CASE STUDY

Wright State University uses Codio to deliver programming courses to CS and Non-CS Majors

WSU faculty use Codio's virtual machine architecture to design introductory programming courses

Authored By

Mateen Rizki

Chair of the Department of Computer Science and Engineering
Prof. Rizki is actively engaged in research in the fields of pattern recognition and bio-informatics. He teaches several programming courses at various levels.

Erik Buck

Computer Science Instructor
Erik has had a long career in the industry, much of that time active in the aerospace sector. Erik has also authored several popular books, including Cocoa Design Patterns and Learning OpenGL ES for iOS: A Hands-on Guide to Modern 3D Graphics Programming.

About Wright State University

37,000+

Students

70

Computer Science Programs

27

CS Faculty Members

Courses Taught Using Codio

  1. Introductory Programming for CS Majors
  2. Introductory Programming for Non-CS Majors
  3. Operating System Concepts

How Codio is Used at Wright State University

Codio is used in a variety of praktikums and labs. Thus far, it is used primarily at the undergraduate level, but there are plans to expand across the department.

Because everything in Codio is a VM with an integrated IDE, a killer combination, we can configure assignments with any programming languages and components we choose. We can set it up to our own exact specification. Students can also create their coding projects needing nothing more than a browser.

We have made extensive use of the curriculum authoring tool, called Codio Guides, as a way of delivering instructional content. In addition, we can assess and monitor student progress.

Both auto and manual grading are extensively used to allow faculty to always have a clear overview of how students are progressing at all times. Codio’s instant access to student code is a key feature that faculty rely on to significantly streamline key student interactions.

There are many “student engagement and management” tools but none of these are subject specific. What sets Codio apart is its focus on CS. The student management and coding specific features give a unique experience when compared with anything else we have considered in the past, both for students and faculty.

Using Codio, we have reached a higher level of “feel” for student progress and gained far more insight than previously. In the past, we would require students keep a work journal and document what they did during project assignments. With the combination of progress monitoring tools and instant access to student VMs and code, we no longer have to do this, saving time and administrative work for both students and faculty. We can see everything they have done and are doing whenever we choose.

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Why Codio

Key Factors
  1. The ability to configure environments of any complexity that can be accessed as easily at home on students’ own PCs as on a lab PC. 
  2. Auto-graded questions and auto-graded code assessments
  3. Manual grading of project assignments
  4. Ability to instantly access student code whenever required
  5. Each assignment is a full-powered VM that can be configured with any programming language, database, component, etc., even providing sudo level privileges
  6. Knowing that all students would start each assignment with the exact same configuration, no matter how complex
  7. Being web-based, we didn’t have to act as support staff for students’ own laptops and this allows us to spend more time teaching

There have been many benefits to using Codio at WSU. Some of the benefits were clear to us before we adopted the platform. However, some of the most exciting benefits were rather unexpected and have led to new technology approaches.

The time saving for students and faculty is huge. For example, the killer combination of a VM with an integrated IDE and class monitoring tools means we no longer require students to keep a work journal to document their project assignments.

The time saving for students and faculty is huge.

 

The Codio Difference

Key Benefits
  1. Curriculum authoring coupled with the flexiblility of Codio's virtual machines allows instructors to design their own projects
  2. Student learning insights and keystroke data allow TAs to understand the way students are building their code
  3. Auto-grading and instant feedback enrichs the student experience by providing instant feedback

Having become more experienced using Codio, we have developed methodologies that changed the way we teach.

In many classes, the lecturer now uses the classroom projector to show different student assignment projects as well as the lecturer’s own solution. This has led to a new and highly collaborative approach to classes where it is shown there are many valid and different solutions, and sometimes superior to the lecturer’s own solutions! We also discuss and diagnose problems with student solutions.

The benefits of a VM only became fully clear a little while later. Now, lecturers and TAs can design projects that allow them to monitor the progress in greater detail, track the command history and coding history to gain a far deeper understanding of the challenges faced by individuals and the class as a whole.

The strategic use of simple MCQ assessments, and their results clearly displayed in the Teacher Dashboard allows faculty to clearly see whether students are taking due care when reading the teaching materials properly and how fast they are moving through them. This has led to unprecedented insights into class behavior.

In the past, students did not get meaningful feedback until their assignments were turned in. Now, faculty can instantly review, compile and run student code when students ask for assistance or they want to review progress manually.

We now often show different example projects in a class to illustrate or reinforce concepts. Being able to pre-prepare these examples, no matter how different or complex each stack configuration, makes for a more engaging experience. Each example running in its own isolated environment and booting up in a couple of seconds enables us to do this seamlessly.

The Importance of a Blended Auto-Grading and Manual Grading Approach

We spend a six-figure sum each year on grading assignments. We will now convert many of our manually graded assignments into auto-graded coding assessments. We fully expect to be able to make cost savings in the tens of thousands of dollars by using Codio’s auto-grading functionality.

We anticipate that at least 80% of our auto-grade assessments can take advantage of Codio’s “Standard Autograding” feature, a feature that was originally suggested by WSU. The advantage of this feature is that it lets code tests be graded without needing to write a single line of testing code.

We have also developed an approach to student progress monitoring based upon the use of multiple choice and “fill in the blank” questions. Within the Guides tutorial content we embed a series of simple questions that allows faculty to monitor how thoroughly students are reading the subject matter. This ability to monitor student engagement is especially useful in the context of the flipped classroom where students are expected to prepare for a class.

LMS Integration

We use the Desire2Learn LMS platform for managing students and classes. Codio integrates very nicely with D2L and the mapping between D2L assignments and Codio Units is quick and easy to configure. For access to more detailed assessment information, time spent statistics and direct access to student code, we use Codio’s own LMS features, which nicely coexist with D2L.

The time savings are huge

Mateen Rizki

"With Codio, we have instant access to student VMs and code. The time saving for students and faculty is huge."

 

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