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Measuring Programming Assignment Effort

  • Toll, Daniel
Publication Date
Jan 01, 2016
DiVA - Academic Archive On-line
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Students often voice that the programming assignments are hard and that they spend a lot of time on solving them. Is this true; are we giving them too hard assignments and how much and what do they spend the time on? This is what we want to gain insight to. We constructed a tool that records programming sessions with finer granularity than the existing solutions. The tool has recorded 2643 programming sessions from students. Using that data we found that students spend only 15% of their time writing code, and that on average 40% of their programming effort is spent reading and navigating. We also estimate the time spent outside of the tool to be almost 20%. The increased detail in the recordings can be used to measure the effect of programming source code comments, and we found that the effect of both helpful and redundant comments increases the reading time but did not help to reduce the students writing effort. Finally, we used the tool to examine the effects of an improved programming assignment and found that the total effort was not reduced.

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