Positive features about the group lab
- Expanded time for more hands on experiences with supervision
and feedback (as with any lab)
- Increased number of situations where thinking is articulated, to write
down the submitted answer, and to communicate with other members in
- Greater instructor awareness of what other students are thinking,
and can do.
- Availability to students of relevant information
- Notes and work accessible to all in group for subsequent retrieval
The art of making up group exercises
Exercises can be simple yet still effective. Asking students to provide
written explanations of conceptual material (e.g. "What's wrong with
the following attempt at a mutual exclusion algorithm?") can generate
as much interest as a programming problem.
Group lab difficulties
- Group dynamics: how to get all (especially the shy or intimidated)
- Peer Led Team Learning (PLTL) techniques might be effective, but would
require more instructional staff for what is only a moderate-sized course
by Drexel standards.
- "Lecture hostile" environment: Discreet access to the Internet
and arrangements of furniture where small groups of people facing each
other is not the ideal environment for giving a lecture.
- Custom-designed furniture and a room of different dimensions would
improve things but this was not feasible given our budget and environment.
Appropriate use of WebCT On-line quizzes
WebCT on-line quizzes are time consuming to produce, but they can provide
automated instant feedback to a student. Questions that require short
answers could be graded on-line fairly quickly and had the advantage of
avoiding large amounts of paper accumulating in the instructor's office.
We found the administration of no- or low-credit quizzes as a way of giving
students early warning about whether they were keeping up with the rest
of the class on examinable material.
No controls yet for secure administration of exams via WebCT at
this point requires either custom-designed IT.
Feasibility and innovation
- Attempts at innovative use of IT in instruction sometimes founder
on the shoals of feasibility -- too expensive or too time-consuming
to make it a part of routine -- than on a lack of IT features or ideas.
- The Drexel group lab suggests that commodity status of the relevant
equipment, ubiquitous networking, plus web-based course materials makes
it feasible to support a different mode of instruction based on group
collaborative work on either conceptual or programming material.
- Such a classroom can provide an environment where students can more
actively engaged in the course material -- or it can be more obvious
to the instructor that interest is low or confusion is high.
- Though not ideal, the classroom does appear to be livable and usable
over an entire course on a variety of topics. This is a better indicator
of long-term acceptance than having a room with the most features initially.