Adaptive Learning of Programming Language Concepts

20 maart 2012 door ICTO TEAM
Eelco Visser (EWI)

Extend WebLab (a web application to support education of programming) with support for adaptive learning: the practice assignments will be based on performance so far. Stimulating active study behaviour and have better opportunity to monitor student progress.

In the 2011-2012 academic year I introduced the WebLab web application to support education of programming in the course Concepts of Programming Languages (TI1220) in the Computer Science Bachelor.The application is accessible with netid at:
The application provides support for tutorial exercises, graded assignments, and exams. Students write programs in the browser and execute programs on the server, which provides feedback immediately from running specification tests. Instructors write assignments in the browser, monitor student progress, and keep grade administration. Submissions are graded automatically based on tests, which can be extended with manual checking against a criteria checklist.
In this grassroots projects I want to extend WebLab with support for adaptive learning. Instead of providing a fixed set of assignments to all students, vary the assignments based on performance so far. Thus, students with a good understanding of the material can be provided more challenging assignments, and students with problems in certain areas can be provided more training. This requires developing an explicit model of the knowledge areas of a course, a correspondence of knowledge areas to assignments, and an assessment of student understanding based on performance in tests. The model should be easy for instructors to use in designing assignments, and it should be clear to students why they are getting a particular assignment and what more they can expect. "

Wat wilt u hiermee bereiken in uw onderwijs (hoe sluit het aan bij een van de thema's)?
The project fits in the theme "stimulating active study behaviour by means of digital assessment and examination". WebLab already provides students with an environment that provides direct feedback about programming assignments, which they can use from anywhere and that prepares them for the digital exam. With the adaptive learning extension, WebLab will be able to respond to the learning level of individual students. Instructors will be able to better monitor student progress and can identify bottlenecks. The extension will require a modest refactoring of the WebLab implementation, which I will conduct myself, possibly in collaboration with a teaching assistant.

After meeting with Harald Warmelink in the first grassroots meeting, my WebLab development efforts were redirected to providing support for essay questions in WebLab. The request was to support exam questions consisting of multiple sub-questions with text answers. WebLab was extended to support such questions. The user interface allows students to simultaneously work on multiple answers of sub-questions at the same time, independently saving them. Questions are graded by a grader (lecturer or assistant) using a set of boolean criteria. Graders from a set of people can be assigned a subset of the submitted answers. The essay question extension of WebLab was used in an exam for the course Cross-Cultural Management. Students liked the fact that they could type their answers. The grading workflow was considered to be somewhat difficult to navigate. Essay questions have now also been used in the original WebLab course Concepts of Programming Languages. An open request is to provide further support for statistical analysis of the results. See also the grassroots project of Harald Warmelink

Recently we have started to add support for adaptive learning to WebLab with the random generation of a set of assignment for each student in a course from a (large) collection of assignments. This feature will be used in the next academic year in the course on Web Programming & Databases in the Computer Science bachelor program. The extension provides the basic architecture for personalized adaptive learning. What is still lacking for adaptive learning is a function that uses the student's learning history to select a set of assignments.

Meer informatie

Docent: Eelco Visser (EWI); emailadres:
Jaargang: 2012-2013

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