What’s working well in remote computing education?

26 January 2021

A recent Ofsted report sought to summarise research into what works well in remote learning. In addition to signposting the relevant parts of the National Centre for Computing Education (NCCE) offer, we asked our Subject Matter Experts what works well in their virtual classroom.

Although learning looks a little different to this time last year, “everything we know about what a quality curriculum looks like still applies” according to Ofsted. Building knowledge in carefully sequenced blocks, not too much at a time, and assessing knowledge remains important including when you’re using textbooks or worksheets instead of live lessons. The NCCE’s curriculum-design CPD is available for teaching at KS1, KS2, KS3 or GCSE, to help you maximise progress as well as to effectively deliver our Teach Computing Curriculum, which includes comprehensive assessment guidance. You can also utilise Teach Computing self-marking subject knowledge assessments through the Eedi online platform, which are free to all secondary schools.

Also unchanged is how cognitive science informs effective teaching. Clarity of explanations has become even more important and the “split attention effect” can impact upon concentration. Semantic waves, worked examples and concept maps are powerful tools, and cognitive load theory is an important factor. Providing an overview of the ‘big picture’, using learning objective graphs for instance, can be helpful to learners navigating the new landscape.

The physical classroom has changed to a virtual one accessed through a digital platform. Subject Matter Expert (SME) Dale Jones recommends melding assignments and Microsoft OneNotes in Teams with files in OneDrive to link together resources, while Andy Webster has had success using a digital platform, to build resources and deliver everything centrally; “great AfL opportunities and useful reports generated at the end of each lesson!”.

Short presentations or modelling of new content can work well when followed by exercises or retrieval - this is the model underpinning much of the Oak National Academy computing curriculum based on the work of the NCCE. SME Sarah Chell “starts an online lesson with supporting theory, checks they are all happy and arranges to come back online 10 mins before end of lesson for plenary, keeping tasks shorter”. She recommends “using voice-overs with PowerPoints as it’s not enough to upload a presentation and expect students to just read through”.

The digital skills of our young people are developing fast. SME Andy Webster supports this with the digitally-badged iDEA platform featured in our CPD, while Carol Murray is a fan of Google’s Applied Digital Skills resources.

Computing is, unsurprisingly, well-suited to the use of online, creative and simulation tools which have been found to work well in remote learning; our remote Python programming courses model how free platforms can support distance learning. SME Gaynor Hudson teaches programming through Code.org with key stage 2 children while Dale Jones provides it for motivated secondary students for independent learning. Gaynor is aiming to teach the Teach Computing 3D modelling unit online, including input from a STEM Ambassador.

Whether learners are in the classroom or at home, the NCCE and its team of committed Subject Matter Experts is at hand to help you, and them, succeed.