Centre for Scholarship and Innovation
Winner of the 5th eSTEeM Scholarship Projects of the Year Awards 2022.
Pair programming is typically taught in face-to-face classes to enhance students' coding expertise. Distance learning students have little or less opportunity for that enhancement. Difficulties in providing a pair programming experience for students are not exclusive to the OU: they were experienced by other higher education institutions which switched delivery modes as a result of the 2020-21 pandemic, being forced to design, develop and implement online and distance learning education. Whilst the technical logistics of remote pair programming are not particularly problematic, the design of the educational logistics needs sensitivity. Educators may wonder if the effort required to arrange remote pair programming is worthwhile, particularly given that partnerships need to be arranged between students who have never met, as is the situation for the OU.
This remote pair programming project was designed to explore the non-technical benefits of different methods of experiencing remote pair programming. Results indicate that students perceived that working remotely with another student increased their verbal communication skills and their ability to collaborate, problem solve, make decisions, and take initiatives –- and slightly enhanced their sense of learning from others. Paradoxically, the area which most merits further support is in feeling connected to others in a module, which is a key issue for Open University students and for others in education in a locked-down pandemic world. However, other benefits identified by participants related to reassurance, mentoring, and learning to ask for help –- and student participants were keen for further understanding of the experience of programming in the real world. We provide recommendations for module teams and tutors to consider when designing remote pair programming experiences.