“Programming is boring”
With these words began a Design Lab lecture at Campus London. The two speakers Jenny and Regina were presenting a case study of developing NoobLab tool, an intelligent learning environment for teaching programming. The speakers had just concluded an eight month project at Kingston University, where the goal was to develop an existing service to improve student engagement and provide a better tool for students, through which they could follow their own learning path.
The speakers had researched how university students were learning programming and found that there were many challenges in the teaching. Through research they found out that many students struggle with following and internalizing the teachings and only experience superficial learning. Many also suffered from the idea that “programming is boring”.
It was interesting to hear about this the development project where active learning was used as the framework. This is a form of learning in which teaching strives to involve students in the learning process more directly than in other methods and which mimics real life structures and situations.
“Active learning is a process that has student learning at its centre. Active learning focuses on how students learn, not just on what they learn. Students are encouraged to ‘think hard’, rather than passively receive information from the teacher.” Source: Cambridge
Learning Experience Design (LX design), which was a new concept to me personally, was the design and research approach of the study. This holistic and human-centered design process focuses on the learner in order to find goal oriented ways of learning.
As research was done in three stages: Learn, Build and Deploy. In the image above all the different research aspects can be seen, but the speakers delved into just a few of the methods. The Learn stage included User interviews, Personas, User journeys, Learner Journeys, Learning analytics, Heuristic evaluation and Competitor analysis. Build stage included Content audit, Framework, User testing, Ideation as well as Wireframing and Prototyping. The research ended with the Deploy stage, where the service was piloted and tested. This data will be used for further iterations.
“Learning experience design is the process of creating learning experiences that enable the learner to achieve the desired learning outcome in a human centered and goal oriented way.” Source: Learning Experience Design
Using Service design tools
During the lecture, the speakers introduced two of the service design tools, which they used in their research: Personas and Prototyping.
Personas were created based on the interviews with 23 students, aged 18 to 35. Within the programming student group the researchers developed six different personas: 1) The Follower, 2) Medal Hunter, 3) Coding Enthusiast, 4) Expert Coder, 5) The Helper and 6) Anti Persona. These personas were then put in a matrix based on their motivation and personal plan for learning and four user groups could be identified.
Prototyping was done in three different staged. First a low fidelity paper prototype was created of the improved tool, where for example changes in navigation were included. After that a wireframe was created which was tested with real programming students. Based on the feedback and comments received, as the last step, a high fidelity prototype of the learning environment, which was close to the final product in elements and visuals, was presented and tested with students.
According to the speakers, the feedback from the testers was extremely positive, and a future project for implementation and piloting was given a green light. The new and improved learning environment will be launched and tested with students in the future in hopes that the testing results will prove an increase in student engagement and enhancement in their learning curve.
Below are images of the NoobLab tool before and after the research. The new version is more visual with better navigation and different ways for students to engage and follow the path of their learning.
Read more: NooLab: An intelligent learning environment for teaching programming
Written by: Leena Salo, SID student