SIGCSE 2010 AlgoViz Survey Results

The AlgoViz team is back from SIGCSE 2010 in Milwaukee, and it was a huge success! Thanks to everyone who visited our booth in the Exhibition or attended our Special Session! One of the many things we did at the conference was run a brief survey about AVs and using them in the classroom. This survey was included in the participant's bag that all registrants received, it was handed out at the booth in the Exhibition, and it was also handed out at the Special Session.

This survey follows in the spirit of prior brief surveys given to participants at similar venues in the past [1].

A short disclaimer before we present the results. Survey participants certainly do not reflect a random sample of CS educators. First, they were attendees of the SIGCSE conference. Second, they probably had some interest in algorithm visualization, since they bothered to return the survey, perhaps triggered by a visit to our booth or the special session. Though, some might have been attracted by the opportunity to win a $25 gift card to Amazon.com. smiley

Congratulations to Tonya Groover who won the card, and thanks to all who filled out the survey!

(1) Using algorithm visualizations can help learners learn computing science.

  • Strongly Agree: 18
  • Agree: 23
  • Neutral: 2
  • Disagree: 0
  • Strongly Disagree: 0

This question closely mirrors questions asked in prior surveys. The results are pretty much the same as we have seen over the past 10 years. For years, instructors have overwhelmingly indicated that they think using algorithm visualization in courses is a good idea.

(2) Have you used any AVs in a class that you taught in the past two years?

  • Yes: 22
  • No: 19

This could be a significant finding. Prior surveys that asked similar questions received fairly low positive response in terms of instructors indicating that they actually used AVs in their courses. For the first time, so far as we know, a majority of respondents indicated recent use of AVs in a class.

Many cautions are in order here. First, again, the respondents are not a random sample. But then, it is reasonable to expect that the respondents to this survey are similar to respondents of similar surveys in the past (i.e., the fact that they filled out the survey indicates that they are probably interested in AVs to some degree). Second, it is not clear that all of the "yes" answers refer to what we might all consider to be "AVs". But they probably all refer to some sort of software visualization run on a computer. In any case, this does seem to indicate a meaningful increase in AV use.

A number of factors might be contributing to increased use of AVs in real classes. More AVs are available than ever before, backed up by improved research studies and improved access through sites such as this one. But perhaps most importantly, increased access to the Internet by students and instructors, combined with easier access to projectors and Internet links in the classroom, might be making AV use more practical. I know that at my own university, while it has been "possible" to project Internet material from a computer in a class for over a decade, it has only been in the past couple of years that such access has become truly ubiquitous in all of our classrooms. From my discussions with instructors and from comments on the survey forms, I know that not all schools are really there yet with the classroom support infrastructure.

(3) What do you see as the greatest impediments to using AVs in your courses?

Here, I have aggregated the various text responses into broad categories. This involved some interpretation, and not everyone might categorize each response as I have. But hopefully this qualitative analysis sheds light on the current thinking of instructors.

  • Trouble with finding suitable AVs: 13
  • Trouble with integrating AV material into the course: 11
  • Difficulty of making AVs: 3
  • Finding class time to fit AVs in: 2
  • Classroom limitation: 1
  • Question the pedagogical utility of AVs: 1

We see here that the largest single category is trouble with finding materials. I guess that is good news for the AlgoViz Portal, since that is just what we are here for. smiley And hopefully we will become a meaningful resource to instructors and some day this will be a "solved" problem. The second largest category is much harder to deal with. It relates to integrating materials into courses once they have been discovered or created. This is a well-known problem. I struggle with this myself. While it is easy to throw out pointers to AVs as "supplemental material", it is plain hard work taking AVs and actually integrating them into your lectures, your labs, or your assignments. Hopefully information at this site can lower the bar for more instructors. And perhaps those instructors who feel the need to create their own simulations will either find that what they need is readily available, or else find good tools with which to implement their vision.

Did you see us at SIGCSE? What do you think about the survey results?


References

  1. Naps, T. L., G. Rößling, V. Almstrum, W. Dann, R. Fleischer, C. D. Hundhausen, A. Korhonen, L. Malmi, M. F. McNally, S. H. Rodger, et al., "Exploring the role of visualization and engagement in computer science education", ITiCSE-WGR '02: Working group reports from ITiCSE on Innovation and technology in computer science education, New York, NY, USA, ACM, pp. 131–152, 2002.