Currently I am studying Business Informatics at the TU Wien (Vienna University of Technology) and for my bachelor thesis with the current title “Enhancing the Resilience of Software Engineering Courses by Implementing Continuous Education using Smartphones exemplified by rural India” I created and taught a course for software engineering at a rural college in Andhra Pradesh, India in 2021. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and the safety measures like college closures, the whole setting for the course was entirely remotely. So I was sitting at home in Vienna while the students joined from their homes mostly in Andhra Pradesh. A huge challenge was to include all students, because only 54.5% of the students own a personal device like a laptop or desktop computer. Out of those students, 44.4% had to share their devices with family members or friends. The rest of the students had only a smartphone available for learning, practicing, and joining classes. To include all students, the software engineering course was created in a way that also students with only a smartphone can participate in all activities like learning, practicing, joining classes, and submission reviews.
Conducting the course
I arrived at the Bengaluru International Airport in India on the 23rd of March 2022. The first experiences in India were a three hours journey through the outskirts of Andhra Pradesh in the middle of the night to the place of the college and a really nice and heartly welcoming ceremony where I had the chance to meet and talk to the students for the first time which I only met during remote sessions last year.
After a long time struggling to adjust to the new environment, especially wearing formal clothes during the Indian summer and being so far away from home for the first time, finally the classes started. Right now, I am teaching two classes of students which are currently doing their BTech in Computer Science and Engineering at a college in rural Andhra Pradesh in their 3rd and 4th year. During my first week teaching, Paul visited and helped me to prepare everything, to introduce me to everybody, and to kickstart the new semester.
Since there was a break for new students to join the software engineering course due to the COVID-19 pandemic, we planned to continue the course with students of the 1st year. During Paul’s visit, we also conducted the entry assignment for the 1st year students of the college. Out of 66 students, we will start the first module of the software engineering course with 16 students.
Besides that, currently classes for Module 3 and Module 4 are conducted once a week à three hours each. The biggest challenges at the moment are that often students are missing classes because various festivities are going on and students often are involved in helping organizing those festivities. Sometimes students also have to leave to participate in interviews with companies for internships. Luckily currently there are no school closures and we can use the computer lab during the classes. Mostly the internet is available, but sometimes there is also either very slow or no internet connection at all. Powercuts happen, but very rarely at the moment. Students told me during the rainy season it will get worse, but let’s see. The biggest challenge for students without a personal laptop or desktop computer is that the internet in the computer lab is only available during the classes. When there are no classes, the internet will be disabled. A possible solution could be to show students how to use USB tethering to access the internet on the computer, but then again they have to use data of their own mobile data subscription. Nevertheless, the classes are going on and me as well as the students are really motivated to continue teaching and learning with or without those challenges. I will keep you up to date in the next blog post in about a month.