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Applying Slack to Help Teach Computer Science and Computer Engineering Courses

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Conference

2020 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access

Location

Virtual On line

Publication Date

June 22, 2020

Start Date

June 22, 2020

End Date

June 26, 2021

Conference Session

Software Engineering Division Technical Session 1

Tagged Division

Software Engineering Division

Page Count

17

DOI

10.18260/1-2--34158

Permanent URL

https://peer.asee.org/34158

Download Count

26

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Paper Authors

biography

Chao Chen Purdue University, Fort Wayne

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Dr. Chao Chen is currently an Associate Professor of Computer Engineering in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering at Purdue University Fort Wayne, where she has been since 2005. She received her M.S. and Ph.D. degrees from Georgia Institute of Technology in 2003 and 2005, respectively. She also earned B.E. and M.E. degrees from Shanghai Jiao Tong University, China in 1998 and 2001, respectively. Prior to joining Purdue Fort Wayne, she was a graduate research assistant in the Broadband and Wireless Networking Laboratory at Georgia Institute of Technology.

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biography

Zesheng Chen Purdue University, Fort Wayne

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Dr. Chen is an assistant professor in the Department of Computer Science at Purdue University Fort Wayne. He received his M.S. and Ph.D. degrees from the School of Electrical and Computer Engineering at the Georgia Institute of Technology in 2005 and 2007. He also holds B.E. and M.E. degrees from the Department of Electronic Engineering at Shanghai Jiao Tong University, Shanghai, China in 1998 and 2001, respectively. He worked as an assistant professor in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering at Florida International University from 2007 to 2009. He moved to Fort Wayne in 2009 and worked as a limited term lecturer in the Department of Engineering and in the Department of Computer Science from 2009 to 2015 at Indiana University - Purdue University Fort Wayne. He also worked as a software engineer at TransWorks from 2012 to 2015.

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Abstract

Communication is one of keys for classroom teaching and project management. To help provide better communication, three things are desirable: (1) Prompt communication. For example, in a class exercise, if a student comes up with a good solution for coding implementation, it is desired that the student can share the example with the instructor and other students in a simple and quick way. (2) Group communication. Course projects and senior design projects require an easy, prompt, and convenient method to communicate beyond face-to-face meetings. (3) Forum. Similar to well-known stack overflow, students want to have an online forum to get their questions answered, like “virtual office hours.”

We, as instructors to computer science and computer engineering courses, apply an online tool, called Slack, to provide better communication to our students at XXX University. Slack enables a convenient way for instantly messaging, centralizing notifications, discussing solutions, sharing information, and collaborating work. Moreover, the free version of Slack allows ten thousand searchable messages, ten applications and integrations, and one-to-one video calls, which is sufficient for classroom teaching, course projects, and senior design projects. So far, there are more than ten million daily active users for Slack, and 65 of the Fortune 100 companies use Slack.

We apply Slack to teach two computer science courses, two computer engineering courses, and two senior design projects during Fall 2019. We explore Slack in the following five perspectives: (1) Sharing information. In each course, we created a Slack workspace and used a dedicated channel to provide class announcements, important class notes, and examples from students during class exercises. (2) Answering questions. Similar to forum, students can post their questions in Slack and get answers from the instructor, the teaching assistant, or other students. (3) Collaborating projects. For course projects or senior design projects, a channel is used for project discussions, progress reports, and file shares. For example, in one course, 27 students use Slack to share their “weekly scrum,” instead of using class time. (4) Providing examples. In the Web Design course, we use Slack as an excellent example to show concepts or implementations, such as HTTP, front-end pages, and WebSocket. (5) Promoting helping each other. Slack makes conversations between students more visible to instructors, so that we can encourage students to help each other and recognize students who contribute more to the courses.

To measure the effectiveness of applying Slack in our teaching, we plan to conduct several surveys at the end of Fall 2019 semester. We will ask students their opinions about five perspectives in the above and get comments or feedback on the impact of Slack on their learning. We believe that Slack serves as an excellent online tool for improving the communication between students and instructors and among students in a project.

Chen, C., & Chen, Z. (2020, June), Applying Slack to Help Teach Computer Science and Computer Engineering Courses Paper presented at 2020 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access, Virtual On line . 10.18260/1-2--34158

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