Rethinking the Evaluation of Algorithm Animations as Learning Aids: An Observational Study
Kehoe, Colleen Mary
Stasko, John T.
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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 understanding 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 challenging algorithm more accessible and less intimidating, thus leading to enhanced student interaction with the materials and facilitating learning.