VisualCues: Visually Explaining Source Code in Computer Science Education

Abstract

Humans are very efficient in processing and remembering visual information. That is why metaphors and visual representations are important in education. Because of their high visual expressiveness, presentation tools like Microsoft PowerPoint are very popular for teaching in classrooms. However, representing source code with such tools is tedious and cumbersome, while alternatives like source code editors lack visual expression. Moreover, modifying prepared content, e.g. while responding to questions, is not well supported. In this paper, we introduce VisualCues, an approach with the goal of combining the flexibility of source code editors with the visual expressiveness of classical slide-based presentation tools. A key concept of VisualCues is linking visual artifacts to specific elements of source code. The main advantage is that when changing the underlying source code, the positions of linked visual artifacts are changed simultaneously. We implemented a first prototype and evaluated it in two undergraduate computer science courses.

Supplementary Material

  1. Slides from first lecture (software design patterns) (PDF)

  2. Slides from second lecture (binary search tree) (PDF)

  3. Questionnaire (in German) (PDF)

  4. Answers (CSV, Diagram)

Publications

Benjamin Biegel, Sebastian Baltes, Bob Prevos, and Stephan Diehl: VisualCues: Visually Explaining Source Code in Computer Science Education. In: IEEE Symposium on Visual Languages and Human-Centric Computing (VL/HCC'15). Preprint Slides