Groups in the Multi-Modal Classroom

Mattox Beckman

Introduction and Settings


  • Setting of CS 421 (Programming Languages)
  • Design decisions we made
  • What happened
  • What we will try next time

The Setup

CS 421, Programming Languages, Spring 2020 to Spring 2021
Class Format
Online pre-class video (flipped classroom), POGIL activities “in class”
Enrollment was usually over 300
Multiple time zones


  • Process Oriented Guided Inquiry Learning
  • Teams of four students; each gets a role
    • Manager
    • Reporter
    • Recorder
    • Reflector
  • Process Oriented develop process skill such as critical thinking and teamwork
  • Guided Inquiry students construct their own knowledge

Design Decisions


  • First semester: attendance was required
    • 5% of the grade
    • Students could be excused for timezone or lousy internet
    • Eventually canceled attendance policy


  • POGIL activity
    • Zoom breakout rooms
      • Zoom under Linux does not work well!
      • Random at first
      • Student formed groups later
    • PrairieLearn
      • Used ongoing SIIP project for student group work.

What Happened



Once we canceled required attendance, it dropped to 5-10%.

  • Students actually blamed me on my ICES scores for them forgetting about the class.
  • Next time: will require attendance again, with excuses allowed.
  • I am starting to use Specifications Grading


  • Roles were still possible; used a 20-sided dice to select the group that got to report
  • Next time: Group formation with CATME
  • Need to think carefully how to handle missing students