Do Algorithm Animations Aid Learning?
Byrne, Michael Dwyer
Stasko, John T.
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Two experiments examined the general claim that animations can help students learn algorithms more effectively. Animations and instructions that explicitly required learners to predict the behavior of an algorithm were used during training. Post-test problems were designed to measure how well learners could predict algorithm behavior in new situations as well as measure learners' conceptual understanding of the algorithms. In Experiment 1, we found that when learners both viewed an animation and made predictions, their performance on novel problems improved comapred to a control group's, but the effects of the two manipulations were not distinguishable. In Experiment 2, no effect was found for conceptual measures of learning, but a marginally reliable effect similar to the one seen in Experiment 1 was found for procedural problems. The results from the two experiments suggest that the benefits of animations are not obvious and that in order to determine whether animations can truly aid understanding, teachers and researchers should consider a careful task analysis ahead of time to determine the specific pieces of knowledge that an animation can help a learner acquire and/or practice.