[Photo by Mohammad Shahhosseini on Unsplash]

Winter is coming. Headlines of 169 public schools closing again in New York City hotspots as well as 298 K-12 schools closing in Petaling Jaya, Malaysia have been this week’s education highlights. With the COVID-19 pandemic still raging on towards the end of 2020, everyone’s fears have become a solidified reality. For parents and teachers, education and the accessibility of education is at the forefront of worrisome realities. As we deal with this new reality of online education, we cannot avoid the risks in lack of student engagement as well as understanding of material. Focus has shifted from worries of kids barging in the middle of a conference call to more long-term worries about how kids can effectively learn when there’s no tracking of engagement for these remote “Zoom classes”.

With schools closing due to recent spikes in coronavirus globally, education bureaus and officials face hard choices in closing down schools or keeping them open for the sake of crucial in-person education. However, there are some subjects that traditionally really require in-person teaching for effective learning. Take computer science or programming classes for example, teachers have to consistently swap screens between a PowerPoint deck and their code terminal to demonstrate abstract concepts. If the student’s internet bandwidth is low — chances are no one can clearly see what each line of code is through the quality of a Zoom lecture. Then you have lab time where, in normal pre-COVID circumstances, a TA would walk around helping individual students fixing their code line-by-line with specific focus on syntax-level details. All of this makes computer science classes a lot harder to teach under these remote conditions. We here at Coding Rooms have been working hard to solve programming instructor and student woes during this time. We hope to provide a seamless platform for instructors not only effectively teach in real-time, but to also track insightful student engagement metrics.

Despite technologies such as Zoom and Webex enabling remote teaching to happen, as an instructor, you really cannot see everyone’s faces or what they are doing all at the same time. There are no mechanisms to track how engaged your students really are. We have seen a lot of viral videos or social media posts in recent months of students doing all sorts of crazy things in the middle of a remote lecture such as cooking, working out, or even just watching TV. Although in the short-run this is funny, but it really illustrates a long-term issue with schools closing down again. Unsurprisingly, many colleges are stating that all classes taken this year would be pass-fail — however, this is only a short term solution for a much bigger issue of failing student engagement.

Coding Rooms is the world’s first online classrooms platform for teaching programming online. We really saw the issue of instructors who teach programming also have a limited capacity to track everything that goes on in the classroom. To effectively manage a lecture with demoing programming concepts in a terminal, while at the same time tracking student engagement sure sounds like a lot for one person to handle. Even in-person teaching would have at least a TA or two to help during class or lab time. Therefore, we enabled the ability to track student activity by keystrokes. The key difference in programming lessons compared to other classes is the fact that you really have to type code in your own style to answer class questions. If the instructor holds some key exercises during a class and see’s a student was last active 33mins ago — chances are he/she’s probably watching the NBA playoffs.

For all the reasons I’ve discussed, EdTech (education technology) have since become a booming industry due to the effects of COVID. As we continue to improve our platform, one of the key issues that I feel many EdTech companies are facing is still trying to resolve is the issue of tracking student engagement. There is a lot of room for research and development into what makes sense for both the teacher and the student. It is hard to analyze and extrapolate meaningful data when it comes to student engagement because we never really considered the environment where teachers can no longer see their students in the middle of teaching a lesson. Hence, there’s no reliable data to begin with. It really is back to the drawing board and collecting insightful data from our use-cases to continue improving our platform. Despite all the hardships and difficulties in teaching/learning remotely, this is a useful time for all people in the EdTech industry to revolutionize and improve the quality of online education like never before.

For more information on Coding Rooms, check out our website and social media accounts below:

Youtube — https://www.youtube.com/c/CodingRooms
Twitter — https://twitter.com/codingrooms?lang=en
Facebook — https://www.facebook.com/CodingRooms/
Reddit — https://www.reddit.com/r/CodingRooms/
Twitch — https://www.twitch.tv/codingrooms
LinkedIn — https://www.linkedin.com/company/codingrooms
Github — https://github.com/marketplace/coding-rooms
Instagram — https://www.instagram.com/codingrooms/