‘Challenges’ in undergraduate TOM programme modules.

The ‘Challenge’ was introduced in 2013-2014 as a new learning form. A Challenge is one full-day event per week in which 1st year Computer Science (Technische Informatica) students study, design and implement a solution to a computer network-related problem. Challenges are fairly ‘closed’ i.e. pre-determined, allowing for students to learn as an independent team.

In the Challenges, groups of two students worked together in a learner-centered setting. The teaching and learning environment allowed online assessment and immediate scoring of results. Scores were public in the class room, supporting competition as a motivator. In addition, a prize was awarded to the team with the highest score. An example of a Challenge: to design and implement a slotted medium access protocol in Java. 

The key objective was to (intrinsically and extrinsically) motivate students to learn. Most students highly appreciated this new learning form. 

  • Students’ motivation was high; most students appreciated the Challenges, including competition, highly.
  • Impact on learning of theory and insights gained was difficult to assess. 
  • Delivering this module to students from two different programmes will involve specific  attention for: difference in prior learning, e.g. verbal and written communications skills; CS has the parallel math line delivered (1st year(, whereas the EE math line has ended (2nd year).
  • Finding lab space of sufficient capacity is not trivial.
  • Students often get into problems with computer programming , causing the emphasis to shift from the actual computer networking problem at hand, to programming difficulties. Two causes of this can be identified: simply lack of programming fluency, and insufficiently thorough analysis of the problem. Teachers need to be aware of this and to urge students to think before they start programming