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Student Assessment and Engagement [clear filter]
Wednesday, December 9

11:00am EST

TrAcademic: Gamified Practicals for Computer Science

Like most first year CS courses, UTSC's Introduction to Computer Science (CSCA08) has always struggled with issues around community building, and differential learning in a course where the prior experience levels of students can vary wildly. Either students with prior programming experience would find the course boring, or novice students would find the material too intimidating. The TrAcademic system replaced the traditional lab based approach with gamified practical sessions, where students could earn points for completing various tasks, which were set relative to their experience level. Experience points are earned every time a student attends a practical session, challenge points are awarded for anything from solving complicated problems to weekly logic puzzles, and (perhaps most interestingly), teaching points are awarded for helping fellow students with material, or demonstrating a solution to the group.

This allows more advanced students to spend their time either completing challenge questions where they can push themselves, or helping their fellow students, while novice students get help from their peers rather than waiting for the TA. With this system, practicals have evolved from a traditional lab system where some students were bored, some were frustrated, and most were waiting passively for the TA to get around to them, into a facilitated study group, where students are helping one another learn. Students are more engaged, and have motivation to work together to build a community, rather than succumb to the traditional stereotype of the isolated computer scientist.

avatar for Brian Harrington

Brian Harrington

University of Toronto - Scarborough

Wednesday December 9, 2015 11:00am - 11:30am EST
Meeting Room A

11:30am EST

Opening Doors for More Authentic Undergraduate Research Experiences

Laboratory research is at the heart of the science education, yet many undergraduates will have little direct exposure to our research labs during their studies. True, most will be enrolled in a few large course-based labs, but space, resources and, importantly, time, dramatically limit student access to an authentic, independent research experience. As enrollments increase and research funding tightens, the proportion of our students participating in substantial laboratory experiences is decreasing, with the few available spaces restricted to the fourth year. This means that a vital complement of skills and attitudes essential to modern science – critical yet creative thinking, experimental design, data interpretation, even career planning – are only experienced, if at all, toward the end of a student's undergraduate studies. Indeed, the majority of our students will simply not have this opportunity.

Given this observation, we are developing tools and opportunities for researchers so that they can engage multiple undergraduate students early and often in original, publishable research.  The goal is to bring the successful elements of peer-based learning and teaching into thesis experiences. One core tool is an iBook lab manual that walks young researchers through some of the basics of lab research on their own and with their peers, with modest personal supervision by faculty, graduate students, and postdocs. To be clear: this manual would not replace the value of a mentor in the lab, but it will dramatically ease the workload on lab mentors, thus allowing faculty to bring more undergraduates into an authentic lab experience.


Kimberley Dej

McMaster University

Wednesday December 9, 2015 11:30am - 12:00pm EST
Meeting Room A