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Get With The Program: Integrated Project Instead Of A Comprehensive Final Exam In A First Programming Course

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2005 Annual Conference


Portland, Oregon

Publication Date

June 12, 2005

Start Date

June 12, 2005

End Date

June 15, 2005



Conference Session

Curriculum Innovation & Assessment

Page Count


Page Numbers

10.663.1 - 10.663.17



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Paper Authors

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Richard Whalen

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Susan Freeman

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Beverly Jaeger

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

Get with the Program: Integrated Project Instead of a Comprehensive Final Exam in a First Programming Course Beverly K. Jaeger, Richard Whalen, Susan F. Freeman

College of Engineering, Northeastern University


Part of our responsibilities as engineering educators is to continually revise and update our curriculum, including assessment methodologies and procedures. We need to ensure that our selected evaluation methods are not only fair and challenging to the students, but also relevant to the requirements of their future employers and to the demands of technological advances in engineering. In this paper, we describe the motivation and set out the strategies for changing a component of our computer programming assessment of first-year engineers from a written final exam format to an integrated programming project. This project was administered at the end of the semester across several sections of a first-year problem solving course that uses and ultimately integrates C++ and MATLAB to introduce students to engineering analysis and design. The details of the rationale, project development, assignment types, and final outcomes are set forth in the paper. The intent of this discussion is to provide a working model that other educators may follow to assist in developing an effective and representative programming assessment method that can be used by multiple instructors. To that end we will also make our work available to other engineering educators for their own adoption.


At Northeastern University the first-year engineering curriculum is common for all majors, and there are typically 14-16 separate sections of approximately 30 students each. For the past decade, our introductory computer programming courses in engineering, like those of many other universities, had administered a hand-written final exam to comprise a substantive portion of the students’ overall grade. This evaluation method was supplemented by quizzes and computer- based assignments throughout the term. When initially electing to use the exam option, several primary factors and concerns were considered. The first was resources; at any given time, there had been only 64 computers available within the program, precluding the possibility of testing on computers simultaneously. Other considerations in developing a final exam were the constrained time frame that the students would have to complete their work at the end of the term, the freshman population’s relative inexperience at programming, maintaining consistent standards across multiple sections, and establishing a common final assessment process among several instructors. Further, we also wanted to limit opportunities for students to engage in unauthorized collaboration. In the past, administering a common final exam seemed to best satisfy these concerns and requirements.

Proceedings of the 2005 American Society for Engineering Education Annual Conference & Exposition Copyright 2005, American Society for Engineering Education

Whalen, R., & Freeman, S., & Jaeger, B. (2005, June), Get With The Program: Integrated Project Instead Of A Comprehensive Final Exam In A First Programming Course Paper presented at 2005 Annual Conference, Portland, Oregon. 10.18260/1-2--14179

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