In this paper we present our experiences of teaching an annually organized virtual reality (VR) capstone course. We review three iterations of the course, during which a total of 45 students completed the course and 16 VR applications were implemented. Our comparative analysis describes the students' evaluation of the course, the applications created by them, and their development experiences. The results suggest that our gradual improvements on the course and the utilized software paid off, as the latest of the compared course iterations produced the best feedback and the highest quality VR applications. Our learning assessment analysis reveals that our course is effective in teaching VR application development and having students meet their personal learning goals. We also bring forward our RUIS toolkit that was used in the course with success, and present evidence on how better software toolkits can affect the development experience and allow students to create more impressive applications. Finally we share the lessons learned during five years of teaching the course, introducing several practical considerations for VR course organizers regarding pedagogics, software, and hardware.
We have applied Problem-Based Learning (PBL) on an introductory programming course for several years with positive results. In this paper we present the outcomes and discuss our experiences of applying a modified version of PBL such that needs less tutoring resources and could better be used in large-scale courses, too.
PBL has many positive effects on studying: Students report that they liked the social aspect of studying in a group. Generally students appreciated the possibility to be active participants in a course. On the other hand, group dynamic difficulties, tolerance of uncertainty and demanding studying skills caused problems that were too hard to overcome to some students. In this paper we introduce different versions of PBL, discuss efficiently and inefficiently working PBL groups and present their characters. We also discuss the possible reasons for differently working groups. Finally, we give some suggestions for interventions that might help the PBL groups to work better.
In the present paper, a qualitative research of the cognitive skills of experienced software developers is presented. The data for the research was gathered using the Delphi method. The respondents were 11 software developers who have worked at least five years after their graduation. Two questionnaire rounds were conducted. In the first round, the respondents mentioned altogether 32 different skills. In the second round, 10 of the respondents answered and evaluated the difficulty of these 32 skills (e.g., does the skill efficiently differentiate experts from novices). The results are divided into two categories: composition and comprehension. Approximately 40% of the skills were classified into the category ``comprehension.'' For each skill, the evaluated degree of difficulty of the skill is presented. In the category comprehension, skills related to comprehension of a program or a problem as a whole were evaluated as the most difficult.
This paper presents results from three interrelated studies focusing on introducing TRAKLA2 to students taking courses on data structures and algorithms at the University of Turku and \rAbo Akademi University in 2004. Using TRAKLA2 they got acquainted with a completely new system for solving exercises that provided them with automatic feedback and the possibility to resubmit their solutions. Besides comparing the students' learning results, a survey was made with 100 students on the changes in their attitudes towards web-based learning environments. In addition, a usability evaluation was conducted in a human-computer interaction laboratory.
Our results show that TRAKLA2 considerably increased the positive attitudes towards web-based learning. According to students' self-evaluations, the best learning results are achieved by combining traditional exercises with web-based ones. In addition, the numerical course statistics were clearly better than in 2003 when only pen-and-paper exercises in class were used. The results from the usability test were also very positive: no severe usability problems were revealed; in fact, the results indicate that the system is very easy to learn and user-friendly as a whole.
Interaction and feedback are key factors supporting the learning process. Therefore many automatic assessment and feedback systems have been developed for computer science courses during the past decade. In this paper we present a new framework, TRAKLA2, for building interactive algorithm simulation exercises. Exercises constructed in TRAKLA2 are viewed as learning objects in which students manipulate conceptual visualizations of data structures in order to simulate the working of given algorithms. The framework supports randomized input values for the assignments, as well as automatic feedback and grading of students' simulation sequences. Moreover, it supports automatic generation of model solutions as algorithm animations and the logging of statistical data about the interaction process resulting as students solve exercises. The system has been used in two universities in Finland for several courses involving over 1000 students. Student response has been very positive.