Measuring, Understanding and Improving Engagement in Programming Teaching

Measuring, Understanding and Improving Engagement in Programming Teaching

Eligibility: UK/EU/International graduates with the required entry requirements

Duration: Full-Time – between three and three and a half years fixed term

Application deadline: This opportunity will only remain open until a suitable candidate is identified and appointed- early application is therefore recommended

Interview date: Candidates will be interviewed as completed applications come in

Start date: Entry points are September, January and May.

Start date will be determined by the point of application submission, and by discussions with the Research Centre.

For further details contact: Dr Matthew England


The Research Centre for Data Science (CDS) is based in the Faculty of Engineering, Environment and Computing (EEC) of Coventry University.  It provides a hub to develop cutting edge research in the areas of Artificial Intelligence, Data Science and Future Computing Technologies. The centre has a vocation to push the boundaries of both fundamental science and practical applications. 

We are offering a new project applying Data Science Technology to better understand and improve the teaching of programming.

About the project

Coventry University already employ a sophisticated e-learning platform in their beginners programming classes for new undergraduate students, which has been essential for supporting students remotely during the COVID19 crisis.

The system records data on student progress through the class content, such as time spent on the system, which tasks have been solved and which cause difficulty.  The project aims to use this data to better serve students and in particular to help identify and support those students at risk of disengagement.

This PhD project has two main aims:
(1)  Use the data gathered in the e-learning system to identify disengagement earlier, and predict before it becomes critical.
(2)  Devise and test recommendations for the pedagogy and material in these classes.

The first aim will be met through the use of data science technology and in particular machine learning tools.  The student will be supported here by the Centre for Data Science.

The second aim will likely involve the design of technology enhanced pedagogy.  It will be evaluated on students in the School of Computing, Electronics and Mathematics under the supervision of staff there with experience in HCI research.


This project is offered on a self-funded or externally funded basis. We particular welcome applications from candidates with funding from their home governments or sponsorship from companies.

For the academic year 2020/21:  English, Welsh and EU students can apply to borrow up to £26,445 to help cover the cost of their PhD.  Find out more about PHD Loans.


The successful candidate will receive comprehensive research training including technical, personal and professional skills.  All researchers at Coventry University (from PhD to Professor) are part of the Doctoral College which provides support with career development activities.

The candidate for this project will work in the Centre for Data Science amongst other researchers employing similar data science techniques to a wide variety of problems and applications.  With access to cutting edge techniques and high performance computing resources, the Centre for Data Science is an ideal place to pursue a PhD in Machine Learning.  In particular, training in machine learning techniques can be provided through modules on our Data Science and Computational Intelligence MSc programme. 

The Director of Studies is a core member of the research centre with expertise on applying machine learning to improve computer systems.  The wider supervisory team includes the university staff who lead the programming modules and have experience on research for improve pedagogy and human-computer interaction. 

Entry requirements

  • A minimum of a 2:1 first degree in a relevant discipline/subject area with a minimum 60% mark in the project element or equivalent with a minimum 60% overall module average. 
    the potential to engage in innovative research and to complete the PhD within a 3.5 years
  • a minimum of English language proficiency (IELTS overall minimum score of 7.0 with a minimum of 6.5 in each component)

How to apply

All applications should include degree certificates and full transcripts of results.  Candidates should also upload a covering letter summarising the candidate’s existing programming skills, and any other expertise relevant to the project.

Apply to Coventry University
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