Kehoe, Coleen; Stasko, John; Hamilton-Taylor, Ashley G.
Author Affiliation, Ana.
Department of Mathematics and Computer Science
Rethinking the evaluation of algorithm animations as learning aids: An observational study
International Journal of Human-computer Studies
Date of Publication
One important aspect of creating a computer program is having a sound understanding of the underlying algorithms used by programs. Learning about algorithms, just like learning to program, is difficult, however. A number of prior studies have found that using animation to help teach algorithms had less beneficial effects on learning than hoped. Those results surprise many computer science instructors whose intuition leads them to believe that algorithm animations should assist instruction. This article reports on a study in which animation is utilized in more of a 'homework' learning scenario rather than a 'final exam' scenario. Our focus is on uderstanding how learners will utilize animation and other instructional materials in trying to understand a new algorithm, and on gaining insight into how animations can fit into successful learning strategies. The study indicates that students use sophisticated combinations of instructional materials in learning scenarios. In particular, the presence of algorithm animations seems to make a complicated algorithm more accessible and less intimidating, thus leading to enhanced student interaction with the materials and facilitating learning. (AU)....