S1-SP4-5 - Critical Exploration of Flexible Delivery

3. Research Work In Progress
Ville Isomöttönen1 , Ari Viinikainen1, Ville Tirronen1
1 University of Jyvaskyla, Faculty of Information Technology

This Work in Progress paper seeks to understand reasons of students' delayed study when they are provided with a flexible way of studying. Flexible delivery has been debated in computing education community for some time. Arguments for flexible courses include monetary gains from the organization's perspective. Moreover, a portion of students appear to manage and thank for the flexibility provided. On the other hand, recent observations in the literature reveal severe difficulties. For instance, students may be motivated by flexible way of study but encounter difficulties with the self-regulation required. In our view, this research area would still benefit from empirical studies that report on the various reasons underlying students' difficulties.

The present research investigates students' study patterns under flexible conditions and student-reported reasons for their way of study. Two case courses were chosen. The other is a first year course Computer Networks (5 ECTS credits) and the other is a Functional Programming course. Both courses have been divided in five parts, each worth 1 credit, and students can choose to complete the course in any amount of credits. For Computer Science majors, the final requirement of Computer Networks course is 5 credits. Similarly for Functional Programming course, CS majors have to complete a minimum of 3 out of 5 credits. This means that students' studying can extend to a long period of time regardless that these courses match the usual scenario of one-period course (appr. 8 weeks).

Descriptive statistics of completed studies showed that, for instance for the Computer Networks course of spring 2016, 35% of the students completed the course in two months and 50% of the students completed the course in 3--12 months. For some students, about 15%, it took more than a year to complete the course, latest taking over 3 years from the start of the course.

An email questionnaire was sent to students who studied in these courses. The students were asked to elaborate on whether they (dis)liked the flexibility and, then, provide reasons explaining their study habit on these courses. The analysis on students' responses allow us to identify if students refer to challenges with flexibility or instead with the academic content or other external factors. The results altogether help educators who are designing or implementing similar courses take into account student-reported challenges.

Keywords: computing education, flexible delivery, self-regulation