Enhancing the Learning Experience on Programming-focused Courses via Electronic Assessment Tools


Developing solid programming skills is the back-bone of student transition in any computer science programme, when it comes to technical skills that need to be acquired by the students. On-line tests and quizzes to test the students progress, which can be done in their own time and are tailored to the requirements of the specific course, are a highly effective mode of providing formative feedback.

We report on our efforts of using electronic exam software to provide formative feedback to students, with a focus on immediate automated feedback. To assess the results we draw on survey data we gather from students on three programming courses, in first, second and fourth year of studies. We contrast a traditional approach, with feedback on coursework submissions, to our new approach of using e-assessment both for summative and formative assessment. In the context of a fourth year course on parallel programming languages we also assess the influence on the style of programming language on the student’s learning experience, contrasting main-stream, low-level message passing languages with high-level parallel functional languages. This phase of learning represents a step change of grasping new concepts as supported by modern functional languages, to the incremental learning phase of acquiring new skills within a known language.

This work is part of a larger effort at Heriot-Watt University, to integrate on-line exams, both in the form as formative quizzes and summative class tests, into software development courses of the early years in our under-graduate degree programmes and in new degree programmes that feature a substantial percentage of distance-learning-style material.

This is work-in-progress and we are currently collecting and analysing the survey feedback data from the e-exam. This data will be available in time for a presentation at TFPIE 2017, and for an in-depth analysis in the full version of the paper.

Local copy: TFPIE_2017_paper_3
licence: CC:BY
version: final published