Saturday, March 07, 2020

Moving CS Education Online

Covid-19 is motivating schools all over the world to close. Many other schools are looking at options in case they have to close their facilities. My own school has been looking at options to try to continue teaching in the event the government askes us to close. This is far from a trivial decision. Sure there is a lot of online education going on. There are MOOCs and virtual schools and other on line options already. Moving an existing  program online in the middle of a semester is not the same as starting off online.

Doug Peterson took a good look at a lot of the issues on a blog post at It's not that simple. And there are plenty of things to consider. For one thing do all your students have broadband internet and a computer that can support the needs? And can the school’s networking infrastructure support all of the people accessing the system.

Beyond the problems common to all teaching there are problems particular to specific subjects. I don’t know how teachers will run art classes or physical education classes for example. Personally,, I’ve been thinking about how to teach computer science.

Lectures appear to be easy. Even demos are not bad. My school is looking at using Google Meet and that seems like it should work. Others have been suggesting Zoom which has both free and paid options. Paid looks like it would be required for most schools.  Microsoft is making Teams available to schools who need to close for free. I’ve recorded many of my presentations (PowerPoint is great for that) so I can use them as well. But lecture is a small part of my teaching.

My AP CS Principals course used curriculum which is all online already. So that is fairly easy though a lot of the pair work will be harder without students being in the same room. I suspect that they can do some coordination via texts messages and other apps that teens are already using for peer to peer communication. Lynn Langit has written a fairly detailed blog post (Remote Pair Programming) on how she works with interns she is mentoring online. Looks interesting.

One option that I have played with a bit is  Live Share which is available with VSCode and Visual Studio. This would allow pair programming of a sort. It would allow me to look at student code and make suggestions. It’s not going to be as seamless as moving from student to student in the classroom though.

While the software is free making sure students have appropriate computers. VS Code runs on Mac and Linux as well as Windows so that’s good. I’ve been using Visual Studio though so getting students up to speed on VS Code will take some work. I can see some support issues coming up if the switch is made without serious preparation.

Everything is possible but a switch mid semester looks to be rough.  I hope it doesn’t come to that.

1 comment:

Stephen Cerruti said...

Zoom had been offering free services for schools forced to close. Something to be aware of.

My son had played around with twitch streaming his programming. This is something I've thought about adding into my normal teaching and would be useful in an online situation.