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A String Of Perls: Using Perl To Teach Perl

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2004 Annual Conference


Salt Lake City, Utah

Publication Date

June 20, 2004

Start Date

June 20, 2004

End Date

June 23, 2004



Conference Session

Electrical & Computer Engineering Poster Session

Page Count


Page Numbers

9.107.1 - 9.107.6



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Paper Authors

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Matthew Smith

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Joseph Ekstrom

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NOTE: The first page of text has been automatically extracted and included below in lieu of an abstract

Session 1532

String of Perls: Using Perl to Teach Perl

Matthew Z. Smith and Joseph J. Ekstrom Brigham Young University

Abstract: This paper discusses the features and design of a web-based system utilizing the unique abilities of Perl to teach Perl to students having little or no prior background in the language, with the goal of writing useful and functional CGI scripts.

The system provides a customized experience instructing students on basic to intermediate skills. The student is presented with interactive content and instruction as well as individual tasks to apply their developing skills, with evaluation and intelligent feedback provided by the system. The system receives student Perl code as input, tests it for compilation, evaluates both the syntax and the semantics of the input code, measures its effectiveness at completing the assigned task, provides feedback to the student, and supports revision and resubmission. The system also contains reference information and direction to external resources.

Using Perl to test and evaluate Perl code has inherent advantages over other methods. Perl is able to compile and execute code in a restricted compartment with a new namespace and share variables and data between the student code and the instructional system. This enables input code to be safely executed and makes possible the generation of detailed feedback.

This paper also discusses the progressing implementation of the system and future plans and expectations. Early experience with limitations, strengths, and applicability of the system to online, lab, and distance learning situations are also discussed.

Introduction: Over the past three years, Brigham Young University has been implementing a program in the emerging academic discipline of Information Technology1. We do not believe that there is sufficient time in any 4 year curriculum to provide proficiency in all of the programming languages that are in common use. We have taken an approach that uses Java as the primary programming language and expect some proficiency in this language. However, we introduce other languages in various courses through providing examples and having students modify working code to provide additional functionality in lab exercises.

We have been seeking ways to increase language proficiency without using class time and without forcing all students to learn the same set of languages. As the authors

Proceedings of the 2004 American Society for Engineering Education Annual Conference & Exposition Copyright © 2004, American Society for Engineering Education

Smith, M., & Ekstrom, J. (2004, June), A String Of Perls: Using Perl To Teach Perl Paper presented at 2004 Annual Conference, Salt Lake City, Utah. 10.18260/1-2--13091

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