Developing a web based blended learning technique to improve computer programming competence of information technology students
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Computer-programming dexterity is an essential skill for students of computer science, information technology and engineering who are intrinsically expected to be able to do programming. However, teaching and learning computer-programming concepts and skills have been recognised as a great challenge for both teachers and students, for many reasons. Computer-programming requires new ideas in thinking and conceptualising practical solutions. It requires creative skills in solving practical, but often difficult problems. Moreover, computer-programming students, generally lack problem-solving skills and self-efficacy. They typically find it difficult to use artificial programming languages to solve challenging problems. There is the problem of poor background in science and mathematics that would help students to rapidly understand the intricacies of computer-programming. Students are not motivated to overcome the fear of the bizarre syntax of computer-programming codes. These challenges, coupled with the huge potential of computing applications in the society have made the development of effective pedagogies and environments for computer-programming courses, an important issue. To address this issue in a unique way, this study proposes to explore a web-based, blended learning technique with minimal instructor intervention, to improve the computer-programming competence of information technology students. These students are expected to have developed an acceptable level of computer-programming competence at university to be job ready and to be self-reliant in their future careers. The technique being proposed in this study was implemented in a blackboard ™/®/© web-based environment. The effectiveness of the technique was demonstrated using experimentation coupled with the data analysis method that is based on the three-parameter item response theory and retrospective pretest. The method used in this study to evaluate computer- programming competence of students reflects the perspective of the students in the evaluation process. The results of the study indeed show that using the proposed technique, information technology students dynamically collaborate with their peers with minimal instructor intervention towards improving their computer-programming competence.