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Animated Examples as Practice Content in a Java Programming Course

2016; Special Interest Group on Computer Science Education, SIGCSE; Hosseini, R.; Sirkiä, T.; Guerra, J.; Brusilovsky, P.; Malmi, L.

Code examples are commonly used learning resources that help students grasp various programming structures and concepts. However, example code usually requires explanations about what each line or part of the code does. Otherwise, students may find it difficult to follow an example. In this paper, we compare two types of code examples that use different techniques to describe important concepts in the code annotated and animated examples. The former displays an explanation for a subset of lines in plain text, whereas the latter visualizes code execution. We studied the use and impact of these enhanced examples, provided as nonmandatory practice content, in three introductory Java courses. Our results suggest that animated examples are more engaging and have a positive impact on students' learning. As compared to annotated examples, students spent more time with animated examples and more likely completed them. Also, a positive relationship was found between the number of explored animated examples and the overall course grade.