GitHub is a widely-used software development platform that supports version control, collaborative development, and project hosting. Currently, an estimated 18,000 educators use GitHub in programming classrooms.
Depending on how GitHub is implemented in the classroom, students may rely on GitHub for activities such as, submitting assignments, collaborating on group projects, and receiving feedback. Despite GitHub’s growing presence in programming classrooms, to date, few studies have explored how GitHub and the design of its implementation shape students’ learning outcomes and classroom experiences.
Building on previous research, we investigated how students in classrooms that used GitHub (GitHub classrooms), as opposed to classrooms that did not use GitHub (non-GitHub classrooms), differed across key variables. We surveyed 7530 students and 300 educators from GitHub and non-GitHub classrooms. Overall, we found that using GitHub in the classroom predicted better learning outcomes and classroom experiences. For example, students felt more prepared for the future, and they felt a greater sense of belonging in the classroom and in the field. Importantly, the design of implementation affected learning outcomes.
We discuss best practices for maximizing benefits to student learning when implementing GitHub in the classroom, study limitations, and future research directions. Our research is a step towards understanding how GitHub, a tool with a growing presence in programming classrooms, impacts students’ learning experiences.
Many teachers use GitHub in the classroom to familiarize students with real-world workflows. And since 2012, about 21,000 teachers have used GitHub Education to provide an authentic learning experience. Anecdotally, we hear from teachers all the time that using GitHub boosts their student engagement, employability, even passing rates.
Now the data is in: our paper on how using GitHub in the classroom predicts positive learning outcomes was accepted for publication in the peer-reviewed SIGCSE (Special Interest Group on Computer Science Education) proceedings.
Vanessa (@mozzadrella), the General Manager of GitHub Education, presents this information in the video below.
Implications for Computer Science Education
More and more classrooms want to integrate real-world tools and workflows. Between this paper and some recent research from GitHub Education, we can offer a few key insights to help teachers use current tools more effectively:
Using GitHub for classroom work predicts outcomes associated with collaboration, project management, and preparation for the future
Students using GitHub in the classroom have a stronger sense of belonging in both the classroom and the wider developer community
The more GitHub features a class used, the more beneficial learning outcomes increased
Students who receive feedback via GitHub report that it’s more effective and helpful, and students feel understood by their teachers
Early results from qualitative research indicate that students need 2-2.5 months to feel comfortable with GitHub, and many of them explore GitHub beyond what is required for classwork
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