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New Project on Programming Education: Better Feedback


Practice, practice, practice. This is how many beginners learn programming. Researchers from paluno, the Ruhr Institute for Software Technology, at the University of Duisburg-Essen (UDE) and their didactics colleagues from the Technical University of Munich are investigating how computers can best support them.

The automated assessment of exercises and examinations can prodive many people with access to good programming education. On the one hand, it can relieve teachers at schools and universities of the time-consuming correction work, so that they have more time for the actual teaching of skills. On the other hand, it paves the way for online courses with a very high number of participants, so-called MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses).

So far, however, the development of systems for automated evaluation has mainly been aimed at detecting errors in the code as accurately as possible. However, in order to learn from mistakes, didactically sound feedback is also important - especially if automated assessment is to partially replace personal feedback.

The AkoFoop* project therefore combines basic research on automated assessment systems with research on basic computer science skills. The participating researchers want to analyze the competencies that are necessary for object-oriented programming and the deficits and learning barriers that frequently occur.  On the basis of these findings, they will develop a system that measures the individual competencies of a learner on the basis of his or her entered attempts to programming tasks. The system should thus be able to provide effective feedback so that new programmers can independently close their competence gaps.

 With the research groups of Prof. Dr. Peter Hubwieser (TU Munich) and Prof. Dr. Michael Goedicke (UDE) two partners have joined forces in AkoFoop who have great expertise in the field of programming training. The Munich researchers, for example, played a key role in establishing the computer science school subject in Bavaria and conducted intensive research on programming courses for university beginners. At the institute paluno at the University of Duisburg-Essen, Prof. Goedicke's group developed the JACK system, which tests programming tasks in the language Java and is also used in other subjects such as mathematics. It has been in use for 10 years for examinations and exercises. "JACK will play a central role in the project, in order to analyze the errors of student solutions and to examine the effect of competence-based feedback", says Dr. Michael Striewe of paluno. "We can use the results of the project to further improve JACK".

AkoFoop* is funded by the German Research Foundation for two years under the project number 412374068.

About JACK

JACK is a server-based system for the management of computer-aided assessments and exercises, and for automated grading and feedback generation. You will find further information on the website of the working group Specification of Software Systems of Prof. Dr. Michael Goedicke: https://www.s3.uni-duisburg-essen.de/en/jack/index.html