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  5. Investigating the perceived benefits to computing students of remote pair programming

Investigating the perceived benefits to computing students of remote pair programming

Project leader(s): 
Janet Hughes and Ann Walshe


Our computing students learn how to program largely individually and remotely. As reviewed in (Mark Zarb & Janet Hughes (2015) Breaking the communication barrier: guidelines to aid communication within pair programming, Computer Science Education, 25:2,120-151, DOI: 10.1080/08993408.2015.1033125)   previous research indicates that pair programming can lead to improved quality of programming, enhance programming skills and increase self-confidence when programming.  We propose to investigate the benefits to our students of engaging in remote pair programming in their learning. Our investigation goes beyond academic learning to explore community and employability benefits, both of which are relevant to NSS amongst other measures of student satisfaction.

Addressing the aims

We are currently (summer 2019) conducting a pilot project funded in Scotland to investigate the employability, social and community benefits to our students of remote pair programming.  We are comparing which of three techniques of experiencing remote pair programming brings the most perceived benefits, (i) passive (watching video recordings of tutors who are pair programming), (ii) indirect participation (watching tutors pair programming live and interacting with them at the conclusion), and (iii) direct participation with an online partner.  This project involves two tutors and five volunteer TM112 19D students in Scotland.  The objective of the eSTEeM project is to explore how these techniques can accrue these benefits for our students.


Our eSTEeM project would investigate on a larger scale (the entire TM112 19J cohort) the community and employability benefits of the remote pair programming techniques that the pilot project identified to be worthy of further investigation.Those techniques and approaches found to be beneficial will be recommended for embedding in those modules that teach programming, including TM112 (Introduction to computing and information technology 2) and TM129 (Technologies in Practice) at level 1, and M250 (Object-oriented Java programming) and M269 (Algorithms, data structures and computability) at level 2.     

The impact could extend to other institutions that teach programming remotely, e.g. University of London (


Our eSTEeM project is designed to identify recommendations for module teams to embed feasible and manageable approaches to pair programming in undergraduate and postgraduate modules.Positive outcomes relate to student satisfaction, student confidence and self-esteem, improved student employability and improved SEaM ratings for those modules.

Hughes, J. and Walshe, A. (2019) project poster (PDF)