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Breaking the coding barrier: transition from Level 1 to Level 2 programming

Project leader(s): 
Frances Chetwynd

In 2011, with the introduction of the gateway module TU100: My Digital Life, MCT changed its tool for teaching elementary programming from JavaScript to the drag-and-drop environment Sense. Since 2013, another Level 1 module, TM129: Technologies in Practice, has used RobotLab.

Earlier research (Isherwood, 2009) indicated that around 50% of students studying M150: Data, Computing and Information (TU100’s JavaScript-based predecessor) struggled with the programming aspects of the module. Doubts continue to be raised as to the effectiveness of the current Level 1 modules in preparing students for Level 2 programming work. However, there has been little recent research into engagement or success with programming among students on either TU100 or TM129.

This project aims to explore the effectiveness of the teaching of programming on the Level 1 modules in preparing Computing and IT students for higher level study of programming – specifically on M250, M269 and TT284. This broad aim comprises three objectives:

  1. To gather data on levels of student engagement with the programming at Level 1 and to correlate this with success in programming in Level 2 modules;
  2. To explore the influence of Level 1 programming teaching on students’ choice of modules at Level 2;
  3. To gain insight into how well Level 2 programming students believed they had been prepared for programming work by TU100 and TM129.

Data on levels of engagement of students’ with programming on both Level 1 modules, and performance at Level 2 will be gathered by three methods:

  • Assessment data, comprising programming assignment question scores, at Level 1;
  • A short survey;
  • Structured interviews with selected Level 2 students.

This data will be collated with data on the module choices Computing and IT students made at Level 2.

This work will provide MCT Faculty members with an enhanced insight into the success or otherwise of our Level 1 programming teaching. Academics designing the future provision of programming, at the Open University and beyond, will be able to gain a better understanding of how well teaching approaches such as those used in Sense and RobotLab prepare students for more traditional programming courses. Computing and IT students in the future will benefit from this greater insight.

Related resource

Scholarship Shorts - video highlighting the issues related to preparation for Level 2 modules within the computing curriculum. 

Video length: 2 mins 40 secs