The computing conversion course, which has more students from around Ireland than Waterford, because of its fully online nature, helps fill job vacancies in the tech industry
Twenty years after the Agile Manifesto was published, one Waterford Institute of Technology (WIT) programme has brought key insights from the Agile/Scrum world into education to create the ‘Agile semester’.
Working in close collaboration with global leader in open source technology Red Hat in Waterford, the team behind the two-year part-time fully online Higher Diploma in Computer Science evolved an innovative set of education tools, practices and delivery approaches that closely mirror the transformational achievements to the Agile approach.
The computing conversion course, which has more students from around Ireland than Waterford, because of its fully online nature, helps fill job vacancies in the tech industry.
Course leader, Eamonn de Leastar, who is a co-founder of TSSG (now the Walton Institute) and the institute’s Internet of Things undergraduate degree is no stranger to innovation. “The course is delivered in the context of a complete rethinking of the traditional semester structure. We applied key principles of Agile/Scrum in the delivery of the Higher Diploma in Computer Science and call this approach the Agile Semester (https://bit.ly/2YTKLBk). Taking a student centric approach, the semester is broken down into iterations or sprints, interlaced with retrospectives,” he says.
Grace Doyle, a current student, who has made the move from PE and Maths teaching to a remote tech role, is in favour of the agile semester. “I love the 3 weeks on and one week off so that when I am training and travelling for surfing, it allows me time to catch up or time away to enjoy the surf. It takes the pressure off a little bit and gives some breathing space,” she says.
The two-year part-time course is heavily subsidised through Springboard+ for 2022, making it an attractive option for people seeking a career change. Participation is free for people returning to work and the course is 90% funded for those already in work.
“The key principles of Agile/Scrum are embodied in an award winning educational content delivery platform TutorStack (https://bit.ly/2YQYNn7),” adds de Leastar.
Dr Leigh Griffin, Senior Engineering Manager at Red Hat Waterford says “we have employed many graduates from this course since its inception as the course combines a solid computer science curriculum coupled with the latest thinking from the Agile/Scrum ecosystem. We have been delighted to work with the tuition team to help realise these ground breaking innovations in the programme.”
One feature TutorsTime helps students and educators understand the use of their time on the course. Peer learning is a central value of the course, particularly important for online learning. TutorsLive is a feature where the student can (on an opt-in basis) share aspects of their online presence, specifically a fine-grained perspective on which learning materials they are currently working on.
“This is presented in an attractive and simple user interface, and has been shown to stimulate serendipitous student communications, mini-study groups and an overall sense of a collective and rewarding learning experience,” adds Colm Dunphy, who lectures in Programming and is also programme leader.
“These concepts, drawn from Agile/Scrum, promote a more engaged student experience, with a close loop established between educational content, assessment and educator/student feedback. Students are encouraged to take ownership of their learning objectives and are provided with a calibrated set of learning goals throughout the semester, along with the practices and tools to measure their learning achievements,” he says.