A Novel Education Technology

iCODE: Adaptive Training of Students' Code Comprehension Processes

Dr. Vasile Rus, Jack and Jane Morris Professor in Computer Science and PI for the project, has been awarded $1,999,595 to develop iCODE, an advanced adaptive education technology meant to monitor, model, and scaffold students' code comprehension processes. The three-year project combines design-based research with randomized controlled trials supporting CS majors, non-CS majors, and students from underrepresented groups (females, students of color, first generation status) to engage in code comprehension activities.

This Development and Innovation project funded by the Institute for Education Sciences (Department of Education) proposes to develop and investigate a novel education technology called iCODE (improve source CODE comprehension) that targets code comprehension, a critical skill for both learners and professionals. Offering support to enhance learners’ source code comprehension skills will have lasting positive effects for their academic success and future professional careers. iCODE will integrate reading strategies training, Animated Pedagogical Agents, inclusive and culturally responsive instructional design, and the Open ProSocial Learner Model, to improve code comprehension, learning, engagement, self-efficacy, CS identity, and retention in CS programs. By adapting to individual learner characteristics (prior knowledge, self-efficacy, engagement, socio-cultural factors) and code characteristics (language, cohesion, and readability), iCODE will benefit both CS and Non-CS majors, including underrepresented groups in CS and higher education such as women, students of color, and first generation college students.

The development of iCODE will follow a design-based research and iterative systems-engineering approach. Stakeholders, such as university and community college instructors and students, will inform the design through interviews, use cases, and walkthroughs, allowing the developers to gain insights from their knowledge and experience. The proposed iCODE system can be used as a supplementary instructional tool in formal or informal, traditional or online education settings or as a standalone resource used by all learners who want to improve their programming skills. Now, more than ever, the need for “high-dosage tutoring” tools such as iCODE is needed given the effects of the lockdowns on students during the pandemic.

The expected products of the project will be a novel and adaptive intervention to monitor, track, and scaffold code comprehension processes while CS majors, non-CS majors, and students from underrepresented groups engage in code comprehension activities. And, education materials such as examples for code comprehension activities and assessment instruments will be developed or adapted for the project.

For more information on this research or award, contact Rus at vrus@memphis.edu.