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On design of online learning environments for programming education
Stockholm University, Faculty of Social Sciences, Department of Computer and Systems Sciences.
Stockholm University, Faculty of Social Sciences, Department of Computer and Systems Sciences.
2016 (English)Conference paper (Refereed)
Abstract [en]

Programming is a fundamental and mandatory subject in Computer science programmes at university level, but many students have difficulties to learn even the most basic programming concepts and techniques. Computer science has a tradition of face-to-face programming huts where students taking programming courses can explore important programming concepts with instant feedback from human facilitators. In contemporary blended learning where more and more of teaching and learning sessions are given by distance there is a need for online alternatives for self-learning. At the department where this study was conducted about half of the students fail to complete their introductory programming courses and many other universities face the same problem. Without facilitation, online or face-to-face, and appropriate alternatives for self-learning the fail rates would be even higher. The N-generation or the Digital Natives that now are entering university programmes are the first generation that has used computers, Internet and online systems since early childhood. Their digital prerequisites are better than earlier generations but at the same time they have higher demands for interaction in online environments. In this study two different online learning environments for self-learning were analysed and discussed to find answers to: “What are the most important factors in the design of virtual learning environments for self-learning of fundamental programming skills and knowledge?” The overall research strategy is the case study approach where students’ attitudes on the use of online learning systems have been investigated in two programming courses. Data has been collected by interviews, evaluation questionnaires and group discussions. The explored online learning environments in this study are Pearson educations’ MyProgrammingLab and Codecademy. Findings indicate that online systems have to be carefully designed if they should attract the digital natives generation. Some important design factors for self-learning systems found in this study are: unambiguous exercises, clear and well-formulated feedback, user-friendliness, GUI design, multi-modality, gamification and curriculum alignment. Interesting extension of user-friendliness is if the programming exercises have multi-lingual descriptions and if the online systems might be adapted for students with different learning styles.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Academic Conferences Publishing, 2016.
Keyword [en]
Online learning systems, Self-learning, Programming education, Codecademy, MyProgrammingLab
National Category
Information Systems
Research subject
Computer and Systems Sciences
URN: urn:nbn:se:su:diva-135436ISBN: 978-1-911218-18-0 (print)OAI: diva2:1045220
15th European Conference on e-learning, Charles University, Prague, Czech Republic, 27-28 October, 2016
Available from: 2016-11-08 Created: 2016-11-08 Last updated: 2017-02-13

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Olsson, MarieMozelius, Peter
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