Ateneo ITE Director Presents Successful Python Online Classroom Program at International Education Conference

December 22, 2020
Carlo San Agustin

Ateneo Information Technology Entrepreneurship (ITE) co-program director and John Gokongwei School of Management (JGSOM) faculty member Joseph Benjamin (JB) Ilagan presented his paper on adjusting his Python programming course to the online learning environment during the 28th International Conference on Computer Education (ICCE) on November 28.

JB Ilagan (ITE co-program director; JGSOM faculty member)

In the year of social distancing, education was pushed to adapt and innovate as classrooms shift to video calls and online modules. Ilagan notes that it was particularly tricky to teach a Python course over the internet to business students who did not possess a substantial background in programming. “What makes the situation more challenging is that the social learning and mentoring aspects to get them to at least be open and perform well in a computer programming course are gone; there are no more face-to-face classes and consultations with teachers and fellow students,” he says.

The online course was designed in conjunction with Fr. Johnny Go’s Adaptive Design for Learning (ADL) principles from the Ateneo Science and Art of Learning and Teaching (SALT) Institute. The course structure, level of dialogue, and recognition of students’ autonomy were guided by these principles to deliver the necessary learning outcomes.

"In many ways, students are coping and learning more than we think.”
What materialized was a course design that was mostly asynchronous, with synchronous sessions mostly reserved only for project consultations. Personal consultations were made available through Facebook Messenger private messaging. Assessments, meanwhile, were designed as “mini-tutorials” to encourage comfortable learning while taking exams. “Everything was open notes, with generous time periods for submission,” says Ilagan. “I was more after the learning than them getting the grades they ‘deserved’.”
A sample of Python's framework

Students themselves were able to enjoy the new experience under Ilagan’s innovative course adjustments. “Compared to other online classes I've taken, I actually liked his approach the best because I actually learned a lot but it's not as pressuring,” says Joyce Ong, a second year Management Engineering student. Ong adds that the course design allowed for “more concrete” applications of programming and gave her a clearer direction in terms of pursuing a career involving programming.

With the success of the implementation and encouragement from Dr. Didith Rodrigo of the Ateneo Laboratory for the Learning Sciences (ALLS), Ilagan documented his online course design experience through a short paper titled "Overcoming Transactional Distance when Conducting Online Classes on Programming for Business Students: A COVID-19 Experience" which was submitted to and later presented at the ICCE.

“There are lots of concerns about online learning in general,” Ilagan says. “However, in many ways, students are coping and learning more than we think.” He adds that in light of the online environment, he expects teachers to be “hard pressed” in meeting the raised expectations of students with regards to learning.