring video about how a leadership team at the Coachella Valley high school broke down the barriers to digital transformation through stakeholder communication, along with how they funded a mobile learning initiative.

This inspired me to approach administrators at my community college on how best to get involved with using technology to improve the learning experience.  It was suggested that I join the college council in order to get a better understanding of the existing efforts in digital education.  I soon learned that the college council sponsors a set of sub-committees to explore different topics.  The number of committees is much larger than I expected.  I found five committees which seemed to be related to my goal of using technology to improve the learning experience.  I signed up to be the college council representative for these five committees.  

My first task was to get each of the committees to post minutes from their most recent meetings.  After reading the minutes from each my assigned committees, I realized that the eLearning committee is the best choice for collaboration on my goal of creating an online curriculum in computer science.  There are online courses at my community college, but none in computer science. I will attend the next eLearning meeting in May, 2019 to learn about the available resources for developing online courses as well as suggest specific approaches for computer science, based on my research.  I am excited about the possibilities!

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2 comments / Add your comment below

  1. Nat,
    Your blog posts are evidence of your ability to take what we are learning in class and apply it to becoming a leader in your school and in the community. It amazes me the research you find and your way of investigating to make a difference in the courses you teach to students. As I read through your blog post I can see the steps you are taking to ensure a positive impact on student learning, as well as a reflection of your own teaching and how you can improve as an educator. Thank you for sharing your journey as well as the resources you have found along your way!

  2. So interesting that PBL resources are more available for K-12. I really enjoyed reading how your question lead you down a learning pathway that built upon itself. The resources you shared are helpful for any educator, thank you for sharing them! I am excited to learn more about how it goes with the eLearning Committee and how your experience in the DEL program can set you up to be both a learner and a leader within the committee!

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