eduLevel - learning programming through gamification

About this idea

eduLevel – a fun way to learn computer programming

We are a group of computer programmers and innovation enthusiasts aiming to help students to program.

Programming is fast becoming a core skill, not just for computer scientists, but in many career paths. Mathematicians use programming to process data. Companies rely on improving computer systems to increase workplace productivity.

We have developed uniLevel, a web and mobile phone based system where students learning Python programming, commonly taught at schools and universities, compete to set and solve programming challenges. This uses gamification techniques to keep students taking more challenges – and extending their learning.

A unique feature of our uniLevel system is this only needs players to supply questions, uniLevel then automatically works out the correct answers. As well as Python programming, we can extend uniLevel to other programming languages and non-computing subjects. The same structure would work for students striving to improve their maths.

Industrial support and prizes

There was a real buzz about uniLevel in person and on social media when we first demonstrated it at BCUHack in February.

Codio, an event sponsor and commercial online learning company, said uniLevel “won both the Codio sponsored prize and the BCUHack grand prize with their excellent educational app which tests your Python skills

Clevercherry, a digital branding agency, called our entry their “favourite submission” and said it “consisted of nicely polished programming trivia game

When we demonstrated uniLevel at Birmingham City University’s BCUHack competition and claimed first prize, we showed the software interacting through Twitter to engage learners. We’ve subsequently been asked to live demo uniLevel several times.

We also participated at Codefest in Macedonia, where we further refined the gamification principles and developed a great team bond. Again, we were praised for our work and returned to the UK with four prizes.

The funding

With the support of JISC, we want to turn uniLevel into a polished learning system available worldwide on the web for students to challenge their friends.

We have the support of an academic mentor, with experience at learning and teaching pedagogy and entrepreneurial development. We also have direct access to students at two universities in the West Midlands Combined Universities initiative (Birmingham City University and Coventry University) to test and refine the gamification aspects of uniLevel, plus the ability to reach thousands more through the web, social media and mobile devices.

As we are four technical students, with academic credentials, freelance web development experience and interest in improving our professional portfolios, we believe we are uniquely placed to take uniLevel to market. We will rely on our own technical and web development skills, rather than having to hire in external programmers.

uniLevel will be used to encourage classroom collaboration, build student problem solving skills, help students of all ages to engage with the digital world and support schoolteachers to engage pupils with the new Computer Science curriculum.

The funding will be used to provide the technical infrastructure to run uniLevel, support our living costs, conduct participatory research, test out gamification techniques to encourage continued student interest and to extend brand reach.

We plan to run several small cycles of market research, development work and structured testing with users, before rolling this out with students at the two universities we’re working with next academic year. As well as providing a winning tool, we plan to formally evaluate the success of uniLevel and how this has helped students to improve their programming abilities.

The team roles

We have a strong team with academic, technical and business credentials and designated complementary roles.

The four students from Birmingham City University are:

Alex Wiley - Frontend developer, responsible for enhancing usability, accessibility and software interaction.

Daniel Pacheco - Backend developer, with responsibility for ensuring usable and reliable software.

Jacques Ryan - Backend developer, looking after uniLevel performance and scalability

Michael Senior - Frontend developer, responsible for system security

Dr. Thomas Lancaster, Principal Lecturer from Coventry University (formerly Birmingham City University) will provide mentorship, support academic and pedagogical evaluation and will use his marketing links to generate wider interest in uniLevel.