Authors: Jesse V. Johnson, Mike Abia and Rejoice Quest
Abstract: “Data Structures and Algorithms” is a required second year course Computing, Informatics and Engineering students at the Namibian University of Science and Technology. In the first semester of the 2016 school year, the course was changed from a conventional, lecture-based to a blended offering that involved both online and face-to-face instruction. Here, we report on the impacts the changes to the course had on students, focusing on how those changes effected various subpopulations formed by gender, major area of study, English language, and mathematics skills. We found that the changes in the format of the course were positive with regard to final grades, and have the greatest positive effect on students with poor English preparation. Proxies for the students’ effort were estimated from online records of attempts at online exercises, performance on online exercises, and online lectures accessed. The strength of correlation between effort and course performance varied considerably, indicating that the metrics for effort may be flawed, or that some types of activities will not be taken up by students without additional incentive. An important measure of the success of the blended course is the workload offering requires. Short interviews conducted with five instructors indicate that it was reduced in significant ways. Collectively, our findings suggest that blended learning can improve outcomes while reducing workload in a country like Namibia. Similarities between Namibia and other developing countries exist, and based on our results, instructors in similar circumstances should be encouraged to experiment with similar classroom techniques.
Keywords: MOOC; blended instruction; hybrid classrooms; Nambia; developing nations; Southern Africa; computing; informatics; gender; English as a second language