CCE Theses and Dissertations

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Date of Award


Document Type

Dissertation - NSU Access Only

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy in Computing Technology in Education (DCTE)


Graduate School of Computer and Information Sciences


Gertrude W Abramson

Committee Member

Amon Seagull

Committee Member

Antonio Rincon


Decreasing enrollments, lower rates of student retention and changes in the learning styles of today's students are all issues that the Computer Science (CS) academic community is currently facing. As a result, CS educators are being challenged to find the right blend of technology and pedagogy for their curriculum in order to help students persist through the major and produce strong graduates.

Visual technologies are being explored as a way to present difficult programming concepts in a manner that is easier to visualize and simpler to use. Visual technologies can make learning programming easier by minimizing the syntax of the programming language being used and providing visual feedback to the students to aid in conceptualization of the programming constructs.

The goal was to improve student retention and performance by incorporating visual technologies in the introductory programming course, CS1, at East Tennessee State University (ETSU). The ADDIE approach to instructional design was used to develop and implement a curriculum that incorporated visual technologies in CS1 at ETSU. Subsequently, quasi-experimental research methods, using the Post-Test Only Nonequivalent Groups Design approach, were used to perform assessment on the effects of the revised curriculum on student performance in the course and retention in the major as compared to student performance and retention as measured prior to the course redesign.

The results of the study indicate a positive impact on student performance in CS1 and student retention in the major as a result of the use of two types of visual technologies in CS1 at ETSU. Visual technologies supporting algorithm development, such as RAPTOR, had a positive impact on student performance in the area of problem solving and algorithm development as well as the use of decision and repetition constructs in programming. Visual technologies supporting program development, such as Alice, had a positive impact on student performance in the area of object-oriented programming concepts such as objects and classes. The combination of these two types of visual technologies showed evidence of improvement among student performance as a whole in the course and slight improvement in student persistence in the major.

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