When students sprint: Experiences with athletic software engineering

Philip Johnson
Department of Information and Computer Sciences
University of Hawaii at Manoa
Honolulu, HI USA

Information technology is disrupting higher education. Traditional pedagogies like the “sage on a stage” are being challenged by “flipped” classrooms, in which lectures are moved out of the classroom and onto YouTube, and massively open online courses (MOOCs), which dispense with classrooms altogether in order to reach tens of thousands of students in a single course. Yet these new approaches create new problems: research suggests that students viewing course videos “tune out” after six minutes, and MOOCs have attrition rates of 90% or more. It is clear that much opportunity for experimentation and progress remains.

In this talk, I present findings from one such experiment: an “athletic” pedagogy developed for my software engineering curriculum in Fall 2013. I designed the approach to incentivize my students to acquire fluency with software development tools and technologies, a traditionally difficult goal due to the time investment and focus required from the students. End-of-semester course evaluations revealed that 100% of the students preferred the athletic approach, and 80% of the students thought it improved their ability to focus. In addition, 50% of the students voluntarily participated in a Startup Weekend requiring them to exercise fluency to create a brand new software application in just 36 hours.

To simplify experimentation with future athletic (and non-athletic) courses, I designed the Morea Framework using GitHub, Jekyll, and Twitter Bootstrap in Spring 2014. Morea implements a “pedagogical pattern” where a course consists of a set of modules, and modules consist of learning outcomes, readings, experiences, and assessments. I will show how Morea lets you “clone” my entire athletic software engineering course to use as a basis for your own pedagogical explorations.