Asee peer logo

A Comparison of Students Learning Programming with Online Modules, Instruction, and Team Activities

Download Paper |


2018 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Salt Lake City, Utah

Publication Date

June 23, 2018

Start Date

June 23, 2018

End Date

July 27, 2018

Conference Session

First-year Programs Division: Online Learning

Tagged Division

First-Year Programs

Page Count




Permanent URL

Download Count


Request a correction

Paper Authors


Jacqueline C. McNeil University of Louisville Orcid 16x16

visit author page

J.C. McNeil is an Assistant Professor for the Department of Engineering Fundamentals at University of Louisville. Research interests include First Year engineering, diversity in engineering, persistence, retention, co-op experiences, and longitudinal data. Contact email:

visit author page


Angela Thompson P.E. University of Louisville

visit author page

Dr. Angela Thompson is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Engineering Fundamentals at the University of Louisville. Dr. Thompson received her PhD in Mechanical Engineering from the University of Louisville. Her research interests are in biomechanics and engineering education, particularly related to first-year programs and critical thinking instruction.

visit author page


Nicholas Hawkins University of Louisville Orcid 16x16

visit author page

Nicholas Hawkins is a Graduate Teaching Assistance in the Engineering Fundamentals Department at the University of Louisville. A PhD student in Electrical and Computer Engineering, he received both his B.S. and M. Eng. from the University of Louisville in the same field. His research interests include power electronics and controls, as well as engineering education for first-year students.

visit author page

Download Paper |


This paper investigates how first-year students learn programming through lectures involving team-based activities. Although programming instruction has traditionally been performed through individual means, advocates of “pair-programming” provide support for collaborative learning in software engineering. While these studies have explored dyads of programming students, this study goes further and investigates the effects of learning introductory computer programming in teams of four or five students. The primary research questions being investigated in this paper include: 1) how do team-based activities affect student participation?, 2) do team-based activities improve learning outcomes on programming assignments?, and 3) did student-reported effort, time, and value of programming change between the two years? To answer these questions, data was collected from an introductory engineering course contributing five weeks to programming instruction. Two sets of data have been collected: the initial set from an entirely individual, module version of the curriculum (Fall 2016), and the second set from a curriculum with added lectures and team-based activities (Fall 2017). Homework performance data were collected from the set of problems common to both years, along with the results of a survey taken by students about their perceptions of the programming portion of the course. Statistical analysis revealed no significant difference in overall homework scores between the two years, but there was a significant increase in scores on programming projects, which were a set of more challenging problems at the end of Chapters 2-5 homework assignments. Average number of attempts per problem and number of problems completed did not change significantly between the two years. Results of the survey show that students generally perceived a lower workload and felt that the programming material was more valuable to them with in-class lectures and team activities. Future direction based on this study indicate the potential need for more in-class instruction, either in the form of more team activities or lectures. Pair programming, dyads, has been shown to be successful in the literature and will be considered in this course in the future.

McNeil, J. C., & Thompson, A., & Hawkins, N. (2018, June), A Comparison of Students Learning Programming with Online Modules, Instruction, and Team Activities Paper presented at 2018 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition , Salt Lake City, Utah. 10.18260/1-2--29665

ASEE holds the copyright on this document. It may be read by the public free of charge. Authors may archive their work on personal websites or in institutional repositories with the following citation: © 2018 American Society for Engineering Education. Other scholars may excerpt or quote from these materials with the same citation. When excerpting or quoting from Conference Proceedings, authors should, in addition to noting the ASEE copyright, list all the original authors and their institutions and name the host city of the conference. - Last updated April 1, 2015