Edge
Hill University’s innovative use of robotics in the teaching of computer
programming has recently been recognised, with staff and students invited to
take part in a national event.

‘BOTShop’,
organised by the Higher Education Academy and
hosted by the University of Derby, discussed both practical and educational benefits
of the use of robotics within teaching.
 

“Programming
can be a challenging subject for students to learn as there is usually a fear
factor attached,” explains Senior Lecturer in Computing, Collette Gavan.
“Students often see the subject as difficult or mathematical, so we’ve tried to
make it fun as well as challenging to help them engage more fully.”
 

Dr
Mark Anderson, fellow Senior Lecturer in Computing adds, “We’ve worked to broaden
student activities within the programming modules by using robots. This has
proven to be highly successful and led us to create an undergraduate Application
Development route, specifically exploring programming in an original and
captivating environment.”
 

On
receiving the invitation, Collette and Mark asked a number of students to
accompany them to the event so they too could showcase their knowledge and
talents. “Rather than just presenting ideas we thought our participation would
be far more effective if a party of students, from across the year groups, accompanied
us to demonstrate the work they had successfully completed,” says Collette.
“This also gave our students the opportunity to describe in person how they had
benefitted from their learning experiences.”
 

First
year student, Aaron Mulholland, who was chosen to attend the event comments, “Taking
part in an academic event such as this, and having the chance to offer my
opinions about how well our course works, has been a fantastic opportunity for
me.”
 

Aaron
believes he is truly benefitting from Edge Hill’s approach. “A lot of what we
do, especially in programming, requires a practical hands-on approach which, in
my experience, enables you to come up with solutions to the most difficult challenges.
I find this process definitely works as you get to work on a project while you
learn.”
 

This
is a belief Mark also agrees with and feels that all six students who took part
in the event gained a great deal from the experience. “The students definitely came
away with a sense of pride in their subject, in their course and in Edge Hill
University itself. It was great for them to be able to see that the work they
are successfully achieving is at the forefront of learning within higher
education”, says Mark. “The feedback that we received from the audience was
extremely positive.”
 

With
the students’ assured performance impressing their audience, there has now been
interest from other institutions. “A number of participants at the event have since
contacted us, expressing interest in working collaboratively on funded projects
to further develop the use of robotics in teaching,” explains Collette. “We are
also investigating the possibilities of running a workshop at Edge Hill in the
future and leading a Computing project to enhance our provision in this
respect.”
 

For
further information about studying computing at Edge Hill University, visit: https://www.edgehill.ac.uk/business/courses/computing