A New Tutorial System for Computer Science and Telecommunication Engineering Students

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1 A New Tutorial System for Computer Science and Telecommunication Engineering Students Rico Castro, Nuria 3 ; Castillo Valdivieso, Pedro Ángel 1 ; Rubio Escudero, Miguel Ángel 5 ; Paderewski Rodríguez, Patricia 2 ; García Arenas, María Isabel 1 ; Ramos Ábalos, Eva María 3 ; García Miranda, Jesús 4 ; Rodríguez Álvarez, Manuel 1 1 Department of Computer Architecture and Technology, 2 Department of Computer Languages and Systems, 3 Department of Statistics and Operations Research, 4 Department of Algebra, 5 Department of Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence, University of Granada (Spain) Abstract In the last years European universities have been immersed in a process which aims to create a European Higher Education Area by 2010, the well known Bologna Process. The purpose of this reform is to make academic degree standards and quality assurance standards more comparable and compatible throughout Europe. In Spain, universities embarked two years ago in a reform to implement new degrees that will follow the guidelines of the Bologna declaration. This process will last five years till the complete implementation of the new system. Due to the disappearance of the old degrees (licenciaturas and ingenierias) a new problem has arisen. There is a significant pool of students finishing their old degrees that no longer have access to regular lessons. This can become a significant burden due to the fact that these students are not used to study without the guidance of a teacher. This paper presents the outline of a new tutorial system focused on Computer Science Engineering, Computer Science Technical Engineering and Telecommunication Engineering, taught at the University of Granada. The aim of this tutorial system is to provide support to computer science and telecommunication students that have to overcome subjects that are no longer taught face to face. It has been developed using a mix of traditional face to face coaching and the possibilities that the new information technologies offer. It comprises orientation seminars, individual tutorials, the use of social networks, e- learning suites like moodle and traditional web sites. 1. Introduction In the last years European universities have been immersed in a process which aims to create a European Higher Education Area by 2010, the well known Bologna Process. The purpose of this reform is to make academic degree standards and quality assurance standards more comparable and compatible throughout Europe. In Spain, universities embarked two years ago in a reform to implement new degrees that will follow the guidelines of the Bologna declaration. Due to the disappearance of the old degrees a new problem has arisen. There is a significant pool of students finishing their old degrees that no longer have access to regular lessons. This can become a significant burden due to the fact that these students are not used to study without the guidance of a teacher.

2 In order to support these students a new tutorial system (TAP) has been launched at the School of Informatics and Telecommunications Engineering (SITE) of the University of Granada (UGR). This TAP is similar to those that already exist in many others Spanish universities [1]-[6]. This initiative was launched as a research project by a group of teachers at the SITE. This project was granted after evaluation by the National Agency for Quality Assessment (ANECA) and awarded a score of 6.2 over 10. The main objective of this tutorial system is to provide support to computer sciences and telecommunication students that have to overcome subjects that are no longer taught face to face. These students are a heterogeneous group that includes very different backgrounds but all of them have in common that they have failed several first year theoretical and laboratory courses of the old Computer Science and Telecommunications degrees. Figure 1 includes all the courses involved in the project in Right now this project has been extended and expanded by the UGR. It will cover the academic course and will include the subjects covered the first and second year of all Computer Science degrees and Telecommunication degrees. Computer Science Engineering (Bachelor + Master) 12 semester courses 6 courses in the second semester Bachelor of Computer Science Engineering applied to Business Administration 11 semester courses 5 courses in the second semester Bachelor of Computer Science Technical applied to Technology 12 semester courses 6 courses in the second semester Telecommunication Engineering (Bachelor + Master) 3 annual courses 4 semester courses 2 courses in the first semester 2 courses in the second semester Figure 1: Courses distribution for the first year in the different degrees. This paper presents the outline of this new tutorial system focused on Computer Science Engineering, Computer Science Technical Engineering and Telecommunication Engineering, taught at the University of Granada. At the end of the paper some results are presented as an initial evaluation of the project.

