How to save time and teach programming more effectively

Are you a programming instructor looking to save time and improve the effectiveness of your teaching?


Teaching programming can be daunting, as students often struggle to navigate various topics. So, it’s essential to explore innovative and practical approaches that promote a better understanding of programming concepts.


In this blog post, we explore two techniques that can help: real-time coding and a combination of manual and automatic grading. We will also discuss the importance of providing effective feedback and support to students.


Let’s help students learn to program better and faster!

Programming - Computer screen


1. Learn by doing, code in real-time

Real-time coding involves live programming while verbalizing the process, making the learning process more active than traditional methods such as using slides to teach. As your students watch, ensure you talk about the mental process of identifying the problems, troubleshoot errors, pause to ask questions, and let students predict the code. Real-time coding helps students identify and solve a problem step by step, and learners see that instructors can make mistakes, boosting confidence in their abilities.


Benefits of real-time coding

There are several benefits to using real-time coding in your teaching.

  • You can follow your learners’ interests and answer questions about the codes.
  • Students learn to solve problems through real-life examples, enhancing knowledge transfer.
  • A 2021 study by the Human-Computer Interaction Institute showed that learning is more effective when active, and engaging students through interactive activities such as real-time coding improves academic performance compared to regular lectures. It allows students to express their thoughts and get feedback through interaction.

How to implement real-time coding

The execution of real-time coding involves writing a computer program in front of your students, showing the programming process, and not revealing a perfect solution.

To implement real-time coding, you need to:

  1. Gather crucial technology to support real-time programming: Identify tools that allow for collaborative editing and communication via chat or video especially for remote teaching
  2. Choose a coding problem to solve: Select a programming exercise and language depending on your class’ skill level and age. The language should be challenging to keep the students alert but still be familiar to them.
  3. Describe real-time coding: Your learner must understand the meaning of real-time coding. Describe what you will demonstrate and their input in making predictions.

A step-by-step example of how to execute real-time coding

There are different ways to execute real-time coding. The following process is one way.

  1. Code a simple program part, such as asking for user input. Run the program as you describe the mental process of what is happening to ensure your students follow.
  2. Edit the program for a different result. You can add functionality or make it complex to show different outcomes.
  3. Invite the student to predict an outcome before rerunning the program. Let them discuss in pairs to liven up the classroom.
  4. Run the code while observing the outcome. If the result is not as expected, remark on the surprising development and describe any error. Help students understand how to isolate, test, and rectify mistakes.
  5. Pass off the program to students for them to complete in pairs. You don’t need to complete the program. Let students complete the code to enhance understanding.

You can record the live coding sessions so students can revisit the content. Using real-time coding in your teaching approach can make a significant impact on performance. As shown in a 2014 study, implementing active learning increased student performance in engineering, science, and mathematics. The results indicated that lectures increased failure rates, while active learning improved examination performance.


2. Assignments with manual and automatic grading

Combining manual and automatic grading tools provides deeper insights and enables personalized student feedback. With auto-grading, you can quickly receive feedback on code assignments, while manual grading allows for in-line comments and the use of rubrics to evaluate more open-ended questions.


Manual grading

Manual grading is particularly useful for an essay or text-based questions, allowing you to grade these types of assignments manually from your dashboard. 


Automatic grading

Automatic grading involves a system that grades assignments in a digital learning environment. Students can use this system to check the accuracy of their program assignments. With automatic grading, you can specify the language, libraries, compilers, or other dependencies you want to evaluate. You can create an autograder script and other supporting codes, and the platform will run your automatic grader at scale, distributing the results to both you and your students.

Benefits of automatic grading

  • Provides instant feedback after students submit their assignments. Instant feedback quickens the learning process and allows you to focus on areas for improvement instead of grading assignments. It improves performance while saving time.
  • Frees up time for the instructor to give individualized attention to each student. 
  • Eliminates biases, as the automatic grading system is objective. Human graders can be biased since some are tough while others are lenient in grading. The scoring system also avoids negative comments and makes the results less personal.

