Getting Britain coding

Coventry University has trialed a new education workshop designed to inspire IT innovation amongst students

With concern growing over the lack of IT skills being taught in British schools and a decline in students signing up to higher education IT and computing courses, there is a national push to reintroduce the teaching of coding skills across the curriculum and reinvigorate a generation’s interest in information technology.

In recognition of this, IT provider XMA decided to partner up with Oasis Community Learning and Oasis Academy Hadley to enable students to conceive, design, develop, test and evaluate their own ‘serious computer game’ with the support of the Serious Games Institute (SGI) experts in games based learning. 

By selecting Black History Month as the theme, the students were able to combine learning about coding, the software development industry, what customers want and how to work effectively in teams.

Bringing in the expertise of the SGI, the team put together two day-long workshops which encouraged students to understand coding through a series of tasks which required them to develop their knowledge of the programing languages Scratch and Python.

Guy Bates, director at XMA, said: “Utilising a games scenario to teach coding is a major step-change in the way we approach information technology learning in our schools. We saw a real mix of abilities and expertise and it was interesting to see how each student used transferable skills to develop their games. Maths, Science and English all play a vital role in software development and game coding, alongside IT capabilities. Students recognised this and were able to apply their knowledge from other areas of education to aid their performance in the tasks. Creative skills were also tested when considering the end-user and a game’s potential commercial value and success.”

In recent years, the barrier to entry for anyone who wants to code has lowered significantly. Apple and others now offer free developer tools and a global store front to market and sell applications. This allows students to create and share applications on the same stage as commercial developers.

Guy concluded: “We witnessed significant improvements in the majority of students, as well as igniting an interest in coding.

“The UK is a leader in computer gaming in particular and information technology in general, providing strong benefit to our economy. Schools such as the Oasis Academy Hadley are contributing to the sustainability of this leading position by bringing through the developers, graphic designers and project managers of the future.