Many Small Programs in CS1: Usage Analysis from Multiple Universities

Joe Allen, Kelly Downey, Kris Miller, Alex Edgcomb, Frank Vahid
2019 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition Proceedings   unpublished
I have a bachelors and masters degree in electrical engineering. After working in industry, I found a passion for education. I am currently a lecturer at UC, Riverside for the computer science department. Mr. Kris Miller Dr. Alex Daniel Edgcomb, Zybooks Alex Edgcomb is Sr. Software Engineer at, a startup spun-off from UC Riverside that develops interactive, web-native learning materials for STEM courses. Alex is also a research specialist at UC Riverside, studying the efficacy of
more » ... -native content and digital education. Abstract In 2017, we introduced a teaching method called many small programs (MSPs) in the CS1 courses at our university. Instead of teaching via one large programming assignment (OLP) each week, MSPs allow the instructor to assign multiple programming assignments, for example 5 or more, each week instead. Our previous studies have shown that MSPs can improve the student experience by reducing stress and increasing student satisfaction in the course. Furthermore, MSPs have been shown to improve student grade performance in CS1, especially on the coding portion of exams. In a follow-up study, we gained insight on how students were using MSPs, and learned that students use MSPs in ways beneficial to their learning. Students spend sufficient time working on MSPs each week, start working on MSPs earlier, complete more MSPs than required (given a weekly full-credit threshold), take advantage of pivoting (switch to another program if stuck on the current one), and use MSPs more to study for exams. We have shared these findings with universities around the nation; causing other universities to switch from teaching CS1 with OLPs to MSPs. Given data on student MSP submissions from other schools, we extend our work to include MSPs taught at other universities. We perform similar analysis and found that students being taught via MSPs from other universities also use MSPs in beneficial ways. Students spend sufficient time working on MSPs each week, they start working on MSPs early, and they complete a majority of assigned MSPs each week.
doi:10.18260/1-2--33084 fatcat:rzlevyrv7zamxhfgn55jlx7gdu