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Supplemental External Assignments Incorporating Immediate Feedback for use in Entry-level Coding Courses to Promote In-Class Active Learning

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2018 ASEE Zone IV Conference


Boulder, Colorado

Publication Date

March 25, 2018

Start Date

March 25, 2018

End Date

March 27, 2018

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Paper Authors


John M Pavlina Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, Prescott

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Ph.D. obtained at the University of Central Florida in Orlando under the direction of Donald Malocha. Researched Surface Acoustic Wave wireless sensors for use in NASA applications. Post Doctoral research performed at the Albert-Ludwigs-Universität Freiburg on disaster scenario cell phone location. At the university hospital affiliated with Albert-Ludwigs-Universität Freiburg research was conducted on prostate cancer ablation using HIFU and MRI. Currently working as an assistant professor at ERAU in Prescott, AZ.

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Brennan Gray

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Introductory computer programming classes are increasingly difficult for incoming students with little to no experience or interaction with the background processes of a computer. Most students only interact with the graphical user interface, and therefore have little understanding of the actual code running the programs they use daily. The first class introducing these concepts will provide a significant challenge to many because of the various facets that need to be learned quickly. The student must not only learn the basics of whatever programming language they are utilizing but also the fundamentals of programming a computer. It is beneficial to provide the students with interactive learning opportunities both inside and outside of prescribed class time. Difficulties arise in implementing in-class active learning strategies when much of what must be learned at the beginning of the term focuses on vocabulary words and the coding environment. When a portion of the essentials of computer language can be acquired offline, additional time can then be allotted to active learning in the classroom. In order for there to be success in achieving mastery of rudimentary programming skills outside the class, students must be given feedback regarding the code being implemented. The benefits of obtaining immediate feedback on the accuracy of the code they are attempting to implement is crucial to increasing student engagement. This work utilizes external exercises with interactive learning activities. The assignments are placed on a website, such as, where the student can first follow step-by-step instructions and then run the code to determine if the outcome is as it should be. The website response extends beyond simple confirmation; the program will actually check the results of the code to ensure compliance with the desired outcome. The exercises and resulting feedback will provide the students with an advantage prior to entering the classroom. The observed results of those students completing the exercises outside class showed increased engagement and competency during the in-class active learning assignments when compared to the control. These students required less direct intervention because of common syntax errors and basic commands as these mistakes had previously been addressed in the out-of-class activities. An example of an exercise will be shown to demonstrate the activity and feedback system. Results from student surveys as well as a qualitative and quantitative look at student performance will be presented.

Pavlina, J. M., & Gray, B. (2018, March), Supplemental External Assignments Incorporating Immediate Feedback for use in Entry-level Coding Courses to Promote In-Class Active Learning Paper presented at 2018 ASEE Zone IV Conference, Boulder, Colorado.

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