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  • Tim Coughlan
Using Open Data as a Material for Introductory Programming Assignments
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This case study is retrieved from the open book Open Data as Open Educational Resources. Case studies of emerging practice.

It explores why and how open data can be used as a material with which to produce engaging challenges for students as they are introduced to programming. Through describing the process of producing the assignments, and learner responses to them, we suggest that open data is a powerful material for designing learning activities because of its qualities of ease of access and authenticity.

In two successive years, forms of open data were used to construct coursework assignments for postgraduate students at the University of Nottingham, UK. The rationale for using open data was to shift the focus towards an outward-looking approach to coding with networks, files and data structures, and to engage students in constructing applications that had real-world relevance.

Python was chosen as the programming language.

The assignment in the first year utilised e-book text files from Project Gutenberg1, and required students to build an e-reader application. In the next year, car park status data, which was made available in a regularly updated form by the city council through their open data initiative2 was used as the basis for an assignment in which students developed a city-wide car park monitoring application.

Computer Science
Information Science
Material Type:
Case Study
Tim Coughlan
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