ACM Transactions on Computing Education

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Introduction to the Special Issue on Web Development

Tue, 03/03/2015 - 19:00
Craig S. Miller, Randy Connolly

Despite its prevalence in computing, web development is underrepresented in computing curricula and computing education research. This special issue takes a step towards improving its representation with three articles on web development education. Drawing upon diverse methods from a variety of contexts, the articles address challenges of teaching web development and common difficulties students encounter when learning particular concepts. All three articles identify web development as a promising avenue for motivating students in their study of computing.

Uncovering “Threshold Concepts” in Web Development: An Instructor Perspective

Tue, 03/03/2015 - 19:00
Peter Alston, David Walsh, Gary Westhead

The field of Web development has evolved and diversified significantly in recent years, and narrowing the gap between the requirements of academia and the demands of industry remains a challenge. Moreover, many faculty members often struggle with knowing “how much” of a particular subject they should teach to their students and at what level. This small-scale, exploratory study seeks to uncover the existence of “threshold concepts” within Web development. Threshold concepts are the fundamental concepts which, once mastered, allow a learner to progress to a deeper understanding of a subject. An online questionnaire was sent out to 24 instructors within UK higher education institutions who teach Web development subjects.

Investigating Essential Factors on Students' Perceived Accomplishment and Enjoyment and Intention to Learn in Web Development

Tue, 03/03/2015 - 19:00
Yulei (Gavin) Zhang, Yan (Mandy) Dang

Web development is an important component in the curriculum of computer science and information systems areas. However, it is generally considered difficult to learn among students. In this study, we examined factors that could influence students' perceptions of accomplishment and enjoyment and their intention to learn in the web development course. Specifically, we investigated both student-related and instructor-related factors. A research model was developed. To empirically test the model and the hypotheses, the survey method was used and the structural equation modeling (SEM) technique was adopted for data analysis. Overall, the results indicated that both student-related factors (perceived web development efficacy and motivation) and instructor-related factors (instructor characteristics and teaching method) could significantly influence students' perceptions toward accomplishment and enjoyment and their intention to learn web development.

An Analysis of HTML and CSS Syntax Errors in a Web Development Course

Tue, 03/03/2015 - 19:00
Thomas H. Park, Brian Dorn, Andrea Forte

Many people are first exposed to code through web development, yet little is known about the barriers beginners face in these formative experiences. In this article, we describe a study of undergraduate students enrolled in an introductory web development course taken by both computing majors and general education students. Using data collected during the initial weeks of the course, we investigate the nature of the syntax errors they make when learning HTML and CSS, and how they resolve them. This is accomplished through the deployment of openHTML, a lightweight web-based code editor that logs user activity. Our analysis reveals that nearly all students made syntax errors that remained unresolved in their assessments, and that these errors continued weeks into the course.

Teaching Computer Vision: Bringing Research Benchmarks to the Classroom

Mon, 02/23/2015 - 19:00
Tal Hassner, Itzik Bayaz

This article concerns the design of effective computer vision programming exercises and presents a novel means of designing these assignments. We describe three recent case studies designed to evaluate the effectiveness of assigning graduate-level computer vision students with publicly available research benchmarks as competitive assignments. This was done rather than assigning more traditional exercises that require students to implement specific algorithms or applications. We allowed our students the freedom of designing or choosing their own methods, with the goal of obtaining the best performance on the benchmark chosen for each assignment. Students, therefore, competed against each other, as well as published state of the art.

From Scratch to “Real” Programming

Mon, 02/23/2015 - 19:00
Michal Armoni, Orni Meerbaum-Salant, Mordechai Ben-Ari

Computer science (CS) activities for young students are widely used, particularly visual programming environments. We investigated the use of the Scratch environment for teaching CS concepts to middle school students. In a previous article [Meerbaum-Salant et al. 2013], we reported on the extent to which the CS concepts were successfully learned. In this article, we look at the transition from studying CS with the visual Scratch environment in middle school to studying CS with a professional textual programming language (C# or Java) in secondary school. We found that the programming knowledge and experience of students who had learned Scratch greatly facilitated learning the more advanced material in secondary school: less time was needed to learn new topics, there were fewer learning difficulties, and they achieved higher cognitive levels of understanding of most concepts (although at the end of the teaching process, there were no significant differences in achievements compared to ...