How to assess using manual and automated grading and feedback 

The following strategies will help you create practical automated feedback activities.

  • Write codes and feedback that match your expected learning outcomes.
  • Create codes or programming assignments that challenge learners. 
  • Create different questions for each topic to provide variety and make copying difficult.
  • Write clear, concise questions that emphasize critical thinking.
  • Set up your grading system in a learning management system that can collect all the data as students complete the assessments. The data can give you insights into improving your course and provide personalized feedback.


3. Provide feedback and support

Effective feedback is an ongoing communication, assessment, and adjustment process. Mere praise or criticism isn't enough. Instead, you must respond to your student's work and support improvement. Collaborative workspaces enable feedback, brainstorming, and sharing of research materials, private notes, and thoughts, enhancing productivity and critical thinking.

Effective feedback is:

  • Goal-oriented: Centered around a specific goal that learners understand.
  • Transparent: Clear and specific steps on how to improve towards a goal.
  • Actionable: Offers actionable steps for students to reach a goal or change results.
  • User-friendly: Concise, easy to understand and accessible to every student.
  • Timely: Feedback should be immediate to be effective.
  • Continuous: Consistent feedback improves performance by informing students how to change.
  • Focused: Should aim to change behavior, not personality. 


4. Supporting learners in programming: Peer instruction and collaborative programming services

There are two effective ways to support your learners in programming: using peer instruction and pair programming. By employing these techniques, learners can absorb course content more effectively. Let’s take a closer look at how they work. 


CL - Collaborative programming (1200x600)
Collaborative coding in Coding Lab


Use peer instruction

Peer instruction is a scalable and time-efficient teaching method that involves, but is not limited to, the following steps:

  1. Introduce a topic briefly.
  2. Pose a multiple-choice question that highlights common misconceptions.
  3. Have learners choose their answers individually, then vote on the answer as a group.
  4. Allow learners to discuss the question in small groups, then vote again.
  5. If the majority of students have the correct answer, move on. If not, discuss the misconceptions with the class.

This process provides learners with direct mentorship and allows them to clarify their thoughts. A 2020 study analyzed student answers and confidence before and after discussion, finding that peer instruction increased accuracy and improvement in correctness levels, particularly for challenging questions.


Use collaborative programming services

Collaborative programming services are a powerful tool for teaching programming. They allow you to work with your students in real-time, providing a more engaging and effective learning experience. Here are three types of collaborative programming services to consider:

Pair programming

Pair programming is a technique where two or more programmers work together on a single project, sharing an integrated development environment (IDE) tool or screen. This approach helps students learn how to program in real-life scenarios, where they can collaborate, help each other, and clarify misunderstandings when errors occur. Beginners can learn from more experienced students, and experienced students can deepen their understanding by explaining concepts.

Swarm programming

Swarm programming is where an entire team collaborates on a single project in a remote collaborative IDE. This approach is practical when multiple people must work on the same codebase simultaneously. It allows for real-time collaboration and problem-solving, making it an excellent fit for large teams working on complex projects.

Training and mentoring

Collaborative programming services can also be used for training and mentoring. By inviting others to your project, you can show and explain the code to them, helping them understand the project's architecture and logic. This approach is great for classroom settings or online coding interviews, where you can provide feedback and guidance in real-time.


Save time, teach better.

Teaching programming can be challenging, but incorporating real-time coding, manual and automatic grading, and effective feedback can make the process more efficient and effective. Real-time coding enables students to see the programming process in action, manual and automatic grading saves time while providing instant feedback, and effective feedback supports student learning and improvement.


Coding Lab provides all these tools and more to help educators teach programming more effectively. The platform allows for collaborative editing and communication, both manual and automatic grading, and provides a space for effective feedback and support.


So, if you're an educator looking to teach programming more efficiently and effectively, give Coding Lab a try.


Request a demo today and see how it can transform your classroom.