Title page for ETD etd-08202002-132927

Type of Document Master's Thesis
Author Saraiya, Purvi
Author's Email Address psaraiya@vt.edu
URN etd-08202002-132927
Title Effective Features of Algorithm Visualizations
Degree Master of Science
Department Computer Science
Advisory Committee
Advisor Name Title
Shaffer, Clifford A. Committee Chair
McCrickard, Donald Scott Committee Member
North, Christopher L. Committee Member
  • Pedagogical Effectiveness
  • Algorithm Visualization
  • Education
Date of Defense 2002-07-12
Availability unrestricted
Current research suggests that by actively involving students, you can increase pedagogical value of algorithm visualizations. We believe that a pedagogically successful visualization, besides actively engaging participants, also requires certain other key features. We compared several existing algorithm visualizations for the purpose of identifying features that we believe increase the pedagogical value of an algorithm visualization. To identify the most important features from this list, we conducted two experiments using a variety of the heapsort algorithm visualizations.

The results of these experiments indicate that the single most important feature is the ability to control the pace of the visualization. Providing a good data set that covers all the special cases is important to help students comprehend an unfamiliar algorithm. An algorithm visualization having minimum features that focuses on the logical steps of an algorithm is sufficient for procedural understanding of the algorithm. To have better conceptual understanding, additional features (like an activity guide that makes students cover the algorithm in detail and analyze what they are doing, and pseudocode display of an algorithm) may prove to be helpful, but that is a much harder effect to detect.

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