June 14, 2009
June 14, 2009
June 17, 2009
14.345.1 - 14.345.10
Comparing the Use of a Graphical Programming Language To a Traditional Text-based Language To Learn Programming Concepts in a First-year Course
The research study sought to compare whether students can learn programming concepts using a graphical programming language instead of a text-based language. A small group of students was taught their first programming course using LabVIEW while the control group was using C/C++. One result showed that the C/C++ students (control group) had slightly better performance (10%) on equivalent final examination problems than the LabVIEW students. A second result showed that both groups of students performed equally in MATLAB programming exercises – their ‘second’ programming language. A third result compared the programming beliefs of the pilot and control groups with the instructors’ beliefs. The beliefs survey was administered at the beginning and end of the quarter. The pilot group of students exhibited a shift to more expert-like beliefs. This paper provides details about the processes and problems used in this investigation. The work described here began in early 2007 and was completed in 2008. This project was funded by the National Instruments Foundation.
Ohio State’s First-Year Engineering Program was developed as part of a National Science Foundation (NSF) funded research and development project1. The honors sequence covers engineering graphics and CAD in the Autumn Quarter (Engineering H191), C/C++ and MATLAB in the Winter Quarter (Engineering H192), and a design/build project in the Spring Quarter (Engineering H193). The design/build project has teams of four students each building a small, autonomous robot to complete a specified set of tasks. H193 makes use of the graphics and programming skills developed earlier in H191 and H192. The student teams use the MIT Handy Board2 as the controller for their robots, and the students write their own program for the controller in Interactive C. Prior to this study, the primary programming language used in the H192 course was C/C++ with a short introduction to MATLAB. C/C++ was covered in eight weeks, and the introduction to MATLAB took about two weeks. Until very recently, the required course providing an introduction to computer programming for engineering students was only offered either in C/C++ or FORTRAN.
In Engineering H191 and H192, there is a hands-on laboratory exercise almost every week. Many of these labs, especially the ones for H192, require the students to collect and analyze data. They have traditionally used C/C++ and MATLAB to do the data analysis. Data acquisition hardware and LabVIEW software are used for a number of the hands-on laboratory experiments.
This first-year engineering environment was selected as the test bed to investigate engineering student learning and beliefs about computer programming in an introductory course. The study sought to compare whether students can learn programming concepts effectively using a graphical programming language instead of a text-based language.
Harper, K., & Freuler, R., & Brand, S., & Morin, C., & Wensing, P., & Demel, J. (2009, June), Comparing The Use Of A Graphical Programming Language To A Traditional Text Based Language To Learn Programming Concepts In A First Year Course Paper presented at 2009 Annual Conference & Exposition, Austin, Texas. https://peer.asee.org/5537
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