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Learning C Language Programming with Executable Flowchart Language

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2014 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Indianapolis, Indiana

Publication Date

June 15, 2014

Start Date

June 15, 2014

End Date

June 18, 2014



Conference Session

Embedded Systems and Mobile Computing

Tagged Division

Computing & Information Technology

Page Count


Page Numbers

24.850.1 - 24.850.7



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Paper Authors


Cho Sehyeong Myong Ji University

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1992 Ph.D. in Computer Science, Pennsylvania State University
1992-1999 Electronics and Telecommunications Research Institute
2000-2014 MyongJi University

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Yeonseung Ryu Myongji University


Sang-Kyun Kim Myongji University

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Sang-Kyun Kim (BS ’91, MS ’95, PhD ’97) received his BS, MS, and PhD degrees in computer science from the University of Iowa in 1991, 1994, and 1997, respectively. In 1997, he joined the Samsung Advanced Institute of Technology as a researcher. He was a senior research staff member as well as a project leader on the Image and Video Content Search Team of the Computing Technology Lab until 2007. He is now an associate professor in the Department of Computer Engineering of Myongji University. His research interests include digital content (image, video, and music) analysis and management, fast image search and indexing, color adaptation, 4D, sensors, VR, and multimedia standardization. He serves as a project editor of International Standards, that is, ISO/IEC 23005-3, 23005-4, 23005-5, and 23005-7.

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Learning C language Programming with executable flowchart languageTeaching C language programming to students is a daunting task, especially to those withoutany background or experience in computer programming. Even simple assignment statementsseem hard for them to understand. We find that the students are having hard time visualizingwhat’s actually happening when the computer executes their code. Besides, silly syntax errorswill frustrate the students, only to find that they are not able to learn programming after all. In order to help the students out, we built an executable flowchart language called CFL,which stands for “C-like Flowchart Language.” There are a few reasons why we thought CFLmay help. First, instead of textual language, which is hard to learn, students can writeprograms by laying out graphical flowchart symbols and connecting them. Second, thestepwise execution enables the students to actually see the changes made in each step. Thevisualization highlights not only the variable values, but also the flow of control, the input andoutput, and activation record of function calls. Third, the syntax and concepts are in line withC programming language, thus it is easy to transition from CFL to C language. For instance,the input node can use simplified printf, scanf, getchar and putchar. Fourth, it eliminates theprocedure of compiling, which is one of the notorious sources of frustration. All syntax checkis done right at the time of entering each node. Currently it is implemented as a java applet.( We prepared the experimentation as follows. There were two almost equal-sized(32, 33)classes of C programming, all freshmen, being taught by the same instructor. One grouplearned the control structure of “while” loop in C language syntax and given a few exercises.The other group first learned the same concept by using CFL and was given a bunch ofexercises, and then learned C language syntax later. We will call those groups A and B,respectively. The preparation times taken in two groups are the same. When the preparation stage is done, we gave the students a series of tasks of writing Cprograms, requiring the use of “while” statement. In the first 3 tasks, group A performed better(faster) than group B. After 3 exercises, students were given a slightly more difficult problem(printing a progression of differences), and group B started to outperform. The graph shows the completion time of the first 23 students in each class, from fast to slow. The remaining students cannot be compared because they failed. It is observed that “good students” are slightly better when directly taught C language, while average students are better when first learned with CFL and then by C language.

Sehyeong, C., & Ryu, Y., & Kim, S. (2014, June), Learning C Language Programming with Executable Flowchart Language Paper presented at 2014 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Indianapolis, Indiana. 10.18260/1-2--20741

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