3 2. Project description The first steps of this project involved several meetings with all the teachers involved, mainly in pursuit of two objectives: 1. Describe the project in clear terms, as some participant had not a clear idea of what was the role of a tutor. 2. Organize the many tasks that had to be completed before the project could become public, such us: Creating a web page (http://tipat.ugr.es) as this is an essential tool for quickly disseminating news and information. Establishing a management group with members of different departments that was responsible for the overall project coordination. Designing and implementing a high-visibility advertising campaign aimed to the students: posters, website, brochures and a presentation meeting. Several actions were also taken to make the PAT known among the professional sectors of the University. Creating a registration process for students interested in participating in the project. Once the marketing campaign was finished and the pre-registration period was over we were able to observe the first results and we found out that they were pretty good. We received 346 applications from students belonging to the four degrees willing to participate in the project. 39 teachers offered themselves altruistically to mentor several of these students. As we had set a limit of five students per teacher only around two hundred students were admitted in the first phase. Our first task was to select the students that would participate in the project. We took into account several factors like which was the workload that they had and wether it was reasonable to expect them to finish the old degrees. A sophisticated statistical method was developed specifically to assign students to tutors as we felt that this was critical for the success of the project. Once we had selected the students we had to get into contact with them to transmit what was expected from them (A student that was accepted and not collaborating would be wasting valuable resources that other students would be able to profit.), and to create guidelines for mentors to guide and facilitate their mentoring. After setting up the tutorial system, we started to organize others activities that we felt would be widely accepted by students, such as: Workshops for students to develop study skills. Their response was overwhelming and they found them very positive and helpful. Special sessions between the teachers responsible for the exams and the students. These meeting allowed the student to dispel doubts and rumours about the evaluation process and permitted the teachers to clarify which were the most important topics in each subject. Opened a suggestion inbox to allow students to express their opinions and suggestions. 3. Results At the end of the academic course , over two hundred students and thirty nine teachers had participated in the project while eight professors were responsible for managing it. The coordination committee ordered a poll in order to evaluate which were the main problems and to try to solve them. The survey was completed by 34 teachers. The main conclusions of the poll were: 1. The number of students who are oriented by each teacher, set at the beginning of the project to five, was too large. The teachers' participation is altruistic and they felt that the project was too demanding as five students need a lot of time if any improvement is to be obtained. 2. Most students were not very involved in the project. The teachers had a lot of difficulties in order to contact with the students participating in the project. At first, a lot of students asked to be enrolled in the project because of the advantages. After some months they lost interest and stopped following the guidelines set by the tutors.

4 The main reason for this behaviour is that the students believed that the teachers were going to offer theoretical and lab support for all the courses and this was not the case. It has to be noted also that these are students that have failed several times so they are not very motivated. 3. There is not large experience in this subject, for students and teachers, so the teachers had to find the solutions for the requirements of the students step by step. 4. A lot of students asked their tutors looking for answers to academic questions and the orientation offered for planning and scheduling the exams was not important for them. 5. The web site of the project was the best way to contact with students and mentors. 4. Future work These results and conclusions were presented in a final meeting with most of the teachers and some future actions and lines were discussed and decided. These lines and actions are the following: To increase the number of teachers participating in the project in order to decrease the ratio of students to mentor. Most teachers agreed that five students per teacher is a too high ratio to get effective results. To try to improve the motivation of the students it was decided that those students that ask for a mentor will have to sign a contract where they commit themselves to work and follow the guidelines of their mentor. We expect that this contract will help diminish the communication problems and absenteeism detected in the first year of the project. To organise short courses for teachers in order to improve their mentoring skills. Most teachers agreed that they lacked some mentoring skills and that some help in this field would be invaluable. To organize a workshop for student where several bureaucratic questions would be tackled and some administrative skills would be developed. A lot of the students expressed their belief that they needed help with questions related to grants or how to leave the old degree to enter the new ones, etc. To improve the documentation about mentoring available to the teachers. It was also decided to start a small coaching program for the teachers to help them cope with new situations. It was decided that they would be contacted at least once every two months, that way they would be able to express their doubts and to provide feedback to the management of the project. To improve and update the web site as this is the starting point for the students and teachers. It was also decided to expand the online reach of the project including some other web tools belonging to the so-called internet 2.0, i.e. social networks, tweets to try to get closer to the students. References [1] Montoya, M.G., Gil, C., Baños, R., Montoya, F. G., Alías, A., García, A. (2008) Acción Tutorial entre Estudiantes de Diferentes Cursos en las Asignaturas de Arquitectura de Computadores. JENUI (Jornadas de Enseñanza Universitaria en Informática). ISBN: [2] Sánchez, F.J., Ruiz, S., Valero, M. (2004) El nuevo plan de acción tutorial de la EPSC. Actas XII Congreso Universitario de Innovación Educativa en las Enseñanzas Técnicas. SCIUPC, ISBN [3] Universidad de Alicante. Vicerrectorado de Calidad y Planificación Estratégica. (2011) Plan de Acción Tutorial, [4] Universidad Politécnica de Valencia. Programa de Acción Tutorial Universitario (PATU), [5] Universidad de Sevilla. (2009) Plan de Acción Tutorial (PAT),

5 [6] Universidad de Huelva. (2008) Plan de Acción Tutorial,

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