Design and Evaluation of a Web-Based Programming Tool to Improve the Introductory Computer Science Experience


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Virginia Tech


Introductory computer science courses can be notoriously difficult for students, especially those outside of the major. There are many reasons for this, but the programming software itself may play a significant role.  To address this issue, we have developed Pythy, a web-based programming environment that allows students to write, execute, and test programming assignments from within the familiar interface of a web browser.  In this work, we discuss various aspects of Pythy in detail, including the rationale behind its design, the system architecture on which it is built, and the various functions offered by the software.  Next, we discuss an evaluation of Pythy's effectiveness during a programming course for non CS-majors offered at Virginia Tech, comparing it to a different software solution used in another programming course.  Results suggest that Pythy was successful in several target areas, including making it easier to get started with programming and providing feedback about program behavior.  Access log data from Pythy itself reveals details about how students used the system.  Finally, we conclude with a summary of key contributions and suggest some potential future directions for the system.



computer science education, programming tool, web application, python