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Programming people

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While many of us may not understand the coding languages of Java, JavaScript, C# or Python, we actually engage with them all the time whenever we use a computer programme like Firefox, Microsoft Word or play a game on our phone.

These languages are used to instruct a computer how to perform a task and are designed to control a computer’s behaviour. Learning and mastering programming languages is a difficult task, particularly if the practitioner is not a technology savvy person. However, there is increasing industry demand for employees to have some foundational understanding of programming.

Curtin Sarawak is addressing this demand with their Programming Nation Club, which was established in 2014 to promote and teach programming to non-computer science or non-IT students.

The club has members from all faculties of the University as well as pre-university students. It provides quality teaching and learning of programming languages and develops adept programmers by engaging them in disseminating programming knowledge through teaching, learning and content development.

“When teaching programming, it is important to first teach students how to solve problems through algorithms, keeping in mind that some students come from a non-technical or non-engineering backgrounds,” says Club advisor and Head of the Department of Foundation in Engineering and Science Foad Motalebi.

“Understanding algorithms helps determine which programming languages are to be chosen and taught.”

Motalebi, says the also club adopts a ‘learn through teaching’ approach.

“One can learn more whilst teaching others,” he says. “Therefore, after completing a programming module, students are encouraged to facilitate training of the same module for a new set of students.”

The club also employs the services of professional programmers to facilitate training sessions, and students are encouraged to provide feedback on their teachers for future improvement and development.

At the end of the year, the total classes attended and the success of the club’s initiatives is assessed and a report produced. The report also looks into the computer programming knowledge of individual members and whether they have started developing their own programmes.

Another initiative to motivate club members to master programming languages is the accumulation of Citizen’s Total Accumulated Points (CTAP) scores. Club members accumulate points for attending or conducting training, developing programmes and volunteering their services in club activities.

At the end of a member’s term, or when the member chooses to leave the club, they can request for a referral letter along with a certificate from the club.

“Establishing a programming club like the Programming Nation Club requires those involved to work together to make it successful,” says Motalebi. “There may be difficulties in choosing which programming language to teach initially, but through careful discussion, a consensus can be reached and both teacher and student stand to benefit.”

Did you know?

One of the earliest programming languages was called Plankalkül and was developed by German Kondrad Zuse in the late 1940s.

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