Investigating Remote Pair Programming In Part-Time Distance Education

Adeliyi, Adeola; Wermelinger, Michel; Kear, Karen and Rosewell, Jonathan (2021). Investigating Remote Pair Programming In Part-Time Distance Education. In: 3rd Conference on United Kingdom and Ireland Computing Education Research, UKICER 2021, ACM International Conference Proceeding Series, ACM, Glasgow, article no. 6.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.1145/3481282.3481290

Abstract

Pair programming promotes immediate, informal collaboration over coding activities. The driving developer writes the code and controls the keyboard and mouse; the navigating developer checks the code as it is written by the driver; the developers swap their roles frequently. In agile development, programmers often code in pairs, in order to detect errors faster, produce higher code quality and discover better solutions.

There is substantial research providing evidence of enhanced self-confidence and programming and communication skills if pair programming is used in teaching. However, the use of pair programming in higher education is mostly in co-located settings at campus-based universities. Our overall objective is to investigate how the benefits of pair programming can be brought to students learning to program online at a distance.

This paper presents two initial studies looking at remote pair programming (RPP) also called distributed pair programming, in a part-time distance education setting, where students typically follow an unscheduled self-study style, have little interaction with each other, and have little time for extra activities. We investigated: whether readily available generic communication tools, instead of purpose-built academic prototypes, were sufficient for RPP; whether student pairs ‘jelled’ (learned to function well together) quickly; whether the ways in which the partners interact, or existing programming experience, affected jelling; and whether students felt positive about, and saw benefits in RPP, despite the overhead on their limited study time.

In the paper, after describing particular challenges encountered, we present and discuss our findings and make recommendations for future implementation. The findings support the use of remote pair programming in teaching, with the majority of students considering it to be beneficial.

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