Empowering Student Learning Through The Development Of A Social Media Community To Support Computing Students

The annual Social Media for Learning in Higher Education conference (otherwise known as #SocHE16) has emerged as one of the premiere outlets for people using social media as part of learning and teaching to share their findings.

I took the opportunity to expand upon some of the work I’ve done to engage students in extra-curricular activities using social media, particularly focusing on hackathons and other activities aimed at Computing students.

You can see the slides for the conference presentation on my SlideShare account. They are also embedded below.

The social media presentation was also broadcast live on Periscope, which might be useful for people who were not able to attend. I do hope to turn this into a more formal paper at a later date.

One of my main conclusions from the presentation was that social media communities like this can work to engage students, but they do need continued support, particularly to avoid them from becoming elitist. Several other speakers at the event spoke about more formal communities integrated as part of other courses, with success often depending on the academic discipline.

The continued contests between Facebook and Twitter also featured heavily, with Twitter seeming to be favoured for academic use, although seeing students express a preference for communication through Facebook.

Similar observations could be seen for the live video sharing platforms, with the Twitter owned Periscope having gained more prominence for academic use, but with Facebook Live reaching a larger audience for live promotion and for subsequent archiving. I haven’t yet fully explored either option, but these will certainly be reaching increasing academic audiences over the next few years and I know are tools that I should be looking to add to my repertoire.

Do You Recognise That Exam Taker? Exploring The Changing World Of Examinations And The Students Who Are Using Contract Cheating Services To Find People To Take Their Exam For Them Video

This post contains a video version of a talk on exam cheating from the CSpace Conference at Birmingham City University. You can see the slides from the original talk on exam cheating and a short discussion here.

Robert Clarke presented the conference version of this, so if you did attend his talk, you might find that the emphasis on my video version is different. If nothing else, my presentation did not have the strict time constraints that were present for the conference video and that allowed me to explore this area of exam cheating in more depth.

The ways in which exam cheating technologies are evolving continue to astound me. There is so much more happening now than students sneaking a few notes into an examination. I fear that this will continue to be a big story in the coming months and years.

Do You Recognise That Exam Taker? Exploring The Changing World Of Examinations And The Students Who Are Using Contract Cheating Services To Find People To Take Their Exam For Them

Many academic studies looking at contract cheating think about this only from the point of view of this being a way for students to get essays, terms papers and assignments written for them.

The reality is that the definition of contract cheating extends much more widely than that. As part of wider work, I’ve recently been looking a lot at exam cheating and there are certainly mechanisms that are easily available for students to use to pay a third party to attend an examination for them.

These slides, originally presented at the CSpace Conference devoted to teaching and learning and held at Birmingham City University look further into the issues about how third parties can become involved in the exam taking process.

You can see the slides for the presentation on my SlideShare account. They are also embedded below.

The slides from the exam cheating presentation include examples of cheating seen in agency sites, as a spin-off to the work that essay mills already offer and on online classified sites. They also look at the people being paid to held students with exams through advances in technology.

There’s a whole murky underworld of exam cheating going on through students who have the money and this continues to be an area that needs research and practical solutions.

Creating An Engaged Student Community Through Hackathons Video

Based on my experience of running hackathons, I have a lot of material available for talks and teaching seminars, as well as to develop for future research.

Here is a video version of the talk I gave at a recent Learning Lab at Birmingham City University. You can see the slides from the original talk on hackathons and a short discussion here.

Without the pressure of a short time slot, I was able to expand a lot on the presentation given at the Learning Lab, giving more examples, as well as working in some ideas about how the hackathon area could be expanded to other academic disciplines.

Flipped learning activities like hackathons are of great value to students and they also allow them to develop skills that their peers may not have. They also simulate a trend that is increasingly popular in the computing industry. I think that there’s a lot of potential for them to become a core part of Computer Science and other Computing courses in the future.

MicroHack 2015 Review – Student Programming Competition Using Microsoft Azure

One of the initiatives we’ve taken at Birmingham City University this year to introduce new student opportunities and improve student employability on the BSc Computer Science course has been to encourage students to participate in Hackathons.

These Hackathons are typically time-constrained programming contests, where students work in small teams to create prototype software that meets designated requirements. Students then need to pitch or present their software to a panel.

We have been supporting sending students to Hackathon events held around the UK, with the aid of the new Hackathon and Computing Society. Students participating have been benefiting from improving their programming knowledge, exploring new technologies, meeting industrial contacts and developing interpersonal skills.

We have also recently held MicroHack, our first internal Hackathon. This was designed to improve student confidence and encourage them to participate in the external Hackathon events.

BCUMicroHackProgrammers

MicroHack was held on the afternoon and early evening of Wednesday 16 December 2015, with teams required to develop prototype software on the open theme of personal or professional development for students, with submissions using the Microsoft Azure cloud hosting platform. Oliver Vlaytchev worked with me on the organisation of the event and Liam Biddle arranged funding through Microsoft.

There was a real social buzz for the event. The student participation and results are well captured in the Storify.

The Hackathon succeeded on multiple levels, including raising the profile of the technology of our sponsor, engaging students with innovations and external practice and generating good publicity for Birmingham City University. The teams that participated presented some excellent ideas, worthy of being released products with more development time. We did run into a few minor administrative issues regarding the smooth running of the day, which are useful to know about for future larger scale events, but none which impacted on student enjoyment. We did discovered how important it is to have a large team of staff running things, all of whom have designated roles and duties.

This event was a precursor to a Hackathon with 24 hours of programming, which will be running on 29 February to 1 March 2016. We are open to ideas of technologies to use and encourage students to engage with – interested companies can feel free to contact me for more details. Importantly, we have a full university marketing push behind this BCU Hack event, which will be of benefit to everyone involved.

Following MicroHack, I’m even more confident that Hackathons are of value for students looking to enhance their programming skills. They match up well with the Birmingham City University course on BSc Computer Science and its aim to produce graduates who are work-ready for the real world. I fully intend to continue to push Hackathons and their benefits and to find ways to get more students involved with these.

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