Sep 012018

The Fall 2018 semester begins in 4 days and I’ve been working hard for the last month or two on the courses I am teaching – CS-343 and CS-443. In this post, I’m going to talk about two course changes – Full POGIL and All OER.

Full POGIL and All OER

These two changes affect both courses.


POGIL is an acronym for Process Oriented Guided Inquiry Learning. It is a student-centered, group-learning instructional strategy and philosophy developed through research on how students learn best.

The POGIL Project, What is POGIL

In past semesters, I have done some POGIL or POGIL-like activities in classes. Students seemed to be highly engaged with them. When I started to lecture, engagement started to go down. So, I plan to teach entirely with POGIL activities this semester in both of my courses.

In 2015, I attended the 3-day Northeast Regional POGIL Workshop held at Muhlenberg College, in the Introductory Track. That gave me the basics about how to teach with POGIL, I used it occasionally, mostly using activities that had been written by Stoney Jackson at Western New England University, or Clif Kussmaul at Muhlenberg.

I also tried to write some activities of my own, which were generally better than lecturing, but didn’t really fit the full POGIL methodology. So, this summer, I decided to attend the 3-day 2018 Northeast Regional POGIL Workshop (at Manhattan College), and take the Writing Activities track.

But before I went to the workshop, I decided to go all-in and teach CS-140 this summer as a full POGIL course. This was a good time to try this experiment because I had a small class (only 6 students) and I knew that there were a lot of already written activities for CS1 (Introductory programming) in Java. I used the activities from Chris Mayfield (at James Madison University). I read all of his activities, and soon decided that I would have to write some of my own. But having such a great collection of activities from Chris helped me generalize the structure of the activities and write some of my own.

Now I am writing all my own activities for my two courses this semester. This will be a challenge to keep up with, and I’m sure they will not always perfectly follow the POGIL learning cycle, but it feel confident that these will be a good start that I can improve upon for future semesters.


In Fall 2017, I applied for and received an Open Educational Resources Initiative (OERI) mini-grant from the Worcester State University Library. I used it to teach CS 343 without a textbook. I did the same with CS 348 in Spring 2018 (without a grant). This semester I will be continuing by using OER in CS-343 again and eliminating the textbook from CS-443.

One of the reasons I decided to go full POGIL is that the activities replace much of the reading material in the courses. I can write an activity that introduces the concepts and terminology to the students for the first time, and then assign them some online readings for more details.

It’s great that I can save the students money with OER instead of a textbook, but from my perspective the most important feature of OER in my classes is that I can organize the class around material that I feel is important to the students. Often the course topics in these upper-level software development courses cannot be covered in a single book – I would have to assign 3 or 4 books to cover the areas, and I would use only part of each book. And I’m very fortunate that Computer Science is a field where practitioners feel compelled to document what they do, what tools they use, and how they work, on the Web providing me with a large collection of materials I can assign to my students.

Still to come…

In future posts, I’ll discuss Specification/Competency Grading, Self-Directed Professional Development Blog Entries, as well as changes in tools that I am using this semester.