Ryan Meuth and Phill Miller are Senior Lecturers under the School of Computing and Augmented Intelligence (SCAI) who have been creatively reimagining their approach to teaching and learning in the CSE 110, Principles of Programming course.

Programming is hard,” says Meuth. “And we’ve been teaching it the same way for so long – it needed a refresh.”

Meuth and Miller have been working on an adaptive version of their CSE110 course where their students are able to receive formative feedback (periodic checks of student understanding) in hundreds of small assignments or challenges throughout the semester, rather than in large summative assessments a handful of times for large projects. Miller explains, “[W]hat we mean by adaptive is the course should meet each learner where they are.” The main driver that Meuth and Miller say is their motivation for this adaptive version is to improve retention, increase the number of students who succeed in CSE110, and make the interactions students have with faculty members more valuable and personal. This revamped version includes a hybrid format, once a week programming lab time, interactive textbook with immediate feedback loops and lecture content built in, mature technologies, and in-person or virtual help sessions with the course’s TAs.

Meuth and Miller also want every student to have a consistent and positive experience in CSE110. Meuth explains that this adaptive version is exciting because it provides a customized and personal learning experience “based on where a particular student is in their knowledge journey.” The goal is to develop and adapt materials that meet students where they are and then guide them to the next step based on their personal goals, personal experiences, and what they need at that moment of learning.

“Students don’t realize how much they learn in a class like this,” says Miller. “The reason that it feels like [students are] not learning anything is that it continues to feel hard because we keep throwing harder and harder things at [them].” Miller went on to share that he would like to expose as many people as possible to computer programming in a setting where they can learn if the major is a good fit for them, as the need for skilled computer programmers is “huge, and is only going to grow.”

“I want to be the best teacher that I can be – I want to have the biggest impact that I can,” Meuth commented, when asked about the motivation and personal importance for this project. “Phill and I are both really passionate about programming and teaching… If I can bring that to as many students as I can, in the best way that I can – that’s my mission.”

The Adaptive version of CSE110 launched in the Fall 2021 semester with 800 students enrolled. This article and video are part of a new faculty spotlight series, Academic Innovators, to provide insight and recognition for the inspirational work and research being done in the FSE communitySend ideas for future articles to [email protected].