Part of the 4TU.Federation
4TU.
Centre for
Engineering Education

Project introduction and background information

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. 

Objective and expected outcomes

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

Results and learnings

  • Students’ motivation was high; most students appreciated the Challenges, including competition, highly.
  • Impact on learning of theory and insights gained was difficult to assess. 

Recommendations

  • 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.